I’ve 1) gone through a cofounder breakup; 2) tried my hand at becoming a solo founder; 3) gone through several “cofounder dates” until I ended up with my current (awesome) cofounder.
The journey is not as black and white as it may seem. In particular:
MYTHYou have to have longstanding history together already.
MYTHCofounder breakups have negative effects to your future prospects of starting a company.
MYTH-ishFind an idea first then find a cofounder to bring on.
Outsiders pattern match strong cofounder relationships with long prior history. It certainly helps if you’re already friends or worked closely with someone who you’re looking to work with for the next 5+ years. The “dating” part of it is accelerated, but prior longevity doesn’t guarantee a longstanding partnership.
My 1st co-founder relationship ended up not working out despite our 4-year friendship. My second one is working out well despite our relatively short time working together, after meeting as strangers in an NFT meetup!
In fact, the opposite might be true, for 2 reasons:
First, the next time I tried to find a cofounder, I knew how I needed to approach the process and what I wanted or didn’t want in a cofounder.
Second, it’s signal that I’m resilient & determined, especially if I’m willing to give it another go. Some potential investors even called out how they admired my grit.
I’ve also heard the opposite: find a cofounder first then navigate the idea maze together.
My journey was a mix of the two, drawing from lessons learned.
My takeaway from my 1st rel’n: I needed to at least know what market, audience or problem space I was most excited about and what I definitely was unenthused by.
My takeaway from my solo founder journey: the discovery of those areas.
What I did the second time around: Have a strong stance about the problem spaces and audiences I was most interest in → Match with a cofounder that was also interested in similar areas → Figure out the exact problem & solution together.
Why? I wanted to make sure the cofounder I worked with had a strong sense of ownership (if we were to be equal partners). Also, at some tipping point, the idea maze got way too lonely, strongly signaling that I needed someone to navigate that journey with.
Don’t let outsiders pattern match what makes for a good or bad cofounder journey. It’s a mess. Find the messy path that best fits you.