Startups · Finding cofounders

What happened to having an idea and someone hearing this idea and saying I would like to partner up?

Cory K.C

February 6th, 2016

I know that there are questions to go along with this, how else would you find out what the idea is? Or if you even believe in it enough to work on it? But seriously what happened to the little guy who just has an idea , an idea  that he is practically giving it away just to see it work. I know that idea's are dime a dozen and any Joe nobody can have one. That is where my dilemma is, I have an idea but am not tech savvy enough to take it anywhere.. and there seems to be  to much work to be done for anyone to take interest. I have  found that all the co founders out there want an idea that is producing before they are willing to sign thier name to it. So like I said before what happened?  

cory

David Pariseau

February 6th, 2016

It takes an ENORMOUS amount of work to go from an idea to a company that's in the black and producing.   In addition to the idea, there are lots of stars that have to align in order to make that idea a successful reality (funding, team, development, sales, support, etc...)  And, though the idea is critical it is very much over-rated, lots of folks believe that the idea is sufficient to the success of an endeavor, and that the implementation and execution are just details (which obviously couldn't be farther from the truth, the execution IS the thing, the idea merely the spark that starts what you hope will be a fire).

Anyone who's been down this road before and realizes the commitment that's required will be rightfully cautious about vetting the opportunity before jumping in.   Likely they have other options already and have to weigh your against the others.   It's sort of like getting married and posting an add looking for a spouse with a short description of yourself and then expecting someone to say "I do" in response.  You may find someone willing, but is that really the person you want?

A great source of co-founders if you're just starting out is folks you work with or have interacted with in your space.  These are folks that will understand your idea, know the market and will be able to buy into the concept.  Also, you'll have some history with them and ideally a good working relationship (some work chemistry) and you'll have a sense of their expertise and they of yours. 

Dave.

Scott McGregor Advisor, co-founder, consultant and part time executive to Tech Start-ups. Based in Silicon Valley.

February 6th, 2016

What happened is selection bias and post event story making.

Some people are very persuasive, most are not. A few of these persuasive people have the right people in their network, who have the needed idle resources to bring the idea to life.  This situation is so rare that journalists write about it. To make the stories even more amazing, they gloss over past friendships, etc. that made such a partnership easier, and make it sound like it was the quality of the idea, not the persuasiveness of the idea generator that made it successful.

All the people who aren't persuasive enough or who lacked networks with the right skills failed. It is very commonplace and not news so no journalists write stories about such people.

This is the selection bias problem, where you think it was easy in the past because you only read about past successes while in the present you are hyper aware of all the failures.

 to ex

Irwin Stein Very experienced (40 years) corporate,securities and real estate attorney.

February 6th, 2016

Thank you Mr. Jay for saying what no one wants to hear. There is no free lunch. I know that this will be an unpopular answer but getting the right person to help you make your company a success and getting a person who will work for equity are not always the same. There is a reason that the best programmers make a lot of money. Equity in any start-up usually has no value and will never pay off. When I was younger I had a drawer full of stock certificates that I accepted from dozens of companies in lieu of payment for my services. Not one ever paid off. Every start-up starts with your sweat and someone elses' money, usually friends and family who believe in you and what you are doing. The money is used to pay for the services that you need but cannot do yourself. Up to a point, I give advice to start-ups and entrepreneurs for free. After that point, or if they need real legal work or extended advice, I charge. I am sure that some other lawyers will accept equity, but I know a lot of lawyers and most of the good ones will not.

Faisal Memon iOS Department Technical Lead at Citrix ShareFile Quick Edit

February 6th, 2016

Cory,

There is a way around the problem you present.

If the idea requires a large technical input such a co-founder is put off, what you can do is the outside-in approach that DropBox did.  They just put up a website that explained what the product does, and provided an invite button which leads to a screen saying, "We're not quite ready yet but leave an email and we'll get back to you."

This way you get potential customers before you have a prototype.

Corner cases excepted, that value of a user is 5 USD dollars.  If 20 000 users sign up that's 100k USD potential value.  The domain specifics will vary that valuation of course.

Once you have some kind of market validation, its leverage in a discussion with a cofounder.  Maybe a subset of the problem can be served - enough for one technical co-founder to bootstrap.  Its like the saying, "How do you eat an elephant?".  Answer: "One plate at a time".  Realistic smaller goals keep enthusiasm up and lead to bigger milestones over time.

One last point I hope will assist: good quality advisors are important.  Outside opinion which is honest but constructive is valuable.  This will serve to ensure your efforts are focussed on the right approach.

Michael Barnathan

February 6th, 2016

I don't think anyone is rushing out to copy your early stage idea, so a patent would almost certainly be overkill at this stage. Copying realistically happens in the late stages, once you've already proved that it has legs and others are noticing your success and looking to get into your space.

Michael Barnathan

February 6th, 2016

I think others have already said this better / more tactfully, but developers are bombarded with entrepreneurs who have an idea and nothing more all the time. Typically these entrepreneurs don't really want a partner or cofounder who will help them out with technical strategy and positioning (that would require *gasp* the developer being able to change the idea) - they simply want a developer to code for them for free.

If you'd like someone to jump onboard your startup in this capacity, you need to prove the idea (and, frankly, justify your own equity stake to the developer). Find ways to test the concept and get some traction, pre-sell, maybe land a small convertible note - just demonstrate that you're bringing more than an idea to the table and you should be able to find someone.

Martin Omansky Independent Venture Capital & Private Equity Professional

February 6th, 2016

Mr. Stein: We are in the same business and I say to you "amen".

Michelle Bufton

February 6th, 2016

Reasons why you're not getting traction with partners:
  1. You are approaching the wrong kind of people. Who are you asking? Friends? Family? Where are you networking with people? People at the bar vs. people at a tech startup group vs. people at a networking event for the industry you are hoping to launch in will all breed different results of people. Even city to city will as well. 
  2. You haven't actually asked a person to join. Just sharing your idea and hoping they go "Holy hell! Let me help!" isn't. going. to. happen. Go for the close. If they say "no" as for referrals of anyone they think might be able or interested in helping...or anyone who would know someone who might be able or interested in helping...etc.
  3. You haven't identified and vetted the right people. Finding a co-founder shouldn't be left to fate. Identify your weaknesses, identify what skills and strengths a good co-founder would possess, identify possible candidates for the position....sounds a bit like a hiring process, doesn't it? 
  4. People don't understand your idea. Go back to your elevator pitch and keep reworking it until you get it right.
  5. Your idea is too long and people stop listening half way through.
  6. People aren't in love with your industry as much as you are. Try networking at industry events instead of "start up" events. Money isn't enough of a motivator, they have to love what you are doing to commit. 
  7. People don't see your USP. What's the special sauce*? (*I hate that term)
  8. People don't understand your target market. Are you helping them understand the size of the potential market? Do you thoroughly understand it yourself?
  9. People don't understand your business model. How are you going to make money? 
  10. The technical skills needed to properly execute are beyond the skill set of the people you are approaching. Not all tech founders are created equally. Geeks specialize too. Someone who can build an amazingly secure website might not be able to build a UX to engage customers, or a highly scalable infrastructure, or a smart wash to clean your dishes. 
  11. People don't trust you.  No offense, are you properly selling your own credentials? And is that a beer in your profile photo? Are you coming across as professionally as you could be? These are people you will probably spending more time with than your spouse/partner, are you sure you are presenting yourself in the best work marriage light?
  12. Are you doing everything you can be doing on your end to get the idea up and running while looking for a partner? From what I read, a lot of tech co-founders are hesitant to work with people when it ends up being an unequal distribution of work. "I had the idea, you go make it work and we''ll call it 50/50" is what a lot of people experience. Prove to them you aren't that kind of person by giving the project as much momentum as you can...then keep brushing up your own skill set and give it some more.
  13. You're asking the wrong questions. "I need advice on finding and approaching potential co-founders. I have tried a, b, an c with  x, y, and z results. What can I do better?" Compare this to the way you stated your problem. I know you are frustrated, but it came across more passive aggressive rather than goal oriented and productive. Less Whine, More Shine. 
  14. Are you 100% passionate about the idea or the money? Not being passionate can come through in the way you talk about your idea, others can pick up on that.

Irwin Stein Very experienced (40 years) corporate,securities and real estate attorney.

February 7th, 2016

In this context, a good idea is one that will make money. Making money is the common denominator for everyone on FD. If people look at your idea and cannot see the potential for profit in the first 3 minutes, either they are not the people with whom you should partner or it is not a good idea. Spending time, effort and money on something that you cannot monetize is a hobby. 

Irwin Stein Very experienced (40 years) corporate,securities and real estate attorney.

February 7th, 2016

David: You are correct. It was never true that a good idea would attract good advisers or funding. It takes money to attract either. But I hesitate to say so because they will throw me off this forum. I have been an adviser to dozens of start-ups over the years.  A few questions is one thing, but if you want my advice on a continuing basis, I charge. I know that my advice has value. If you don't think so, don't ask for it. For a generation, many people starting a new business went to the SBA. The SBA requires collateral, usually the family home. It is a proven model. If you have a $300 phone and a $1000 laptop, but will not pay $1000 for a business plan written by someone who actually knows what they are doing, don't bother, you don't get it.