A letter to all new founders

The most common question I've been asked is "How does the co-founder matching process work?" Here are my thoughts.

Finding a like-minded co-founder with complementary skills, hunger and tenacity, is difficult.

Having had the experience of both working for Antler as a Marketing Manager and then participating in the Stockholm program as a founder, I have been able to gain some insight into the process of finding an ideal business partner.

While I can't speak on behalf of everyone, I can share what I learned from my own experience, and what I would suggest for others interested in the program from the perspective of matching up to their entrepreneurial equal.

As part of the first Stockholm program, I paired up with Jemina Pomoell, a 33-year-old business woman from Finland. Pomoell has seven years' experience as an investment banker, and has completed six successful IPOs. 

I'm often asked: "How do you know that Jemina is your 'perfect co-founder?'" My answer is I don't. It's only been six months together and we're still in the very stages of having launched our company. But what I do know is, I trust my own gut-feeling and the Antler process and there have been some great clues through the program that show that we make a great team.

Here's what else I can tell you:

1. Be yourself

You’re here for one reason. You want to start a company and you want to do it together with someone else. If you think you're better off alone, you have come to the wrong place. The best way to identify your potential co-founder is to first identify what you need to move to the next stage. In my case, it was pretty clear. I had what I believed to be great idea but needed someone who also believed that the idea could turn into a highly profitable business and was willing to jump on that train, not later but now.

Secondly, I am slightly allergic to numbers and investors. It doesn’t make sense at all, I mean I have a Master’s degree from one of the best business schools in Europe -- but I just don’t like numbers. I love great stories and leading great teams (I’m a Protagonist -- ENFJ -- who can blame me). However, investors tend to love numbers and I know it is vital for all companies to get the financials right from the get-go in order to receive a capital injection, and thought that a person who had been working at an investment bank must love numbers and investors. It turned out she ”loves data” and proved to be kick-ass when it comes to raising capital. 

So, take some time to yourself and think about what you need and who you are. If you don’t know who you are, take some personality tests and discuss the results with friends, family and former colleagues who you trust, to give you a more nuanced view of yourself.

If you still don’t know what you need, think about what brought you to Antler. Is it that you yourself don't have a startup idea, then look for someone with a great one. Is it that you have an awesome idea but aren't sure how to translate that idea to a business plan? Then partner with someone with a strategic mindset.

If you think along those lines I’m certain you’ll get diversity straight away.

Also, practice talking about who you are and what you need. Antler will help you with that, but try to refrain from the simplistic definitions, such as, ”I’m an engineer so I need a business person", and vice versa. Really think about what YOU need and say it out loud five times the morning you wake up to meet you cohort buddies for the first time. 

2. Don't be afraid to commit

This is not the TV-show The Bachelor or Paradise Hotel. No further comments needed. And once again, there is no perfect co-founder. When you meet someone who you:

a. Are impressed with, meaning they seem to rock at their "spike" (marketing, coding, designing products) and

b. Get along with (he or she doesn’t annoy you), just go with that person and try it out. Worst case, you realize it doesn’t work but then you just try someone else. It’s not the end of the world. However, try to stick to one person at a time.

For me, it was enough to know that:

1) Jemina really wanted to start a company. She had a personal runway of 18 months. That’s commitment!

2) She dared to say out loud that she didn’t have much startup experience but was very hardworking. That’s being humble and realistic.

3) She seemed like a very polite, kind and warm-hearted person with high integrity. All personality traits that I adore.

4) She did investment banking for seven years. Her brain is worth plenty of $$$.

So we chose each other (actually she popped the question during a coffee break and I almost fainted, SHE wants to work with ME, wow what an honor 😳😊). And then we stuck to that.

3. Invest in the relationship

Learn how to solve conflicts. Building and maintaining a relationship takes time and investment. As of today, it works perfectly well for Jemina and I, but again I have no idea if this relationship will last a lifetime. Of course I hope so, but she seemed to get a bit scared when I said I wanted to work with her/this for the rest of my life :)

What we do is very simple. We practice bi-weekly "retrospective meetings,” which force us to point out what’s not working in our business and our partnership and then we work to solve it. 

Also, do something fun together once in a while. It doesn’t have to be every day but it could be good to do something that you both like, in our case it’s going to the gym. Remember, this is not your new friend or date, you don’t have to hang out like that. You're business partners. Just make sure to laugh, that helps in all relationships.

Famous last words.

Here I’m going to quote one of my role models, Isabella Löwengrip, a successful Swedish entrepreneur who has for sure inspired me along the way. 

Don’t listen to other people, you know this.

Isabella Löwengrip, Swedish serial entrepreneur.

Ask for advice, but carefully choose who to listen to. People don’t tell you ”lies” because they want to hurt you and your company, they just don’t know more than you but they feel obliged to answer since you asked them.

And finally. If you don’t find what you’re looking for at Antler, it’s your responsibility to go out there in the world and find it yourself.

Antler gives you access to an international network of brilliant people devoted to making the world a better place, and to fulfill your dreams. Use that opportunity wisely.

And if you still don’t know what you're looking for, here’s another great quote from my second top Swedish entrepreneur and singer songwriter, Per Gessle.

"Listen to your heart."

With that said, I don’t know you at all. However, I wish you the best of luck on your Antler journey, and I’m looking forward to connecting with you on the other side, as an alumni.

Sincerely,

Maria Paulsson Rönnbäck

Ps.. if you like this blog post and want to pay it forward, please do follow our company Instagram account @astridwild_outdoorfashion and share our website Astrid Wild with anyone who is interested in nature and wildlife and might want to purchase beautiful outdoor clothing, designed for women, by women.

About the author:

Before joining Antler as a cohort founder, Maria worked as the Marketing Manager at Antler. She has more than 15 years of experience working with marketing and recruitment, previously COO and CMO at Sqore and 29k. Over the years, she has recruited and managed over 100 people in her teams, and built online talent sourcing and recruitment platforms that have attracted and screened more than 800 000 people worldwide. Her personal interest in behavioral psychology led her to carry out a motivational coaching diploma education, which she uses to motivate herself and people in her surroundings.

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