Find the Perfect Co-Founder for Your Startup

Stewart Butterfield and Caterina Fake in 2005, one year after they co-founded Flickr. 

A lot of founders out there are looking for their significant others. No, we’re not talking about love among the cubicles. We mean the search for a co-founder - someone to share your dreams, frustrations and late-night microwave popcorn.

If you’re a single founder, this is crucial. You need an Allen to your Gates, a Brin to your Page, because “starting a startup is too hard for one person,” notes startup guru and Y Combinator co-founder Paul Graham. He lists going solo as the leading cause of startup failure.

But never fear. Founder Dating is here. It’s a company that connects entrepreneurs.

It's Not Just About Your Contact List

We know what you’re thinking. Why would you need such a service? You’ve already got lots of contacts in your iPhone. But that’s exactly why, says founder Jessica Alter: “You know a lot of people like you. But those are not the best people to start a company with you. You want people with complementary skill sets, so you get more done.”

Smart entrepreneurs know this. Founder Dating’s first mixer, at a bar in Palo Alto in 2009, attracted people like Adbrite founder Philip Kaplan, LiveOps founder Patrick McKenna, and Geni/Yammer/Xoom/Eventbrite founder Alan Braverman. Alter thinks at least a dozen companies have been launched by Founder Dating members since then.

“The criticism we get a lot is, ‘Oh, that’s just not how co-founders meet,’” she says. “But people said the same thing 10 years ago about online dating: ‘You don’t meet your significant other online.’ Till now, co-founders have not found each other online, because this kind of service wasn’t available.”

In addition to its events - in the Bay Area, New York, Boston, Seattle, Los Angeles and Austin - Founder Dating has a site where members can search for other entrepreneurs by location, skills and interests. To join, you have to answer a bunch of questions about yourself and give references. And they don’t take just anybody: Only 55 out of 500 applicants were accepted for a San Francisco mixer earlier this year.

Craigslist Casual Encounters, this is not. “We screen very closely so we maintain a high quality of people on the site,” Alter says. “They’re coming out of great companies and great schools. They have high intent, and they’re ready to jump now.”

If you’re also ready to take the leap, check it out. You don’t even need your own idea. “We prefer people who don’t come in with an idea, because ideas change,” says Alter.

She describes a typical Founder Dater this way: “You haven’t started meaningful work on anything yet, you’re probably still at Google or Facebook, but you’re ready to leave and get something started.”

You just need someone to start it with.

Butterfield and Fake photo via Flickr.