If you thought that a good idea is the most important thing to a startup, you’re wrong.

The D-Code team in Silicon Valley got an opportunity to hear from Rebeca Hwang, Co-Founder of YouNoodle. She spoke about managing your team, and why is it important – here are some takeaways I got from the session. I hope it benefits you too.

It is a common misconception that you need a great, earth-changing idea in order to start a startup. It’s not entirely wrong; ideas are important and has to solve problems else nobody would buy into it. However, great ideas are everywhere – Quora, Reddit, heck people post ideas all the time on Facebook. Even so, ideas and features change over time, so you should be able to see by now that it’s really not that crucial to your startup.

One thing stays the same, though. It’s the one thing that remains a constant, while your startup is experiencing changes, variables and uncertainties. You can guess what it is by now.

It is your founding team.

Your founding team (or co-founder) needs to share your passion, your dream for the startup. You’ll be going through ups and downs, thick and thin, and you need the team to stay together no matter what. It’s also crucial that you get along well together – you’ll be seeing each other every day, so if you kinda-sorta-don’t like that person but he’s a master designer, don’t invite him to be a co-founder. Outsource your work to him instead. The last thing you want is for the startup to grow for a while, then fall apart when co-founders go their separate ways.

Ideally, your co-founder(s) should have some or all of these qualities:
– Has an entrepreneural spirit. He is always looking for ways to solve problems instead of just following orders. Bill Gates famously said he likes to hire lazy people because they will always find the fastest and easiest way to do something. Just don’t hire *actually lazy* people.
– Has an obsession for something, anything. People who have obsessions show that they have the capability to stay focused on one thing for a long period of time. This is important because some days are so tough, you’ll feel like not going to work at all. Obsession is what keeps the team going forward. For instance, my obsession with correct use of English was what started Get English Right, and is the one thing that keeps me focused on growing it despite the obstacles I face.
– Is, for some reason, always ‘lucky’. Do you know of some people who seem to always win contests, or met with company CEOs, or get discounts off premium items? It’s not ‘luck’ that’s at work here. It’s the character of recognising opportunities and grabbing them, and the ability to allow other people or outside forces to help you, so you can stay focused. ‘Lucky’ people are focused but not fixated on one thing to the point they can’t notice what’s going on around them – and that’s an important characteristic to have.
– Is resourceful and street smart. Things won’t go your way all the time – sometimes you’ll need to find alternative ways to do something. Read the story of AirBnB, and how they capitalised on the Obama election in 2008 to raise funds for their startup.
– Has values and integrity aligned with yours. In other words, your co-founders should have the same values as you, so you don’t move in opposite directions when there’s a fork in the road. Read up on the Trust Spider.
– Is either a visionary or practicalist, opposite of what you are. If you’re the visionary type, who will burst in with wild, crazy ideas that may explode the business, it’s good to have a practical thinker who will see things in a more realistic light. Likewise, if you’re a very practical person, a visionary-type co-founder will bring creative, new ideas out of the box which you wouldn’t normally think of otherwise.
– Is a happy person. This is important, because startup life sucks. You won’t have your comfy 9-to-5 weekday-only job anymore – your life will revolve around your startup. Don’t believe the Facebook movie – it’s not that glamorous. If your co-founder continually brings negative energy to the team, you will ultimately fall apart when times are tough.

In short, if you’re planning to start a startup, make sure you look for the perfect co-founder which you can work excellent together through thick and thin. If you’ve already started something with someone and realise that you actually hate your co-founder… perhaps it’s time to consider splitting. Better now when it’s small, than when the company is big – it gets harder and more complicated. But that’s a story for another day.

I hope my article has helped aspiring founders find the perfect co-founder for their startup. Good luck to all of you!




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About Me

I’m the Head of Tech at Traworld, a travel startup in Bangsar South, Kuala Lumpur.

This is a place for me to pen my thoughts… and sometimes sell my second-hand stuff.

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