Close colleagues of my business partners in China have successfully launched a dating app in Asia and are now interested in launching a US-based version of their app. They don't have US market knowledge to build a business on their own, and they're hoping to find a market-ready team interested in building an entire company.
I've been asked to help find and vet a business-side founding team and I have no idea where to start the search.
This US-based team would likely have a controlling equity ownership and would lead/operate the business right from the start (so long as there are reasonable/appropriate protections for the development team as the team forms a new corporation, fund-raises, etc.).
Where should I search for a founding team for this type of situation?
Has anyone ever had/seen a business relationship like this? Any thoughts/best practices?
Yes, I've heard of such business relationships, but rarely have I heard of them working unless the foreign-based product has already been through a market test in the US. That's more of a takeover for expansion, but the risk is reduced by the fact the product has already been tested. At the stage you're describing it's a very high risk ask, almost like an untested franchise. I wouldn't bite.
My suggestion to your client is to market test the app here, even if it's only to Chinese-speaking audiences in the US. Only after they have done some in-country market testing will they likely find a party interested in "franchising" the idea and customizing for the US market.
Without proof of product-market fit, an investor would be taking an equal risk to start a company with no previous knowledge or history and developing the app from scratch. It's going to need to initially stand up with some strength against existing dating apps available here today, before applying a US packaging to its presentation. It's unclear whether the app is already suitable for American sensibilities, or if it's really a redo required because it doesn't function in a way that Americans would find appealing, apart from any look-and-feel differences.