Who is your ideal co-founder? Your ideal partner?

October 30, 2016

Three years ago, on a Tuesday night at 2 am, my ex-partners and I were sitting at Stikeman Elliot, one of the most reputable Canadian law firms. Both tipsy and ecstatic: we were finally signing the papers that confirmed the sale of our digital agency to Dentsu, the largest Japanese advertising company. It was the end of oh-so many long & intense nights. It took 18 months of active negotiations with several agency groups. During that period, managing our emotions was a day-to-day challenge. By the end, I was exhausted and needed time off.

The unknown road ahead

A few weeks after the closure, I travelled to Africa. I used the next three months to catch up with my girlfriend, recollect and start to think about the next chapter. I explored investments, partnership and job opportunities, asking myself what do I wanted to do next? I wanted to continue exploring new avenues, but I was also seeking career happiness. One of my conclusions was that my happiness was strongly defined by the quality of the people surrounding me. It slowly became clear that I had to start my own business. It was the easiest way I could surround myself with people I wanted to work with. This reflection led me to a question that seemed fundamental and got me even more excited: Who should I actually partner with?

My new partners

After a few months of soul searching, I found what I wanted to do and most importantly with whom. My new partners resigned from their positions at Google and Global Eagle in order to start our new project together. Even then, I was not sure they would fully embrace this new adventure. Their former employers made their decisions quite difficult. One was offered a leave of absence to test out our business idea. The other was promised a chunk of additional stock. We had many late night sessions discussing models and the potential of our new business. Despite these great conversations, I didn’t feel that we had enough traction for my friends to quit their high profile jobs. When they made the decision, I was ecstatic. I knew we had something fundamental to start with: a great team! This could become the pillar of our fledgling company.

Law of numbers

Now that we’ve be been out there for a little while, I can see what is actually so great about this team. First, we are three partners. When it’s time to make critical decisions, it’s easier and faster to rule on. If two of us disagree on something, the other one has to make the call. Then we move on. I’m amazed how quick we are at making decisions. Since our mission is to help Canadian businesses plan and execute in spite of technological and digital complexity, increasing velocity starts by faster decision-making.

Complementing each other’s skills

When we started talking about a partnership, my partners and I realized that we complement each other’s skills set. Nectar is a former Google guy, a digital product and marketing expert. He creates and executes on omnichannel and data strategies. Martin is a former EA guy, mastering technology and operations, scaling tech or digital teams to hundreds of people, including post merger integrations. On my end, I am a former Yahoo guy, a lawyer and a deal maker. A complementary skill set to fuel growth.

Personality matters

Although we share interests and passions we are also three extremely different guys. This diversity also serves us well. One is more introverted and applies calculated pressure on short term priorities. Another is more extraverted and focuses better on the long term. Another one is much more balanced and he often facilitates communications. To this natural complicity, we can add that one of us is Greek, one of us is ridiculously clumsy and one of us usually says the cold hard truth with no sensitivity whatsoever! I truly believe this personality complementarity is a necessary asset to good partnership.

The starting point

Finally, although we take most decisions together, we trust that each of us have the others’ best interests at heart which, once again, leads to huge time savings. We all know that day to day decisions are made with the right intention in mind. In the end, positive intents also generates flow which leads to peak performances. Almost 2 years following the launch of our business, I realize that we still laugh most of the time when we meet up. To me, the main reason we can have so much fun doing our work is the trust we have in each other.

Final words

Following Maslow’s hierarchy, you can’t achieve significant success if you don’t feel safe with the group of people you spend your time with. So if I ever have to look for a co-founder or a partner again, I would start by making a list of people I highly trust. Then, as a second step, would I look at personality and skill set complementarity.

– JF