By Munyaradzi Zindi Chikomba
MANY businesses in the great tech start-up hub of Silicon Valley are cofounded. Silicon Valley located in San Francisco California, USA is home to many big tech companies which have left footprints on the business world in the 21st century for example Apple, Meta, Microsoft, Alphabet /Google, Visa only to mention a few.
It’s no coincidence that most of these companies are cofounded. Cofounded companies idea grew popular in the 20th century and it blew in the turn of the new millennium as many entrepreneurs especially from the tech industry were blossoming with the rise of technology and internet.
There are many amazing businesses that have been cofounded and went big, here are some few notable examples. Bill Gates and Paul Allen co-founded Microsoft in 1975 and today Microsoft is a leading software developer, Larry Page and Sergey Brin co-founded Google in 1998 and Google is a leading tech company, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak co-founded Apple in 1976 and today Apple is a trillion-dollar company. In Africa we have Sacha Poignonnec, Raphael Kofi Afoedor and Tunde Kehinde who cofounded Africa’s first startup unicorn called Jumia in 2012 and as of 2022 it is valued at about 1 billion US dollars.
Often people confuse the two cofounder and founder. A Founder is the brainchild of the business and the one who sets up the business model however a business can be established and build by two people thus Co-founders. In that case the people are both founders individually and co-founders as a couple if they are two or more. A company can also have three or four co-founders depending on the situation of its formation. Someone can also join the company after its establishment like what Jack Dorsey did with Twitter but can be given the title. In most cases its either two or three co-founders.
Many people despise working with other people because of trust issues however cofounding has proven to be a leading way of establishing great startup companies that can be sustainable to become giants in the industry. Although there are disadvantages the advantages are too tempting and it can save you a lot of time and money because when you have a co-founder you can rely on them for the company advancement.
5 Benefits Of Having A Co-founder
Work At Zero Cost
In the formative years of starting your company one thing you should be cautious about is hiring staff quickly. A co-founder is more or less the owner of the business so they entirely understand the financial background of the business, the inflow and outflow of funds. In the event of a dry season they are most likely to understand the situation than an employee. At most a co-founder is most likely to be an expert in a different field than the other hence their expertise comes to the company for free and it is in the long run unlike hiring.
Dedication and commitment
When someone knows that their future lies in the company they invest in it wholeheartedly. Their efforts are unquestionable because they understand that the success or failure of the company entirely depends on them hence they put all the necessary effort to ensure that the company succeeds. Many times, that you will be required to put in long extra hours to the company which will be demanding but as a direct interested person in the business a co-founder is more likely to be hands on.
Their Network becomes your network
We can’t talk of business success without networking, with the information age networking is your gold mine. As co-founders one the greatest asset that you will have is a great mix of people who you individually know. Your networks can be customers or can act as indirect marketing to your business. When you mix everyone, you know you end up having a big network compared to an individually managed company.
Accountability and Checks
Naturally every human being has a certain degree of dishonesty in themselves. At most if you’re not answerable to anyone you are most likely to take things for granted. A co-founder naturally becomes your accountability partner who will be answerable to you and vice versa. This is very important because even if you are accountability partners your interests are inclined to the same vision and lying to each other won’t benefit you both unlike ordinary conventional accountability partnerships.
Flexibility and Rest
Running a company is not easy and sometimes the workload becomes so stressful that you will need breaks and rest. Sometimes you will be working in other companies to sustain yourself and your work can be demanding but with a co-founder arrangement the other person may be free to do the company daily errands whilst you do your job. Resting relieves you from pressure hence you can also rest knowing that your company is in good hands even if you fall sick, travel and in case of emergencies you can also be assured that other Founder can manage in your absence.
6 Things You Should Look For In A Co-founder
One of the most important things if not the most important in identifying a co-founder is the type of skills they bring to the table. It is meaningless to find a person who has the exact same skills as you, you need someone with different skills so that you complement one another. In most cases a company need two things to grow a builder and a seller. The builder formulates, builds the systems and products whilst the other markets, sell the vision and its products. Identifying skills is critical because you need someone who comes to add value into the company not a liability.
In business personality is everything and you can’t temper with this one when looking for a co-founder. One might possess good skills and abilities but with a compromised personality. They say it takes years to build something but it only takes a few seconds to destroy, you need someone with a very strong personality which adds value to the company. No one is perfect however others are far from being perfect.
Same long-term vision
Vision determines the future and when entering into a co-founder arrangement you need someone who will be engaged and committed to the vision in the long-term. Business takes time to build you need someone with great zeal and affection for the business. The going will be tough sometimes so as co-founders if your vision is similar you will be united to sail through the tides. You don’t need someone who will be engaged because they don’t have anything to do because they will leave you in the most critical stages.
Emotional intelligence remains a key component in every facet of life and business is no exception. Emotional Intelligence is the ability to identify, manage your own personal emotions and that of the next person. As a startup tides will come very often. The wins will be lesser than the loses and emotional draining moments, emotional intelligence will be at play in every situation even if you win you need to celebrate knowing that tomorrow is another day. As co-founders you also need to be with people who are drained with different things because if not you are likely to be down in the same moments which is not good for the company. When one person is down the other steers the ship until the other recovers. You will also have hot-headed arguments which will be sometimes confrontational so you will need emotional intelligence to separate business and personal issues.
Open to learn new things
Leaning will never stop and you will need someone who is always open to learn new things as a business partner. Learning sometimes is not fun but necessary. As co-founders you should be very open to one another about what you are not sure of and what you can do so that you can learn from each other and also from other people. One form of learning is attending events, doing courses and seminars which are beneficial to your business growth. Learning remains a key factor to your business growth and as partners you have to be open minded, honest to each other, accept criticism and advice from outside people.
Interests and Hobbies
As co-founders you are more or less similar to a married couple because your tied interests are long term. You will be required to spend more time together because chemistry is very important in doing business. One thing that determines chemistry is what interests and what hobbies you enjoy doing. If you are people with different characters, interests and hobbies you are most likely to spent less times together out of work hence you will develop a weak chemistry which will be detrimental in the future.
Your co-founder is like a marriage partner as you consider of having a co-founder in your business make sure you do your diligence because your business success lies on your partner. You will never find a perfect prospective co-founder however advantages of having them should outweigh the disadvantages .
Munyaradzi Zindi Chikomba a Research Analyst || Development Consultant || Co-Founder & Executive Chairperson @Shanduko Foundation. His views are personal and they do not represent any organisation or institution he is part of.