Hooking up Technical and Business

I was recently asked by a business mind to write a post reflecting on how I found my technical co-founders.  It’s a question I’ve been asked a few times now so I figured I’d do my best to answer based on discussions across both the business and technical fronts.  I’m hoping my thoughts help both business and technical find each other just a little easier.

How did you meet your co-founders?

My particular story is probably not applicable to most.  It relies on a whole bunch of serendipity and blind luck.  I so happen to be the co-chair of LAUNCH – UC Berkeley’s Startup Competition.   It has been traditionally organised solely by MBAs though this made no sense to me.  As part of that role we wanted to include more engineers and undergraduates to the fold.  My other co-chair found a friend through her connections and so I was introduced to a young gentleman who had won awards for his academic efforts.  One day he approached me to discuss some ideas and we set up the time to brainstorm.  We hit it off and now are working several ideas together.  He has since introduced me to a couple of his mates and so the network builds.

Another founder I met through a chase.  I had heard stories about a guy who had won a hackathon, was a great bloke and interested in bitcoin.  I hunted a little until a mutual MBA friend introduced us and we set up a meeting.  Turns out my first co-founder had actually traveled with him and the organizer of that trip was another mutual friend.  We through around a couple of ideas and started working together.

The rest is history.

 

General principles

“Chance favors the prepared” Louis Pasteur – inventor of pasteurization

I suspect most people’s stories on finding co-founders relies on chance or some serendipity.  In my efforts to cultivate such fortune I did several things which I can recommend to others.  Below is a consolidated list based on my experiences and discussions with both sides of the table.

  • Go to events that interests engineers.  Events held at the business school probably aren’t attracting engineers in droves.  General entrepreneurship events, pitch nights or topic specific events e.g. bitcoin probably will.  
  • Be an extrovert – sounds dumb but I go to events and see all the business kids talking to each other, and all the engineering kids hanging together.  Now in this case the engineers are the hot girls at the party, so the business kids need to go over and start the conversation
  • Be  friendly – my mum always said “If you want friends be friendly”  Often I hear the anecdote that a business guy will come by and ask “Can you code” and then pitch their idea.  The plain audacity of this stupidity confounds me.  My rule in life is always ask questions – another Chinese idiom I remember is “You learn a lot more by listening than by speaking” so I will try to engage whoever I’m talking to be an interested in them.  I’ve seen business peeps do this soliloquy time and time again to no avail
  • Prove yourself – to business minds coding is some black box.  To engineers, the business side seems almost pointless – build a great product and they’ll come.  Both are true and false.  I never believe I deserve the respect of someone, I’ll always work to earn it.  That means busting my ass and proving to others (business or engineers) the value I can add.  This work ethic and results build trust and an appreciation of value

I think finding founders is like dating.  I think with a bit of work and humility one can find their better half.  I don’t think any of the above is groundbreaking insight.   I suspect this is common sense.  What is clear though is that it’s much harder to execute.  Go execute!

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