It’s December 2009. My tech startup is hanging by a thread. My co-founder is gone. I’m sitting practically alone in a shared office, my remote sales team just abandoned me, and I’m struggling. I’m taking side jobs to stay afloat (among them, the first version of wagjag.com) because I’ve yet to take a salary. Oh, and did I mention I’m getting married at the end of the month? Needless to say there was nothing glamorous about that time in my life. But I pulled through. I got married, the business hung on (thanks to great people who came through when I needed them), and I knew then what I had thought for some time had to be my top priority – I had to find a new business partner.
As an entrepreneur we get this sense that we can do everything by ourselves. And to a degree it’s what drives us to dive into entrepreneurism head first. But I realized pretty quickly, that just because I could do several things, didn’t mean I excelled, or even enjoyed all of them.
I’m a product guy. I like to design, code, tinker and strategize about product and marketing. I don’t like to do sales calls, support or read/write agreements. Not only do I not enjoy those things, I’m really not great at them either. I’m a product guy.
So when it came time to find a business partner, it was much like finding a second wife (from what I hear – I’m happily married to my first and only! <~ save). I had learned enough from the first experience working with my first co-founder to know what didn’t work. And while that relationship was exciting and brought forth lots of highs and lows, it was not a good combination from the outset. Our skill sets did not compliment each other’s and we weren’t on the same page as far as direction. One example of this – we overlapped in regards to product vision. When we recognized that we had to make our first pivot as a company we didn’t share the same vision for our future. This, among many other factors, proved to be too much to continue working together.
Naturally, this time around I wanted someone who was good at all the things I sucked at or didn’t want to spend my days doing. In a nutshell, for me that was somebody that had a strong business background – an MBA was ideal, was great at building relationships and closing deals, knew their way around a 50-page legal agreement, and of course, wasn’t afraid to roll up their sleeves and work their ass off. Needless to say we also had to have great chemistry if we were going to work side by side every day.
That was my laundry list. To be honest I had no idea where to look. How do you find someone like that to come into an existing business, take little to no salary, not much equity, and keep him or her motivated to perform?
I needed a small miracle.
They say timing is everything and that couldn’t be more true in this situation. Not long after my search began, a close friend (who actually introduced me to my first co-founder) alerted me that a mutual friend had recently sold his business and was looking for a new opportunity.
That person was my current business partner Randy, and while we knew each other (I’m friends with his wife and was actually at their wedding) we had never really said much to each other.
Randy’s background couldn’t have been further from technology. He had just sold his kitchen manufacturing business! But, being the creative guy that he is, in his spare time he created a really cool video resume using iMovie showcasing his passion for marketing and technology. For someone non-technical this thing was pretty amazing. As soon as I watched it I knew we had to get together and talk.
We felt the risk.
We hit it off right away after sharing that first breakfast at School, but we also both instantly felt the risk that lay ahead. He really had no background in technology (outside of his iMovie skills). But we got along well, he was smart, had a strong business mind and was really passionate about technology. I was his door into the tech space and he was my door to push the business forward. After 2 or 3 meetings over the course of only a couple weeks we put together a quick agreement to try out the relationship for 3 months. If either of us felt it wasn’t working, we could part ways without any hard feelings. Needless to say that didn’t happen.
The opportunity for both of us was completely unconventional, but made plenty of sense. His abilities and passions complimented mine, with really the only overlap being our strong work ethic.
Together, we cover most bases when it comes to running Uberflip, and any areas we both lack we’ve quickly filled with other really talented people.
It’s been just over 3 years since we’ve started working together, and things are going really well. That 3 person outfit is now over 20 and growing.
We’ve built an amazing business, product and culture at Uberflip and while there’s been plenty of ups and downs, we’ve both remained extremely passionate about what we do and we continue to push each other to work harder, and dream bigger.
If there’s any takeaway here it’s that as an entrepreneur the sooner you look at yourself and figure out where you lack, the sooner you’ll find the right person (or people) to go into business with.
From my humble experience, you’re much better off finding someone who’s got a different mind but the same drive, over someone whose skill sets mostly overlap your own.
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