Startups are hard. But startups are especially hard when you’re trying to launch one by yourself.
In fact, of the top 100 companies to ever go through famed Silicon Valley accelerator Y Combinator, only four had solo founders.
The problem: Finding a new partner is no simple thing — especially if you’re not in an area with a visible community of entrepreneurs and technologists. This is a particularly frustrating problem for a non-technical founder seeking a co-founder with the technical background to realize the vision.
“We realized this is a problem a lot of founders face, particularly internationally,” YC Startup School Director Kyle Corbitt told Protocol. “I think it’s less of a problem if you’ve gone to Stanford or live in San Francisco where there’s a stronger established network that makes it easier to find people, but our community is all over the world. We have startup founders in 190 countries.”
Match-making: YC is trying to make it easier to find co-founders with a new, free offering through its Startup School: Co-Founder Matching.
That “free” bit is important — many other companies have tried to offer something similar, but at a price. Catheryn Li, an engineer at Y Combinator who built Co-Founder Matching, explained that this type of service is best when not driven by a profit incentive.
“Any company who tries to monetize this will be clearly not super aligned with the objective, whereas, because our school’s main mission is to make entrepreneurship free and accessible to everyone, it makes sense that we can make resources to really care about whether the companies are being made or successful,” Li told Protocol.
“We’re not trying to monetize and make money off active users, or we’re not selling ads. We don’t want you to stay on the platform, even. We want you to actually find the right co-founder and go do something else.”
How it works: Founders can fill out profiles that include their location, skills, interests, and attributes they’re seeking in co-founders. From there, Co-Founder Matching shows them profiles of others who might be a good match. If they like a profile, they can send a personal message and invitation to connect.
YC will send them a survey to further gauge if it’s a fit. If it is, they are prompted to explore working together. Co-Founder Matching also offers a template agreement to help establish guidelines for newly matched founders.
The service was initially tested within the Startup School community. During this period, 4,500 people used Co-Founder Matching to generate more than 9,000 potential matches.
Now the tool is open to the public. To mitigate people using it for purposes other than finding co-founders (selling stuff, scams, etc.), YC is currently manually vetting each application to ensure that users are actually entrepreneurs.
“For any product like this, where the community is really important, we have to make sure to build trust in the community,” Li said. “So we don’t want to let on anyone who’s soliciting leads for sales or a consultancy or even trying to hire. We really want to make sure that everyone you meet here is really looking for a co-founder.”
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