How to build a successful start-up
I started this series a late last year with the 1st blog on Generate an idea (but remember that it’s worthless) followed by In-depth observe (not interview) 5-10 potential customers, including 2-3 “extreme users” and then Document your Plan A and Identify the riskiest parts of your plan and then Systematically test your plan, Get to release 1.0, Reach product/market fit, and Define your strategy and most recently, Scale. I have copied the intro to the series directly below and you will then find part 10: “How to do the co-founder thing” – the subject of this post
Original intro to the series:
The goal of a founder who wants to create a big company is to find product/market fit in a large market – one that is at least £0.5B/$0.75B in size. Much smaller than that and a venture investors won’t be confident that he or she will get 10x on their investment (and note that it doesn’t matter at which stage you’re working, as if an early stage investor like us, we need to believe that we will be able to sell you onto a Series A/B investor who also has to believe he or she can get 10x and so on). It’s not right all the time, but it’s a rule of thumb.
The Lean methodology, thought up by Eric Ries and then evolved by many others, is the best way to work through the early stages to product/market fit.
We like Running Lean by Ash Maurya for a clear outline of what this entails.
What Ash excludes from his thinking is in-depth customer observations, as developed by IDEO, the design firm founded by David Kelley in Palo Alto, right next door to Stanford University, my alma mater, and a clear definition of “strategy” for the start-up.
(Overly) Simply put, we think a founder needs to take the following steps:
I will write a bare-bones explanation for each of these 10 steps with as many links and references as I can so you can read better writers’ thoughts on the subject.
And the last thing that you absolutely need is a great culture.
11. What is a great culture?
Here we go: HOW TO DO THE CO-FOUNDER THING
It is very hard to start a company. It’s very very hard to start a company without a co-founder.
Someone always has the idea first, but usually (and this is the case for every one of our portfolio companies) they will quickly (within 6 months typically) find a complementary soul to bring that idea into existence. In generic terms, often the first 2 people are a salesperson and a tech person. A good pairing to get things kicked off.
When I started my most recent failed startup in 2011, both co-founders were non-technical product/strategy/salespeople. We couldn’t find a technical co-founder. Took that as a pretty bad sign – no one we met was willing to take the opportunity cost to join us in return for equity and that was the final nail in the coffin. Perhaps it shouldn’t have been and we should have paid for an outsourced agency to build the product, but that wasn’t what we wanted to do.
I’m not going to advise you on where to find a co-founder. Impossible to be comprehensive or useful on that front, I don’t think.
What I think is useful to advise on are kind of questions you have to answer for yourself / yourselves once found. Thank you to Dharmesh Shah for the inspiration for a lot of the ideas