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Finding a Startup Co-founder: The Luck and Science

The 48-hour sailing trip from Barcelona to Ibiza was a spontaneous idea. It wasn’t a leisure trip or a means of getting to an infamous party island, but a tool to see if Manuel Jaffrin and Christophe Primault could work together as startup co-founders.

Manu and Christophe had only known each other three months prior to co-founding GetApp. “We knew that we had complimentary backgrounds. I’m a computer engineer that moved into sales — I understand technology. Christophe’s background was in marketing, and he was a startup CEO at one point. He had the knowledge of running a company, which I didn’t have,” shared Manu.

On their sailing trip, they made a point discussing a variety of essential topics, like their business ideas as well as their personal lives. Both in their 40s and with families, Manu and Christophe not only set and aligned on expectations around their new business but also on their ideal work/life balance. Importantly, they also aligned with what they would do if the company became successful.

Finding a co-founder: GetApp's Manu and Christophe sailing to Ibiza

Early on, they made a lot of right decisions. The relationship between co-founders is often compared to a marriage, and for good reason. Both Manu and Christophe understood what was at stake–they were picking a person who could help them execute on their dreams. The person who will be there, for better or worse for years to come. The person to whom they could call in the middle of the night and sanity-check that everything was going to be okay.

Picking the wrong co-founder is one of the most common reasons why startups fail.

According to Inc., “Startups don’t fail because they’re startups. They fail because of the founders.” FastCompany mentions that 75% of VC-backed startups fail, as startup co-founders’ pride can lead to an unwillingness to listen to valuable advice.

Since finding a co-founder can make a difference between a wantrepreneur and a true entrepreneur, it’s not surprising that there are a lot of co-founder matchmaking services. Sites like FounderDating.com and TechCofounder.com. Founder2be.com offer you an ability create a profile, as you would on an online dating site, to help with finding a co-founder.

There’s HiddenFounders.com with a tagline of “CTO as a Service.” There are Craigslist “co-founder needed” ads and a Reddit Co-founder community. Services like StartupWeek offer networking workshops for aspiring entrepreneurs. Their events attract an equal amount of technology-savvy and business-savvy participants who are chasing the same dream of building a successful startup.

But Manu got very lucky. He didn’t need to use any of these services. He met Christophe just six months prior to launching GetApp, when he worked for Sun Microsystems in sales.

They met again later. “By then, I had left Sun and wanted to entertain some business ideas. Very quickly we decided that we should build a company together: Christophe had the vision and I felt I could make it happen,” Manu reflected.

Finding a co-founder; Manu and Christophe in GetApp's first office

What other advice would Manu offer to the aspiring startup co-founders?

“More often than not, people look to their friends and family when searching for a co-founder. I know many stories when people have lost both their business and their friendship. It can work, but it’s a risk that you need to be aware of and be willing to take. Instead, you should look for someone with complementary skills. Remember, the stakes are sky-high!”

Read how Manu managed to pivot his client acquisition strategy when the SEO efforts stopped paying off.