While finding the right co-founder is one of the hardest parts of starting a business from scratch, there are many ways to find a co-founder, particularly if you decide to go to business school:
- Make lasting connections with bright people while attending business school. Some of the most famous startups (like Google, Yahoo!, and Facebook) were founded by people who met each other in college. More recently, several popular fashion startups (such as Gilt, Rent the Runway, and Birchbox) were founded by Harvard MBA classmates.
- Join Student Clubs related to your interests, even those related to topics you aren't studying. For example, if you are a business student interested in forming a web startup, you may want to pay a visit to the computer science club. Ask trusted classmates for recommendations.
- Start your own club. If your school doesn't have an entrepreneurship club, take the initiative and start your own. Meebo CEO Seth Sternberg recommends BASES at Stanford as a model to follow, since it brings together graduate and undergraduate students from various disciplines.
- Get involved in an open source project. Not only is this a good way to vet the abilities of a technical co-founder, it is also a way to make a name for yourself within the tech community. Not a coder? Open source projects also need non-programmers who can assist with things like marketing, documentation, and product testing. SourceForge, Google Code, and Mozilla are good places to look for open source projects to work on.
- Volunteer. Volunteering is a good way to meet a co-founder that shares your values. If you are short on time, you can attend short-term volunteer opportunities such as the ones offered by New York Cares.
- Attend a hackathon. A hackathon (aka hackfest, codefest or hack day) is an event where computer programmers and other people who work in the software development field (graphic designers, project managers etc.) collaborate on software-related projects. Many people go to hackatons, such as Startup Weekend, to find co-founders and pitch ideas. Hackathons are a good way to find people you can work with or see if a potential co-founder is good at handling things like stress or working in groups.
- Ask your friends to introduce you to people who work in a field you're trying to learn about. While the first people you meet may not be the right fit, asking for referrals will bring you closer to finding the right co-founder.
- Ask current or former co-workers. Since you've already worked with them, you should probably have a good sense of their reliability, as well as their strengths and weaknesses. Just be sure that you aren't violating any non-compete clauses in your contact. Also, do not use any company resources to help you form your startup.
- Attend co-founder events. Tech hubs such as New York and the Bay area have several match-making events for new startups. Some of the most famous events are Founder Dating, Hackers & Founders, and SVForum. Some founder events screen their attendees and others do not, so be sure to find out if attendees are required to go through any kind of vetting process. No co-founder events in your area? Try attending tech meetups.
- Join a website designed to match you with a co-founder. There are many co-founder websites out there and some even require all of their users to undergo background checks. Here are some co-founder websites to try:
Regardless of how you choose to find your co-founder, it's a good idea to get a background check. You will be working with your co-founder closely, so you want to make sure that you won't be work with someone who has a criminal background or a volatile personality. While Young Lee came up with a great business model for Pinkberry, he also has a history of violence, drug use, and threats. You can use BeenVerified to find out about someone's criminal background, the properties they own, as well as what's posted on their social network.