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You have a great idea for a business, but you don't have the knowledge, skills and relationships to pull it off yourself. What should you do?

It's a question that is asked time and time again by plenty of entrepreneurs, many of whom realize that founding a successful business will require a co-founder. Unfortunately, finding a co-founder can seem just as tough as getting a business off the ground.

After all, starting a business with someone else requires more than just complimentary knowledge, skills and relationships. It requires a good working relationship, and trust.

Enter Foundrs.com, which looks to take the risk out of starting a company with somebody you might not know so well. It offers what it calls "virtual incorporation", which is basically a legal agreement covering who will get what if the new venture succeeds, and who will keep what if it doesn't succeed and the co-founders part ways. In the future, Foundrs.com also plans to help match co-founders, online dating style.

It's an interesting concept. There are a lot of individual entrepreneurs out there, but it's difficult to start a new business alone. After all, it's unusual for one person to possess all of the knowledge and skill required to get a new business off of the ground successfully, particularly in the tech industry. If you look at most of the most successful technology startups over the years, you'll notice that most had more than one founder. Intel, HP, Microsoft, Apple, Google and Facebook are just a few examples.

But facilitating ad hoc founder relationships, as Foundrs.com is doing, is tough. That's because there are so many intangible factors that contribute to a fruitful founder relationships. While it's important that founders complement each other in terms of knowledge and skill, it's also important that they have good personal relationships. Gordon More and Robert Noyce were colleagues at Fairchild Semiconductor. Bill Gates and Paul Allen were high school buddies. Sergey Brin and Larry Page developed a friendship in graduate school.

The kind of personal relationships that can serve as a foundation for a good professional relationship aren't formed overnight. Foundrs.com says it allows an entrepreneur to "enrol co-founders you don't know without risk," the reality is that there's always present in co-founder relationships, even if "trust" is present. After all, a good idea in the hands of a duo like Bill Gates and Paul Allen might very well succeed; a good idea in the hands of two people who just met is probably less likely to.

Is it possible that two individuals who click right off the bat could facilitate a great co-founder relationship through Foundrs.com? Sure. But for everyone else, when it comes to finding a good co-founder, nothing beats an investment in offline social networking and relationship building.

Patricio Robles

Published 25 October, 2010 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

2393 more posts from this author

Comments (4)

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Gabriele Maidecchi

While I have no prejudice towards online dating, I believe online co-founding might be a tad too much. I spent 6 years getting to know 2 of my business partners before we decided to found a company together, and I think that time was necessary to develop a successful team that managed to do things right and not collapse like a sand castle.

Of course I don't have the necessary insights to judge Foundrs.com, but I am a bit skeptical about this kind of approach in entrepreneurship.

almost 6 years ago

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Tamara@Adaptive

This sounds like a brilliant idea. People are likely to be initially reluctant, but I think it could really take off- if for no other reason then the fact that there are so many entrepreneurs that just want to be able to collbarorate on ideas with someone. We all feel like we know someone who would be interested in joining our venture, but sometimes the timing isn't right or something else is standing in their way. It sounds like foundrs.com have found a niche and are really exploring it. Tamara, Adaptiveconsultancy.com

almost 6 years ago

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Neale Gilhooley

After watching the Facebook movie The Social Network then this route potentially sounds less painful and a way of avoiding some expensive legal mitigation.

It does not sound like the ideal way to get into bed with someone in business. However Partnerships & strategic alliances are often easier to get into than out of, unless you ensure that everyone has the exact same objectives and expectations.  At least this route means that all of the unspoken issues are raised cleanly.

almost 6 years ago

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Alain Raynaud

Thanks for the feedback. Of course, there is risk. After all, that's what doing a startup is all about.

But we try to help founders with little experience avoid the usual traps. A slick salesman is probably not the right co-founder for you, but if you have never met any, you may not know that.

We have a checklist on the site that forces people to make sure they have known the people for some time. We force them to ask themselves whether the other person is as motivated by the adventure as they are. It may sound basic, but you'd be surprised how many horror stories I have heard.

almost 6 years ago

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