6 Women in Tech on How to Find a Co-Founder
Inc.com shared a statistic that states with two founders, your startup’s odds of success are significantly increased, you’ll raise 30% more in funding, and you’ll grow your customer base 3x as fast.
Finding a co-founder for your business idea can be extremely daunting. To make the search easier, By Geekgirl connected with six female co-founders and asked them how they found their co-founders and what difference that’s made with their company.
“Create space to have courageous conversations.”
Source: The National, Sarah Dea
Sadaffe Abid is the Co-founder of CIRCLE, a social enterprise with the mission to develop, support and build the entrepreneurial and leadership capacity of women and youth in Pakistan. She initiated the Elevate Campaign to increase women’s participation on panels and forums where several corporate and social sector leaders have joined to support women’s advancement.
The social entrepreneur joined with two other co-founders to drive core initiatives of advocacy, policy and research, and youth and entrepreneurship. Sadaffe remembered, “We met at a leadership program where the three of us shared our stories, challenges and aspirations. This evolved into creating a platform where we could come together to learn, experiment and bring new ideas to the challenges faced by women globally.”
The CIRCLE founders come from geographies as diverse as North America, Europe, Middle East and South Asia. “This allowed us to bring fresh ideas and tap into wide networks for growth but it has also been a challenge to be placed in such dispersed locations.” Sadaffe explained. From her experience with several co-founders, Sadaffe had great advice for entrepreneurs in the search for a co-founder. She counseled, “A Co-Founder must share the passion, the ability to stay in the game and bring different capacities. Both need to create space to have courageous conversations.”
“Find someone who won’t let you quit.”
Nicole (left) with her co-founders
Nicole Castillo is the co-founder of BeVisible, a social-networking, career platform for Latino/x Millennials. Nicole likes to joke that she met CEO Andrea Guendelman online. “Some of my greatest opportunities have come through Twitter. Andrea admired my work, and I saw that she was building a fascinating company with Silvia Travesani, so I jumped at the opportunity to build something with them. Andrea and Silvia are in Colorado, and I am in Boston. Much of our team is across the US, and international, yet, I have solid relationships with them…all because of the internet.”
“My co-founders and I have helped each other to grow as people,” Nicole shared, “Andrea and I are more alike, than I think we even realized getting into this. As a result, we can be real and vulnerable with each other, which helps us grow our leadership and grow our company. At the end of the day, our product is human relationships, imperfect and beautiful as they can be.”
Nicole recommends that entrepreneurs find a co-founder who is ready to jump in 100%. Nicole said, “So much of what I have learned over the past year, has come as a result of ‘just staying in the game.’ Many times you will want to give up, but having someone who says, ‘okay, take a day off and we will hit it again tomorrow.’ Someone who won’t let you quit, is without a doubt the number one quality I look for in a business partner and friend.”
“Seize Every Opportunity.”
Rebecca Clyde met her co-founder in the most serendipitous of ways. She described, “We met at the 2016 Girls in Tech conference held earlier this year in Phoenix, AZ. Anu was a speaker and I was a sponsor through my other company, the digital agency Ideas Collide. Anu stopped by the booth where I was standing to ask if she could charge her phone. While her phone was charging, we had an amazing conversation about marketing automation and chatbots. We were both excited to find another person on the same wavelength and at that very power outlet we started to brainstorm ideas. From there we met a few more times to solidify the focus of the startup and now we are co-founders of Botco.ai, an early stage startup.” Botco.ai is a AI-driven messaging bot platform that enables meaningful conversations between businesses with prospective buyers on their product, business and support needs.
Rebecca’s co-founder, Anu Shukla, is a serial entrepreneur. Rebecca said, “Her experience has been invaluable through this process, as this is my first Silicon Valley technology startup. I’ve built a successful business before but having the tech startup experience that Anu brought to the table has been tremendous.”
“Seize every opportunity to get out there!” Rebecca advised, “ If I had not taken the time to attend the Girls in Tech event, I would have never met my Co-Founder. Magic happens when we open ourselves up to synchronicity and put our energy toward the idea we want to realize. Talk about it, let people know what you are looking for, and connections will start materializing right before your eyes.”
Ella Ethel Mbewe:
“Find a co-founder who has the same passion.”
Meeting at a mobile development bootcamp that was dominated by men, Ella and her two co-founders joined with the idea of forming a girls-in-tech group. Now named, Asikana Network, Ella and her co-founders empower young women in information communication and technology related fields with training and mentorship in Zimbabwe.
Connecting over their lone status as some of the few women tech-related event led Ella straight to her co-founders. “The best is to find a co-founder who has the same passion, interest and vision as you in whatever business you are venturing in.” Ella shared, “The co-founder must understand the business concept fully and be willing to take responsibility for risks and rewards, in equal measure, with you.”
By joining with her current co-founders, the Asikana Network has grown its community. She related, “We are all in tech but we have other qualities that make us work together. Understanding our different abilities and strengths has helped grow Asikana Network.”
“Ensure you have deep respect for each other.”
As a co-founder of Yes and Yes Yes, Deborah co-runs an annual gathering and community of geeks, creatives and nerds. Yes& is different from your typical conference because it inverts the concept of a topical event: The community is built first, and the topics emerge as its members interact and develop their own content and experiences. Deborah related, “Now that the Internet is everywhere, conferences and events have become more formal and scripted. We missed the more intimate, serendipitous events that existed when the web was newer and the community was smaller.”
Deborah has four co-founders who were each connected socially and by their work. Deborah recalled, “One day we found ourselves all on the same thread discussing the state of the industry and how the best parts of conferences and events are always the hallway conversation. Ann Larie asked if anyone would be interested in getting together to see if we could make that happen. The four of us raised our hands and a few days later we met at Amy’s house and the rest is history.” With five total co-founders, the group has overlapping skill sets, but by combining that with their unique skills and experience has been critical to the startup’s success. “We each understand and respect what the other person brings to the table and are grateful for their unique expertise.” Deborah explained, “ At the same time we can usually step in for each other as needed with very little on ramping.”
“The secret to our success is that we each have very high emotional intelligence and empathy.” Deborah emphasized. Each of the team members have day jobs in addition to their remote work with Yes& and that makes trust, respect, and communication imperative to keeping things moving along. Deborah shared, “My advice to anyone looking for a co-founder is to ensure you have deep respect for each other and are able to communicate and disagree honestly. There will be moments where things will get tough and you need to be able to weather them together.”
“Ask yourself if you really need a co-founder and why.”
Leslie Vickrey has two businesses, ClearEdge Marketing in which she serves as Founder and CEO offering outsourced marketing and PR and ARA where she works with two other co-founders to bolster the numbers and influence of women in tech. Reflecting on ARA, Leslie said, “What started out as a dinner between best friends turned into a mission to make a difference across two fronts: first, to address the talent gap in technology; and second, to tackle the lack of diversity within tech teams and make our industry a destination for everyone to be successful regardless of race, gender, ethnicity or other dimensions. We started an executive women in tech networking dinner group over 10 years ago, which now has over 300 women involved in Chicago, and launched ARA a little over three years ago. We were industry peers who all became best friends – they were both even in my wedding seven years ago!”
Finding the right co-founder can be a terrifying process. Leslie recalled, “I had a business partnership in the past that didn’t work out. So going into business with friends was a bit scary to me. We made sure at the outset that we each focused on our strengths – sales, marketing and mentoring. We all helped with various pieces of operations, and we outsource back-office to the same person who helps manage ClearEdge and McCann Partners. So in effect, the growth of our company was possible because we each picked a key area of strength and focus, aligning up to our broader goals.”
Leslie advises that the first step to finding a co-founder is to ask yourself if you need one and why. She advised, “If it’s a strength that you’re lacking, but you can supplement without having a co-founder and giving away part of your company, I’d consider that route too. People often feel like they cannot do it themselves because they don’t have the experience. I never ran a company before let alone a P&L before starting my own. I knew that I had a lot to learn and I was OK with that. I was investing in myself and the future of my company. For ARA, it was a lot different. We were three friends on a mission to make change in the industry and we were all co-founders of the idea and vision. We made sure the way we structured our agreement was fair to everyone and that we all focused on areas of strengths. Like anything in life, communication is KEY as is trust and setting clear expectations.”
What do you look for in a co-founder? Do you prefer someone who’s like you or the opposite? Technical or non-technical? Let us know in the comments below.