Finding Co-Founders and Solo-Founding Strategies

October 26, 2022

There’s this certain problem between investors and founders that happens a LOT. Investors usually tell founders they must have a tech co-founder when working on a tech product, when these tech founders don’t have their co-founders in the first place.

These founders then go on a frenzy looking for a tech co-founder, spending months onboarding and trialing random founders. The thing is, I’ve never seen a single random co-founder relationship work out.

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66% of startups end because co-founders break up.

Bobo, an ex-Harvard student and founder of FB, went on 50 co-founder dates. Max, having $5K MMR, went on 200. Arundhati, ex-Microsoft and ex-FB, went with more than 50. All of them spent months looking for a co-founder and came up empty handed.

It’s too risky to bet your precious time working on something with some random person for equity. When scenarios like when things get hard, metrics go down, or arguments ensure, you’d leave.

Say you had a twin named Jeffy, a technical founder. They’re also interested in startups, having capabilities just as amazing as yours. Your twin wouldn’t want to join a random startup; Like you, they’d rather work on their OWN THING. They would only want to work with you if you have a pre-existing relationship (eg: worked together at the same company)

Here’s my advice on finding co-founders:

Your best shot is hitting up someone you've worked with in the past or have an existing relationship with.

I’ve seen this kind of setup work with multiple people. Thach, Robert, Christina, asked their past co-founder whilst Pili asked her advisor. It NEVER works out with startup school matching, such as ones from LinkedIn.

If you don’t have someone in your network you can work with, optimize for traction.

Rishi is a non-technical solo founder who first optimized for getting paying customers. After getting a few, he raised millions, got into YC, and then hired an engineer (who later became CTO). By optimizing for traction, he was able to get more funds and attract amazing talent (who later could become his cofounder).

NEVER risk starting out with randoms—you’d just waste time and effort for something that wouldn’t actually work.

How do you exactly do these?

  1. You can do it yourself; try to use no-code tools like Figma Flow for your app.

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  • If you’re B2B, you can use Figma Flow to get the LOIs, getting the prototype you can create in one day. You don’t really need the product built yet.
  • If you’re B2C, you can do manual labor and existing tools to test it out—you don’t really need a dev to prove out traction. Work accountability startup? Use Slack or Discord. Video clip editor? Manually clip it when people film it and send it to you. Figma to React? Do this yourself or get an outsource worker before automating it.

An example of manual labor applied in the real market is Doordash. You call it when you want it, and they would manually fulfill your request. Another example’s Uber Competitor, where you start out by texting a number and they will pair you with a random driver, or manually drive you.

  1. NEVER pay $10-50K building your app.

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  • Try solving your initial problem with existing tools and manual labor first and see if it actually generates the revenue or traction you want. I’ve seen so many founders pay this much money only to fail, when I could have tested it on existing tools and learn the same thing!

With enough traction, nobody cares if you’re technical or not—not even YC! One of our members, Rishi, was a non-technical solo founder who went through YC and raised $1.5m and got pre-sales by selling his product before it was built. Sarah, too, was a solo founder who got an engineer to be her CTO, after she got traction.

There are actually a lot of ways you can utilize in going about finding co-founders, you just have to be extra thrifty in looking for one.

Do NOT co-found with randoms; it never works. Instead figure out WHY you need a co-founder and solve each of those pain points.

  • Suck at a product? Get a product mentor. This was me—I DMed Christina, “product god”, and she changed my life with her advice. Because of this, I did not need a product co-founder anymore.
  • Lonely? Make more founder friends you can hit up daily.
  • Need extra work done? I automate a lot of my tasks to my VA.
  • Suck at MVP? Test it out without coding.

Boom… you’ll get to traction 10x faster than finding a cofounder. I went searching for a co-founder for 3 years, making 0 revenue and funding. As soon as I solved my own needs with regards to my product, I got 40 paying customers in just two months!

I’ve seen many solo founders who raised more than a million. Nemo, Max, Sarah, and Ben Sand—they are all solo founders who raised hella revenue.

Remember, there are so many ways you can do to solve this co-founder problem. Never spend too much time on something that might just fail you—you can always find a method that can give results in a snap.

Maddie Wang founders of founders cafe solo founder
Maddie Wang
Gay / Solo-Founder / Stanford Dropout

I'm building Founders Cafe because as a solo founder, it can be very isolating. Last year, I lost 4 co-founders and a best friend on a previous startup.

Previously built a Minecraft Server ($61k), Amazon Store ($120k), and Queer Chart, where I met my girlfriend & close friends.

If you're interested in joining the Founders Cafe, let's talk and if it's a good fit, down to invite you!
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