Mar 25

Finding the right cofounders

 “I’ve got this great idea.”  You hear it all the time, but how often do you hear a follow up of, “This thing has really taken off!”  One of the MANY reasons for would-be-entrepreneurs talking rather than doing is that they are not able to find the right people to partner up with.  Over a year ago, I felt that I had uncovered a large problem concerning how fashion sites were using their users’ social graph.  I had an idea that I thought solved this problem and I decided to take the next steps to uncover whether or not I had something useful or even possible.

I wrote up a small business plan, started researching the industry, and did a ton of customer development.  As I talked to potential users, my idea naturally started to shift.  I spoke to fashion experts and social media experts.  I created surveys, talked to friends, and even stopped students coming out of fashion schools to talk about how they would use my potential site.  As I continued to receive positive feedback, I started to feel as if I had a good chance of building something that people will find true value in.  This entire process took about three to four months.  I was moving rather quickly and then it stopped abruptly.  I needed at least one cofounder, especially one with a technical background.  I had a finance and sales background so I was confident in doing the financials, marketing, and business development.  However, without a product to market, I had nothing.

For the first two months, I was constantly asking friends if they knew anyone with a technical background.  I was living in San Francisco at the time so you would think that this wouldn’t be so difficult.  I was wrong.  I eventually found a few friends that knew someone with technical capabilities, but they always said that their contact was in the middle of a project.  I started to feel helpless.  Then, in a matter of a three weeks, I had a few people with the right background who all of the sudden wanted to help.  They weren’t direct friends, but they were friends of friends and that was good enough for me.

Enter the next problem: Fit.  When you decide to start a company, you are really deciding who you want to spend all day and night with for the next x amount of years.  While the contacts that I had made were very nice, something told me that it wasn’t going to work out.  Some contacts were flakey and wouldn’t call me back.  That made me worry about getting in touch with them in the future.  Other contacts demanded a certain equity stake and told me that they would work on their own schedule.  The funniest part about this problem is that I didn’t care about equity.  I wanted to give him 50% and he was demanding less than that.  However, I felt that the demanding nature of the claim started us off on the wrong foot … so I kept waiting … waiting for someone that I could partner with (as equals) in a business.

After entering business school at NYU Stern, I was told of a program called InSITE, a mentorship program of NYU and Columbia students who support entrepreneurs in the development of their business.  At this stage of my life, I wasn’t sure if I was going to start my company first or join a startup to get a better understanding of how startups operate.  I joined InSITE because I thought it would help with the latter.  It turns out that it helped both.  After working for QLabs in the first semester of my first year, I started hanging out with two of my good friends in the program, Amrish Singh and Alejandro Chahin.  Amrish is an avid technologist and previously published research papers in machine learning, written a book chapter on social aspects of information organization, and founded  Alejandro is a smart jack-of-all-trades guy who previously worked as a Project Manager at Intermoda, an apparel production and wholesale firm.   Without knowing it, I had made good friends with the perfect cofounders.  I was creating a tech company based on fashion and I had just found a tech guy and an apparel guy who I knew I could spend hours on end with creating this site.  This was the day ThreadMatcher began.

InSITE has been the best part of going to business school.  While I am learning a ton at Stern, meeting entrepreneurial minded people and working on startups at InSITE has been the most rewarding part of my time in NYC.  This semester, Amrish, Alejandro, and myself will be starting ThreadMatcher as our project.  In return, we will be blogging about our experience.  Hopefully, you will learn from our successes and failures as we keep you up to date.  Please feel free to comment on any of our posts.

 Post written by Kevin St. John (NYU MBA 2013) and founder of ThreadMatcher.

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