In startup land, there’s something that our friends at Entrepreneurial Spark call the Founders Dilemma and they devote an entire event and lots of research just to talk through some of the challenges of finding that elusive ‘co’. At some point, the me has to become we as it did with Shuttle. But like all things, there’s a story.
The search for a Co-Founder was a mind-stretcher to say the least. The Founder has a ton of experience of bringing teams together and some pretty high-heeled ones to boot. Having spent the lion’s share of his career building and shaping teams, he has no trouble qualifying technical competence and weighing cultural fit and then negotiating and agreeing terms of engagement. But when it came to finding the elusive Co-Founder, then things got really tough.
After fruitless discussions with friends and current networks, it was clear that folks were either skeptical about joining a start-up or just didn’t seem to bring enough to the table. And the trouble with friends is, they’re all TOO nice and your idea sounds great until they have to buy it, then things get awkward.
The next step was CoFoundersLab. Among the sixty or so responses there were the predictable ‘I have a wonderful financial services product that I want to take to market from my shed in Pontypridd and the ‘you need me’ but underneath that, there were some real gems.
In the end two people stood out, both were complete tech-heads, both were charming, honest affable guys and both will make someone wonderful Co-Founders one day but in the start-up game there’s a heartbeat and a soul that can’t be heard or felt. There’s an energy that runs through it with a DNA that isn’t unique especially because it can be tuned in to, but it has flavor and culture. And no matter how much you try and force that energy and vibe into a conversation (or even series of conversations), if the other person can’t feel it, it’s just not going to happen. And if the magic doesn’t come, the story feels contrived and un-natural and flat. If anything, the buzz that was there seems to be being drained and diluted
Until you meet The One.
In our case it was the once-mentioned Straight Line Guy, introduced to The Founder by a mentor from the Accelerator Academy who knew of him from a piece of work blah blah blah. The detail doesn’t matter, the fact is this guy was available and he seemed to tick some boxes, but here’s the kicker, he was willing to take it slow.
Straight Line Guy had form; he’d worked in startupville for a few years and had blood on his hands and feathers in his cap. For all of The Founders creativity and blue-sky thinking, so Straight Line Guy is process, customer delight and KPI-driven measurement. Finding someone to take a share of the leadership isn’t about divvying up tasks, it’s about filling gaps, finding holes in your armoury and tooling up with top grade ordinance.
Strictly speaking, he’s not a co-founder per se, but for all intents and purposes, that’s the role he holds and fills impeccably.
His name is Alex, but for reasons that we’ll come to later, we’ll call him Straight Line Guy.