Pitching your startup idea to a potential co-founder is way different than pitching to an investor. Ofcourse, I’ll cover the investor pitch in one of my later posts, but I thought I’d focus on this first because I find this more important. There are thousands of investors out there who’re looking for something to invest in, but you can only find a few co-founders who are compatible with your way of life.
I have pitched to 6 different people and 2 wanted in. I’m going to list the 10 things I did right with those 2 people.
10 things to remember while pitching to your potential co-founder –
Obviously, I don’t mean it in the sexual sense. Before you even talk business with your potential partner, begin with something other than your idea and then ease into your venture; like, about the restaurant you’re in, or an interesting story about the founder of the restaurant you’re in. But always remember to talk about something related to business ventures. Build and establish a rapport, then make your pitch. That will only increase the chances of him/her getting on-board.
2. Follow The Sequence.
When you make your pitch, there is this conventional order you must follow.
Start with the problem you want to address, and how big of a problem this is. Then comes how you want to handle this problem, i.e., your idea. Don’t leave anything out. It’s okay for you to say “I have found a better way to do that.” and it won’t sound like arrogance. Then talk about what his job will be as a co-founder. Usually, co-founders complement each other. So, if you’re handling the technical aspects, maybe you want him onboard to handle the business, management and administrative stuff. It would be better if you researched what his role must be, so you can explain that role to him in a better way. After everything is said, talk about the ownership percentage.
3. Target Market.
So you have an idea for a venture and you’ve found this person who might become your co-founder. You pitch the idea to him/her and everything’s fine. But in the end, you’re making a money generating machine; A business. There must be some kind of people who will be willing to buy your product / service. So explain your target market to your potential co-founder. Describe that market as precisely as you can. You must have spoken to atleast 5 strangers about your product/service and have some feedback. Be it positive or negative. You’ll have a better understanding of your target market, which makes it easier for you to explain to you potential co-founder. This will give clarity on the fact that your product / service will sell, which in turn will increase the chances of him/her getting on board.
4. Take A Break.
So you’ve been talking to your potential co-founder for about half an hour now and maybe you’re a little nervous, maybe the words are coming out too rapidly from your mouth, maybe you’re starting to sound gibberish, or maybe the other person is thinking about this and then you go on about another aspect of the idea, hence breaking his chain of thought. In any case, take a break when you reach that half an hour mark. Order fries or go to a street food place and order something to eat/drink. Start talking about something else just until you receive your order. This break will give you more clarity with what you want to say further, and it’ll help your friend think about an issue that you missed, or some query that he wants to find a solution to.
5. Do Not Lie.
This is a given. Maybe you found an awesome person who’s perfect for the co-founder role and you want him badly. You might think about adding a lie here and there making the package more attractive. That is just wrong! A co-founder shouldn’t work with you because the package is attractive; He must work with you because he believes in your idea and that that can be a viable solution to the problem you want to address.
I once blurted out that I have a friend who’s willing to invest a lot of money in my idea, thus making the package more attractive and as if the job is half done, now that I had an investor. But in truth, I still had to begin to talk to the investor friend of mine about the idea I had! That potential co-founder eventually couldn’t work on the startup due to other reasons, and thankfully I had successfully gotten the investor on-board by then. I was lucky; but you might not be. So, be honest about your current position.
6. Be A Visionary.
One thing I’ve noticed in potential co-founders is that they reciprocate to your vision and how you present it. As in, you don’t have to stick to your idea all the time. You could connect your idea to how Steve Jobs came up with something, and then how Steve started a revolution in the computer industry, the music industry,etc., and how this idea of yours is as revolutionary as Steve Job’s products. It doesn’t matter what your product / service is. All that matters is how enthusiastic you are about your idea, and trust me, the potential co-founder will reciprocate. That’s how motivation spreads. You obviously believe in your idea and that’s why you’re starting up. Show it to him / her and be dreamy and enthusiastic about it.
7. Reality Distortion.
This is a minor problem you might face after making your pitch. The potential co-founder thinks some aspect of the idea can’t be implemented because of some reason which might sound legit to you. But you want that aspect to be executed no matter what. You shouldn’t bend and admit that it is okay to let that aspect go, unless it’s really not necessary. You make him understand how important that aspect is and how it MAKES the entire product / service. You tell him about the little research you’ve done about the whole thing and that it IS possible to make it happen, but it’s just hard to do it. The pitch is yours! You distort reality how you want and get things done. And bear in mind, distort reality when it comes to your potential co-founder’s role. This will make his role more interesting and intriguing for him / her.
8. Time To Dedicate.
Although this must be covered in the 2nd point, I’m emphasizing it now. Be clear about how much time your co-founder is supposed to dedicate to your venture. He/she might have other important things to work on. It might be work, it might be taking care of a family, it might be college work, other projects, etc., You as an initiator, must figure out a way to make everything work in a given amount of time. Make it sound like a suggestion, and that’ll pave a way for him/her to make everything work.
9. Figure Out Each Other’s Compatibility.
Yes, he might be perfect to handle things as a co-founder. But what if you sense ego issues? What if you sense arrogance, and you’re not okay with that? That’s a bad sign. So, while you’re making the pitch to your potential co-founder, figure out if he’ll be the best person to work with. Most startups I know have failed because of failed relationships between co-founders. High potential startups have bit the dust because of this very reason. So, that’s one job you have while making the pitch.
10. Provide Time To Get On Board.
You have pitched your idea to the potential co-founder and covered every single point we discussed here. Now obviously he/she needs time to go home, research about this idea, think about it, and then decide whether to get on board or not. He/she might even consider talking to a couple of people about the pros and cons of starting up. Don’t make the mistake of telling your potential partner to keep this idea to himself. That’ll only mean you don’t trust him/her enough (although that can be justified, it’ll still give them the wrong idea ). It’s a given that your idea must not be shared with other people and your potential partner knows that. So, tell him/her to get back to you in a week, or maybe two weeks.