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Hackernoon logoHow to Start a SaaS Business When You’ve Never Met Your Cofounder by@boomahora

How to Start a SaaS Business When You’ve Never Met Your Cofounder

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@boomahoraAlex Cannon

Cofounder @ Accordably. Marketer with a passion for hockey, whisky and startups.

The most fundamental core of any business relationship is trust. Traditionally this was built through multiple interactions, which included at least one face to face meeting.

It seemed that something about meeting in person helped solidify what was discussed. Whether this be through body language or both parties being able to lower their guards and speak somewhat informally.

These in-person meetings have been a staple for long lasting business relationships. However, the ability for these type of interactions has been put on hold thanks to the current pandemic. The startup community has had to adapt to these restrictions and in my opinion the perfect environment for entrepreneurship was created.

People with extra time on their hands and nothing to do.

While I recognize and have experienced the downsides of this
pandemic from a business perspective, I try to look at the positives. This
motivation is what led to my most recent startup, Accordably, a competitor monitoring solution.

How do you find a cofounder?

Alright, great, you want to start a business, but how do you actually find a cofounder?

I wish I could tell you that this was the easy part, but it’s actually probably the hardest.

It’s going to be a lot of trial and error.

We are in more restricted social times, so it becomes even more difficult. A good place to start is with previous colleagues that you’ve worked with. You know them from a professional perspective, you’ve seen how they act with colleagues and their work ethic.

Remember, the stakes are much higher when it’s your own business, so these favourable employee working traits don’t always translate into a good cofounder.

Personally, I would recommend checking out different digital communities, you’d be surprised who you’ll meet and might find someone that has very similar goals to you.

My personal favourite community is Indie Hackers. They have a specific group called “Looking to partner up” and you will find a wide variety of people looking to start a business.

I am biased as that’s where I met the cofounder of Accordably.

What to look for when choosing a cofounder?

The ideal match is someone who is the complete opposite of your skillset. Think of it like an ice hockey team. If your team was all goalies, you’d get nowhere. You need balance and different strengths to help push your product over the top.

Now one thing that shouldn’t be the complete opposite is your motivation. Finding someone who has the same drive is important or else there could be a growing resentment in your near future.

No two situations are the same and this is why it’s difficult to find a cofounder. There needs to be the right mix of similar professional goals and differing skillsets to build a strong tandem.

Another important attribute is whether you can see yourself getting along with this person from a social perspective. Face it, you’re going to have to spend a lot of time speaking with this person and planning out the future of your business.

There are some personality types that just don’t mix. Even if your skillsets are the perfect match, your mental health could be at risk if find yourself in a toxic work relationship.

For me, building a startup isn’t necessarily about the money (I mean it helps of course!) but it’s an outlet where my voice has a direct impact on the future of the business. I can test out crazy ideas and not worry about angry investors or upsetting management.

How to build trust when you’ve never met?

Just because you meet somebody in person doesn’t automatically create trust. Everyone has their own problems and you’ll never truly understand all the factors that go into their decisions.

So how do you build trust?

Time.

It takes time to build trust, you need to learn each others working habits, personalities and goals. After 2 weeks of working together, you should have a good understanding of the other person.

Of course, 2 weeks isn’t enough to jump into anything long term, but it will give you a good idea of direction and at that point, you can choose whether or not to continue.

While you should protect yourself, there’s no need to waste money on lawyers right at the start. Just write up a basic agreement that lays out your agreed upon terms and that you will revisit at a later stage.

Even with an agreement created by lawyers, you can get screwed over, so don’t worry about this too much at the start.

Finding the right idea

You’ve assembled a strong team, your skills match perfectly and you’re ready to go, but you’re missing one thing.

The idea!

This is difficult because whatever you choose you will be committing a large chunk of time to it, so you don’t want to make the wrong choice and get startup remorse.

Now I can’t stress this enough, no matter what you choose, make sure that it genuinely interests you. I’ve been in many situations that after the initial sparkle of an idea wears off, I’m stuck with a product that I find soul crushingly boring.

The product may make money, but if you don’t enjoy it, it’s not worth it.

The approach that we took was rather than getting stuck in analysis paralysis, we just started with something.

We started working on a server-side web analytics solution and testing the market on this idea. We focused on building the infrastructure and easily transferable parts that we could use for other ideas.

After about a month of building, two things happened:

  1. We had enough time to see if our working styles meshed, which they did.
  2. An idea popped up from a client request that we both believed in.

Long story short, instead of beating your head against a wall trying to find the perfect idea, just start!

Start with anything, inspiration will come, staying stagnant will just make you another wantrepreneur.

Maintaining communication

When it comes to remote cofounders the importance of communication is multiplied. Setting up the proper channels and maintaining a clear schedule is critical for success.

Keeping your teammate informed of your daily/weekly goals helps motivate and set accountability.

It’s very easy to procrastinate when you’re “the boss” but when you see your cofounder working their ass off and you’re doing nothing, that guilt should set in. Unless of course, you’re a prick.

Our main communication hub is Slack and we have integrated all of our tools to send notifications to this platform. This is our main dashboard and it helps keeps us on the same page for the health of the business.

Figure out what works for your duo and run with it. For us, we will have one or two calls a week and then for the smaller topics, just send each other audios clips.

This style has worked for us because when a thought is fresh, you can send a quick audio snippet and the other can listen to it, when they have time.

Getting side tracked is a big problem, so try to stay on goal and not overcommunicate with long phone calls every day.

One piece of advice that I can share when it comes to communication is that tone is not conveyed properly over text. I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen people get upset over an email or Slack message from a misunderstanding in tone.

In this digital world, don’t forget how to communicate. Jumping to conclusions or negatives will just set your team back. Clarify before making an unnecessary enemy.

Trust your gut

There is no one size fits all formula to finding a cofounder. People aren’t predictable. It takes time to find the right fit.

The one constant is your gut because no matter who you choose, you’re going to have to take a chance.

You could get burned or feel like you’re doing all the work, that’s just collateral damage in the life of an entrepreneur.

All that you can do is work with the information you’re given and decide if you believe in your cofounder. When it works, it works and you’ll eventually see success.

That’s what we’re working towards with Accordably and we’re excited to see what’s next for this project.

Also published here.

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