- The One — It’s hard to tell when you’re in a bad co-founder relationship, but easy to tell when you’re in a good one. A good partnership should make your job feel easier, and as a result, you’ll get more done. If you feel like you’re managing your partner, or one of you isn’t delivering, or simply that it’s not fun anymore, then it’s time to call it quits.
- It’s not you, it’s me — Co-founder fit trumps almost everything else. If it feels like it’s not working, then it’s not working, do both of you a favour and split up. Everyone’s in the same boat so don’t worry about hurting someone’s feelings. EF’s main USP is the 3 months it allows you to freely try out co-founding relationships, you can’t do this anywhere else so make the most of it.
- Diversity in the workplace — At this early stage, it’s really tempting to work with someone who has a similar background to yourself because it’s so easy to chat to them. The limitations soon sink in when, for example, you have two ML experts struggling to build an app interface. Like-minded people are great for bouncing ideas off, but look for someone with complementary skills for building your idea.
- Strong beliefs, weakly held — This is my favourite piece of advice. You need conviction to see your ideas through because they will be criticised and torn apart. Nonetheless, allow a certain malleability. Take feedback on board and allow your idea to mutate. Consider unfamiliar markets or technology, but maintain sight of your edge. The company you will be pitching on demo day will look very different than what’s in your head right now.
- Ideas are cheap — However, don’t doggedly stick with a half-baked idea at the expense of learning more about someone else’s. I saw many in my EF cohort fall by the wayside after spending too long pursuing something which proved to be a dud.
- Advice is even cheaper — So, are you meant to relent with an idea, or drop it at the first sight of something that appears better? As a start-up founder you’ll receive so much advice that it’ll start to contradict each other. Part of the fun of being an entrepreneur is figuring out who’s advice to follow and who’s feedback will shape your product. This includes advice given by EF!
- The Comfort Zone— If you find yourself planning out achievable milestones for the next month, instead try to do it in one week. You won’t think it’s possible, and it won’t be, but you’ll be forced to prioritise. Early customers are usually pretty forgiving and don’t care if your logo looks crap or the website is barely hanging together, so long as the core service you are providing generates value. Focus on that over all else.
- Improvise — And one final bit of advice for when you’re starting to feel overwhelmed, out of place or struggling with imposter syndrome. All entrepreneurs are making it up as they go along, no one has it all figured out, even the ones that seem competent and experienced. Just pretend like you’ve got it sussed and before long, people will even start asking you for advice…
These lessons were all learned the hard way during EF5 where I co-founded Context Scout.