When some of the groups funded by YCombinator spoke at Startup School last year, a question that many people had was, “Where do you find cofounders?” The three of us are pretty lucky since Ryan is my brother, and Kevin and I just kind of meshed at our previous jobs, but it seems that this is a problem for many would-be entrepreneurs. After meeting dozens of young startups through YCombinator, and reading about a number of successful startups, here are some places that seem to bring founders together.

  • School - I never really had any luck in finding a potential cofounder in college, but the founders of Google and Yahoo didn’t seem to have any trouble. School is probably such a good place to find cofounders because it has all of the ingredients for a potential startup founder. Students are energetic, can live cheaply, and oftentimes lack “real jobs” that require large amounts of time. In classes that have any type of project or group work, you’re able to observe your classmates work ethic, intelligence, and character. Startups also go through some pretty difficult times, and the friendships and bonds formed through the shared experience of school may make all of the difference when tempers start to flare.

  • On the Job - Work seems to be a little more hit or miss than school because it’s not quite as fertile for potential startup founders. A decent programmer receives a good salary, sick pay, vacation, and becomes accustomed to a way of life that can be tough to leave. Many of your co-workers may also be married or have children, and it’s understandable that they cannot drop everything to pursue a dream with no guaranteed success. Unlike school, I did have some luck meeting a cofounder through work. Kevin and I never really planned to start anything together, but after we worked together for a couple years and realized that our personalities, goals, and work ethic were similar, a startup was born. If you think somebody at work might make a decent cofounder, starting a project together at work is the perfect way to begin a friendship and find out what the other person is really made of.

  • Friends - Friends can come from work and school, but I needed another section for those people that you play poker, pool, or go out on a Friday night with. Friends seem to be a tricky area because even though you may get along perfectly for a game of softball, you don’t know how well you’ll handle the type of conflict that a startup brings until you actually create a startup. If you’re going into business with somebody that you’ve never actually worked on a project with, I’d recommend starting on something a little easier and smaller before creating the next Google. It seems that most groups break up when they haven’t really worked together on something and the stress of a startup starts to wear away at their friendship.

  • Networking - If you can’t seem to find a cofounder at school, work, or in your circle of friends, there is always good ol’ networking. Even if you’re a bit of an introvert, there are a number of places where you can meet some very like minded people. Conferences like SXSW and Startup School are full of intelligent people looking to create the next big thing. Online communities such as the 9rules network bring talented people together and are on the lookout for bright-minded people. And even if you may not live in Silicon Valley or Boston, most cities have a startup community that holds social events where you can meet some of the local talent.

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Chris Campbell

Where do you Find Cofounders? by Chris Campbell

This entry was posted 4 years ago and was filed under Notebooks.
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  1. Achtentachtig · 4 years ago

    Makes me wondering why there isn’t a web 2.0 network site focused on finding cofounders… Hmm, perhaps I will start one some day. But then I will need to find a cofounder first ;-)

  2. Dr J · 4 years ago

    Friends are great for co-founders but they also can be some of the worst people to work with. I guess it just comes down to picking your friends wisely and picking your cofounders even more wisely.

  3. Kevin Hale · 4 years ago

    Interesting that you didn’t mention family, since your other startup founder is your bro and since a lot of businesses out there are family-run businesses. I, personally, could never run a business with my brother, but we are very different from one another.

    The biggest surprise to me about how we formed is that I never would have thought to start a business until after a relationship and some work was done with the two of you. Ryan, definitely not on first impression. I think a lot people take for granted how much “time” is a big factor in determining a suitable relationship for a startup. You need to spend time with someone to establish respect and compatible working habits.

    You also need “conflict.” If you can’t fight with someone constructively without taking it personally, you can’t know how things will play out when things get stressful. And there are a ridiculous number of times when you’re going to disagree. How you come out of those is incredibly important.

  4. Andy Kant · 4 years ago

    Good article. I’d agree with school being a great place to meet people that you might want to found a startup with (or just plain work with for that matter). Reason being, if you went to school with someone, you are probably well aware of their strengths and/or weaknesses as well as how their personality meshes with yours. A side benefit is that at least with my school (I have a BS in Software Engineering from Milwaukee School of Engineering); any SE that actually endured the extremely difficult program without dropping out can be safely assumed to be an extremely high quality software engineer and I would work with them without knowing much else (if anything) about them.

    The only weakness of engineers that come out of MSOE is the ego that comes with the degree. ;-)

  5. Dipesh Batheja · 3 years ago

    Finding a co-founder who would want to share the same vision and passion as you is hell of a task. Just to make sure i don’t create any restrictions for myself to not do those things which I always wanted to, I decided to get started alone as a freelance web app developer hoping I would find someone along the way and then we will work towards building some product. Now as the clients have started appreciating what I offer and and I am getting projects quiet frequently, I am badly in need of some help. All my friends from college are now finally settling into their jobs and nobody is interested in taking the risk and responsibility of a founder. And hiring someone is not really like getting a cofounder as that guy would never know what it takes to be a founder and probably will not be interested either. But for now the only option seems for me is to hire someone and let see how it goes. And wait for a relationship to develop with someone within my network to a level where we could think of joining hands for working towards a goal.