How we do it, what to look for and why it’s so important

A bunch of strangers coming together to form a variety of startups in less than 72 hours isn’t your typical startup story. But at Demium we’re far from typical. We’ve tried and tested our methods and we’re here to tell you that they work. So far this year we’ve generated over 50 startups this way. What way? Allow us to explain…

Demium is a pre-team and pre-idea startup incubator. This means that through a rigorous selection process we recruit talented and committed individuals for our incubation programme and over three days – the AllStartup Weekend (ASW) – we help them find a cofounder, identify and develop an idea, and pitch it. Essentially we’re an entrepreneurial talent incubator. 

During your first steps to entrepreneurship, finding the right cofounder is hands down one of the most important, if not the most. It’s a challenge that can make or break a startup. Your cofounder will be your biggest supporter, your sparring partner, your co-captain, the ying to your yang. It’s imperative you get along and complement each other’s skills, values and commitment. The implications for getting it wrong are messy, exhausting and potentially costly.

So how do we achieve such a high success rate when pairing cofounders? Demium incubators in cities throughout Europe run four to five selection processes each year. Candidates apply for the ASW in the city of their choice, then our recruitment teams identify remarkable individuals and test their levels of motivation, ambition, determination and resilience. The successful applicants come from all walks of life, but they have one thing in common: they’re pumped to begin building a startup from scratch. And not tomorrow or at some point in the future. Now. 

70 aspiring entrepreneurs

By the time the ASW kicks off, every single one of the 70 aspiring entrepreneurs in the room ticks the essential perfect cofounder boxes. 

  1. They have talent with a range of valuable and complimentary skills.
  2. They’re motivated and committed to starting a company.
  3. They’re available to start immediately.

Perhaps that sounds too good to be true, but during the ASW everyone who’s made it that far goes through the same process. We talk through what a good cofounder looks like, we ask everyone to think about their values, vision and goals, and then get them to articulate this on paper. Afterwards everyone gets to know each other in what can only be likened to speed dating, which sounds daunting, but is actually quite exhilarating. 

Of the experience, Elena Yorda, Demium’s MD in Barcelona says: “One of the biggest challenges for an early-stage startup is finding a good team and retaining it. My advice? Be honest, be generous and be inspiring.”

We create an environment in which everyone understands what we’re aiming for, people don’t get offended if someone says “sorry I don’t think we’re suited”. They understand how important it is to find the right person, as well as the opportunities they could miss out on if they get this wrong.

Some people find a perfect cofounder right away, others take longer, and some don’t find one at all. That doesn’t mean their journeys end there. After the ASW, we take both a winning startup team and select individuals into the six-month incubation programme. Those people then have an opportunity to find a cofounder later within the broader Demium community, which offers a pool of other people who might be better suited. 

So what should you be thinking about when it comes to finding a cofounder? 

1. Make sure your vision is aligned

You’ve got similar goals, and are aiming for the same thing. Whether it’s disrupting a particular industry, targeting a certain customer niche, or even simply making money.

2. Do your values and work ethic match? 

Are the same things important to the both of you? Because unless your core values match, you face potential failure due to loss of focus further down the road.

3. Honesty and transparency

Aside from the legal and financial dealings in a business, you need to be able to trust each other. Once a trust is broken, you’ll never be rid of the cracks. And given how much time you’ll both invest in this venture, it’s vital that you have each other’s backs.

4. Energy and drive

It’s important your startup achieves and maintains momentum, so that you reach your goals and drive the business forward. Any experienced entrepreneur will tell you it takes an incredible amount of energy to get a startup off the ground, and you need someone who both understands this and co-leads the charge. It’s also important that you ensure you don’t confuse initial excitement with genuine energy that will have longevity.

5. Genuine curiosity and a strong desire to keep being challenged

The advantage here is you’ll have a strong running mate, someone to encourage and push you. No doubt you’ll be venturing into new territory – almost daily in the early stages – and likely in a competitive industry too, so you’ll need someone by your side to keep you on track.

On a more practical level, there’s a fairly common ‘one builds, one sells’ role split between cofounders, which obviously require different skillsets. That’s why our candidate pool will have a range of experience from tech, marketing and business backgrounds. And, as Dénes Csiszár, Managing Director at Demium Budapest, says: “Don’t always look for the loudest, most extroverted co-founder. Look for adaptability, willpower, kindness and commitment.” 

It’s also worth noting that the perfect team doesn’t simply mean an even or agreed split of responsibilities to get your product or service off the ground. Having the right team is crucial when it comes to securing seed investment. “What makes you think you’re the right team to solve this now?” is one of the questions you’ll be hearing a lot from potential investors, says Lisbon’s Managing Director Ben Lambert.

Understand that the investors are risking their money,” points out Idoia Iturbe, MD in Bilbao, “so they have to first believe in you, then the idea. That means: team, team, team! Ideas without execution are just ideas; it’s the people behind the ideas that make the difference.”

So seek out your cofounder with this advice in mind, and once you’ve secured this vital cog, you can start building the machine. And we can assist you every step of the way, with our experienced team of mentors, an exceptional network of resources and numerous opportunities to pitch your business. Sign up for an AllStartup Weekend near you today and there’s no reason why you couldn’t be our next success story. 

After a little extra help? We’ve come up with a list of questions to ask a potential cofounder:

  1. What are you looking to achieve by starting a company?
  2. Why is now a good time for you to get into a new business?
  3. Can you commit fully to this project for the next six months?
  4. What are your personal responsibilities at this time?
  5. Tell me about some of your achievements…
  6. And failures…
  7. Have you managed staff or clients previously and do you enjoy this?
  8. How would you describe your working style?
  9. What role do you see yourself undertaking in a startup?
  10. How do you deal with stress?
  11. What do you do to relax?
  12. What kind of culture would you like to create at our startup?
  13. What do you think your biggest personal challenges might be in undertaking a new venture?