As with dating, there’s no magic formula – it’s a mixture of intuition, sheer luck and a bit of clever research. Seiichi Kawasaki, director and president of Sony China, says, “If I am the person choosing [a joint venture partner] then trust is very important. Character is more important than business experience. A joint venture is like a marriage.”
From someone in the know. Here’s some well-earned advice from Neeta Patel, New Entrepreneurs Foundation CEO
FISH OUTSIDE YOUR FRIENDSHIP POOL
“Generally, you make friends with people just like you, but in a business relationship it’s important to make sure you and your co-founder bring different, complementary skills to the table.”
DON’T BE TOO INDEPENDENT
“Attracting an opposite can be especially important if your company requires funding, as many investors I speak to say they would not invest in a business that is run by a solo founder. They believe that a mixture of skills is needed to grow a big business and believe it’s better to share the responsibility as investing in one person is too risky.”
HAVE A ‘PRENUP’
“Even if you’re going into partnership with a friend, it’s vital you put a water-tight legal agreement in place at the very start. Identify how the business will be structured, what are your roles and responsibilities and, if you’re both making a financial commitment, how this would affect the split in equity if your relationship did break down.”
KNOW WHO IS BOSS
“You need to elect one of the co-founders as CEO to run the company, while the other takes on a senior role. It can be an awkward conversation but will be better in the long run. In my experience, it is disastrous for two or more co-founders to take on the role of ‘co-CEOs’ as this confuses everybody and gives the impression that there is no one in charge of the company.”
‘DATING SITES’ FOR BUSINESS PARTNERS
There’s still a lot to be said for meeting people in the flesh, and Meetup’s career and business section often lists networking events for specific industries. Even if you don’t find your partner there, you will be expanding your talent pool.
It’s platonic, we promise! This website allows users to reach out to a network of founders, mentors and consultants. Check out their downloadable ‘advisor agreement template’, which encourages you to put ground rules in place and formalise all business relationships.
Previously called Techcofounder, this is a matchmaking service with a community of more than 40,000 entrepreneurs and creatives seeking business companionship. They also hold networking events in America where you can share ideas and meet like-minded people.
The start-up scene is littered with stories of partners who didn’t make it. One of the most explosive of recent years was the dispute between the founder of electric car start-up Tesla, Martin Eberhard, and its chairman, Elon Musk, who previously co-founded PayPal. In a lawsuit, Martin accused Elon of libel, slander, breach of contract and negligence. And then there’s the famous feud between Mark Zuckerberg and Eduardo Saverin, which became a storyline in the Facebook movie. That’s a very high-profile breakup!