One way to find co-founders for a start-up is by advertising on online boards and networking sites. To find out which respondents to pick for face-to-face meetings some of the standard recruitment questions will be very useful. First have a quick look at the candidate’s CV and make sure his or her skills are relevant to your business, then pick the phone up and find out about the candidate’s availability, location and track-record.
Are you currently working or unemployed? Are you involved in other start-up projects as well?
You need to find somebody willing to invest full-time in your start-up, which probably means 8-12 hours a day. In relations to availability you might want to ask about personal commitments as well, such as children or other dependents. I would however recommend asking more personal questions at the face-to-face meeting.
Where are you currently located?
Working next to each other in an office gives a great boost to productivity and morale. Some distance start-ups have been very successful, they are however exceptions. If you are living in the same city you should consider renting office space as soon as you have decided to work together.
Do you have a portfolio showing previous work?
You don’t want to spend time and effort on meeting up face-to-face and then realize that the candidate’s previous performance isn’t living up to your basic standards. Even students with no work experience should have personal portfolios proving their skills.
Make sure to ask the above questions, spend less time on time-wasters, and spend more time on getting the best co-founders aboard.
Any European who is into IT and start-ups has probably been on the lookout for a European equivalent to Silicon Valley. A few places have been suggested as potential candidates, but the reality is that very few of the IT start-ups which make it big start off in Europe. This seem to be caused by fundamental, structural differences combined with a different mindset.
Europe is very divers; there are many different languages and cultures, leading to the existence of many sub-markets rather than one common market. Expanding a business to several European countries therefore involves more complexities than expanding to several states in the US.
Most European countries also have employment laws which are a lot more restrictive than in the US, making it more difficult to hire as well as fire. Most start-ups would therefore think twice before starting any aggressive hiring of staff.
I also believe there is a difference in mindset between Americans and Europeans. In Europe people tend to value security and time for a fulfilling spare-time a lot, not letting work become the number one priority. That can probably be an issue for a start-up that needs everyone to put big efforts into the business to get things rolling, at least for some time.
However, I still believe there are some great opportunities for start-ups in Europe. Just make sure to take these fundamental differences into consideration and adapt your approach to the European business reality.
1: Invest Time, Energy and Imagination
When running a small business or a start-up you probably don’t have the resources to use much traditional marketing such as TV or Print. However, what you do have is (hopefully) time, energy and imagination that can be used for gathering detailed customer data, writing personal emails, and keeping detailed records of each prospect interaction. Make sure to take advantage of this in when communicating with prospects and customers as it can make you stand out from bigger competitors.
2: Focus on Your Customers’ Needs
It’s easy to get emotionally attached to a business idea that you have come up with yourself. That’s perfectly fine as long as your idea is a perfect fit for your customers’ needs. However, the customers only care about how your solution will help them reach their own goals, while the source of the idea has no relevance whatsoever. You need to be willing to change or let go of your original idea whenever a new one comes around that will better serve your customers.
3: Start Dialogues
If you are running your own business you probably have some sort of expertise that is valuable for others. Use this to start real dialogues with actors on the relevant market. You can use for example websites, blogs or newsletters to provide valuable information, share opinions and start real conversations about interesting topics. The key is content. Be genuine and provide real value.
4: Stay in Touch
It’s a lot easier and cheaper to sell something to an existing customer than to get a new one aboard. Keep track of your customer records to make sure subscriptions and contracts are renewed, and that new products or services are introduced to existing customers before approaching more expensive new prospects.
Are you looking for a co-founder to realize a business idea? I believe that quite a few people (myself included) love the idea of working with others in an exciting small business environment, spending their days doing what they love while creating a great organization. To do this you need a great team consisting of committed and highly skilled individuals. How do you get such people aboard your own start-up?
Your first step is to understand your own core competencies. How can you contribute something valuable to the business? Some relevant core competencies for a tech start-up are the following;
Great design makes an average site look outstanding. Great design sells. There are a lot of people out there calling themselves web designers, but there’s a smaller number with proven records.
Marketing and Sales
Good understanding of highly specialized marketing methods such as Search Engine Optimization as well as telemarketing and other guerrilla marketing methods are vital for putting your final product out on the market.
It takes some humility to go through an honest evaluation of your own skill levels, but you need it to understand what sort of quality you will be able to attract for your start-up. If you don’t live up to the standards you would like to see in your co-founders you better spend some more time developing your own skills.
There is however one way you can partly compensate for not having other skills, and that’s by opening your wallet. A lot of start-ups need investors more than anything else. If that’s an option for you and you are willing to take the risk, I would imagine that quite a few start-ups would welcome you with open arms.
Now that Steve Jobs has stepped down from his position as CEO of Apple I was reminded of his most famous speech held at Standford in 2005. You probably have seen it already. If you haven’t, please find it here here. It’s one of those speeches which you simply have to see.
His message is put forward in three main points which I have all put in a business perspective below.
“You can’t connect the dots looking forward – You can only connect them looking backwards”
This is something I believe is very much true in everyone’s personal life as well as in the business world. Business is changing faster than ever and it’s never been more difficult to foresee how technology and competition will change over the next few years. You need to have trust not only in data and expert knowledge, but also your gut feeling. Don’t spend too much time planning for the far future – the rules of the game might change over night.
“You’ve gotta find what you love: Keep looking – Don’t settle”
When you love what you do a lot of the mental resistance that most people feel in relations to work is removed. Having employees who love their jobs is also a huge competitive advantage. If you are about to start your own business, doing so is certainly a lot easier if you love not only the vision of where you are going, but also your daily tasks involved to get there. Steve Jobs himself is an obvious example.
“Stay hungry – Stay foolish”
Personally I hate stagnation. There’s nothing worse than seeing businesses being run with no ambition to improve or will to move on to the next level. When running a business you have to be hungry. Competition is fierce in most industries today and if you settle with what you think is a “good enough” level you will soon be on a slippery slope. You need to have the guts to cause disruption, to make bold decisions to get away from the status quo, then do it over and over.