Finding a Co-Founder: ‘Meet Before You Get Married!’

By David Knight |

How many would-be entrepreneurs out there have had a potentially fantastic idea, but can’t find the right people to help them make it a reality? Helping people find the right co-founders for their startups is the idea behind Founder2be, a German-Finnish project started by two Germans in January.

Users can search for the right partners, be it co-founders, developers, sales experts or anyone else who has the required skill set. Already, at least three startups – including Ziliot – have be launched as a result of partnerships forged with Founder2be. Co-founders Oliver Bremer and Frank Haubenschild have also introduced their Global Alliance Program to link up entrepreneurs with incubators and innovation hubs around the world.

Oliver spoke to Silicon Allee about Founder2be and becoming an entrepreneur.

SILICON ALLEE: How popular has your service proven so far?

Oliver Bremer: There are over 3,000 people now on the site looking for one another. There are also more than 400 ideas which have been shared, with varying degrees of how fleshed out they are. So you have the ones which are, ‘yeah, I thought this up last night’, a kind of back of the napkin stage, and then you have some pretty well thought out ideas from people who have almost a project plan with milestones and timelines they want to hit, as well as anything in between really.

SA: Do people not worry about sharing their ideas?

Bremer: That is one thing that people ask a lot: should I talk about my idea or not? Will someone steal it and get rich overnight? These fears are held especially by first time entrepreneurs. I personally think it’s so important to talk about your idea, because that’s an important tool in actually finding a co-founder; finding someone who might have a similar interest, who might have been looking for just the right guy with the skills you have.

SA: How did Founder2be come about?

Bremer: I think that any startup should come out of a problem you have yourself; there is no need to sit around thinking what problem you can solve, there are plenty in the world that you already have so start with those. Similarly, I had the problem of finding a co-founder for what I thought was a fantastic idea that I had last fall, but now I don’t even remember what the idea was because I never got started.  I was looking around for a co-founder, but I failed. I asked the usual suspects; you hit up your friends who maybe have an interest in doing something like that, but nobody was really interested, so you go through your Facebook, maybe you send a tweet, maybe you look up former colleagues, and after doing the rounds I still couldn’t find anyone willing to it. Entrepreneurship isn’t for everyone, and not everyone wants to set up a startup, let’s be frank about that. That’s how this idea came about, doing something about this problem area which caused me to forget this other idea I had had in the first place.

My girlfriend and I met through online dating, so I was thinking that if you can meet someone on a place like, surely it must be possible to meet someone for another type of relationship, a business relationship which also requires a huge amount of trust, online. We didn’t want to do a job board, there is already tons of stuff like that out there, so we decided to do the online dating model with co-founders. But of course I needed a co-founder for that, so I was shopping around this new fantastic idea pretty much to the same crowd, and Frank [Haubenschild, his co-founder] said, ‘Oliver, this idea sounds so much better than the last one you were talking about’. He wanted to be part of it.

SA: What has the feedback from users been like?

Bremer: The feedback has been mostly very positive. One thing in particular which has been surprising, which I have never seen before in any company, is the amount of people who come to us and say, ‘this is such a great idea, how can I help?’ We are still stuck in terms of putting people to work in a way they can contribute. We are thinking about doing an ambassador program – actually we have a few ambassadors already but we haven’t much publicised it. We’ll probably do some speed dating events. We’ve had things like a guy who does SEO, who said, ‘I really know this stuff, I’ll do it for you for free.’ So yeah, people love it!

Of course, we also have people saying things like, ‘we hate your logo’, or ‘we don’t like blue, can you make it green’. But everybody is allowed to have an opinion.

SA: Your website is in English, but do you find most of your users are from Germany?

Bremer: It’s pretty global and it’s also a long tail distribution as you can imagine because you can sign up from anywhere. But the United States is the biggest country. What is also pretty big, which is a little bit of a surprise to us, is India. It’s very entrepreneurial. Finland is also quite large, because we’re here and I think by now in this ecosystem pretty much everybody knows us.

There’s quite a few people from Germany as well, Spain is also quite large, as is the UK, and we have a ton of people from Australia as well. And then there’s people from places where you really wouldn’t expect, like Afghanistan.

SA: Why are more and more people coming round to the idea of setting up their own company?

Bremer: I think part of it is the economic times. Some people who would like to have a nine to five are suddenly forcibly woken up to the alternative path, ‘well maybe this is something I should look at’. And I think it’s just like a wave which is kicking off, with people knowing more and more other people who are beginning to do this. I’m 35 now, so having grown up in Germany 15 years ago, 20 years ago, your parents taught you to pay attention in school, get good grades and then go and work for Siemens.

But times have changed. I didn’t know anybody as a teenager who was an entrepreneur. In my family circle, everyone was a state employee or working for a large corporation, but that is certainly changing. People are seeing that this is not rocket science.  This can be done. Nobody knows everything – but everybody knows something. I think that’s what makes people drive on.

SA: What advice would you have for anyone trying to find a co-founder?

Bremer: What I think is very important is how do I establish trust, and I think no website can really solve that. I think that, just like online dating, I highly recommend you meet someone before you get married, and that’s what we encourage as well. At least have a Skype conversation, and if you can get together in person, that’s great.

Very early on, we launched the Global Alliance Program, and it is basically incubators and accelerators and similar organisations who want to help co-founders or companies get started in the real world with things like mentoring or pitch training, or the boot camps that they run. That’s absolutely critical, and they see Founder2be as valuable because they do get quite a few applicants from single founder teams. And even if the guy has a great skill set and a fantastic idea, it’s just not worth investing in a single person, neither time nor money. These people don’t show up alone because they think they can do it all alone, they show up alone because they haven’t managed to find a co-founder. So they use us as a resource for strengthening their applicant teams – and for us, finding someone, as important as it is, it’s just the first step. You haven’t achieved much yet.  Great, now you can start, and yesterday you couldn’t.  But there’s a whole lot more that needs to be done.