On Deck Fellowship Week 6: Finding a Co-Founder

Amanda Emmanuel
3 min readMay 25, 2021

I first came to OnDeck with 1 primary goal: find a technical co-founder.

While I have a foundation in software, I am self-aware enough to know that

  1. my current technical skillset won’t cover the full spectrum for this product
  2. I know I work much better with others (rather than alone)

Little did I realize how many other fellow ODers came to OnDeck with the exact same goal 🙃

A small shift in my approach

Once I realized how many people were also looking for technical co-founders, I knew I wanted to make sure whoever I worked with could easily see that this idea — an online store for curators — would be worth their time.

Instead of starting with 1:1s to meet this potential co-founder, I chose to focus on building and getting traction. My hypothesis was if I could prove this idea had ‘legs’ then a co-founder would be more interested to work together.

After a few iterations, I started to see glimmers of hope that users recognized the value I was delivering and wanted to use the product.

While I knew I was getting closer to getting ‘traction’ I also knew that I didn’t want a potential business partner to feel as if they’re joining me to just work on ‘my’ idea. I want it to be a true partnership.

So while I may not have reached the full ‘traction’ milestone yet, I’m starting that co-founder search in parallel to building to get the partnership going. Here are a few strategies I’ve been using:

3 Ways I’ve Approached Finding a Co-founder (so far)

1. Focus on Values

OnDeck has had sessions and events to help us with different strategies to find co-founders. My top takeaway has been to optimize for compatibility in values and not just complimentary skills.

This also caused me to take a step back and do a bit more introspective work to both better understand myself and what kind of person would be best to work with.

2. Talk to Technical Co-Founders

I built empathy for the person on the receiving end of all my co-founder pitches by chatting with a fellow ODer who became a CTO and Co-founder of a company founded by another ODer from a previous cohort.

That conversation gave me perspective on what she, as a technical person, was looking for in a CEO co-founder and how the 2 of them worked together in the early days to build trust and a company together!

3. Be Transparent About Finding a Co-Founder

Even though the product and traction isn’t quite there yet, I try to use every opportunity to say or share that “I’m looking for a technical co-founder”. I’ve even started reaching out to my personal network!

This online store for curators idea is still in its formative stages, but it is contributing to the grander mission of: empowering curators to monetize, which I wholeheartedly believe is the future. Being transparent about its progress has been very rewarding as potential co-founders appreciate the sincerity and recognize I’m looking to collaborate not hire a ‘technical employee’.

I’m doing what I can as 1-person show, but I know that a co-founder is the way to go. I’m casting a wide net, heck I’m even writing this blog post hoping it may fall into the right person’s hands!

After all the scrappy ways Brian Armstrong of Coinbase chose to find his co-founder (whom he eventually found in a Subreddit) I’m sure writing a blog post is the least I could do. Let’s see where this journey takes me!

I’ll be posting a weekly blog post about my experience with OnDeck so come along for the ride 🌊 🚢

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Amanda Emmanuel

🦄 Product & Growth at early-stage startups 🚀 3X founder 😎 Blogs about entrepreneurship, mindset & startups 🏗 Always building