The list of challenges every entrepreneur faces is never ending. It can seem like Mount Everest: daunting in scope, treacherous in every step to scale. Near or at the top of most lists are things like finding co-founders, funding, design and development talent, and early customers.
Often entrepreneurs are overwhelmed with information, a combination of so much already flowing in or trying to cut through the noise to find meaningful and thoughtful insights. It’s not easy finding the right help, from the right people, at the right time without wasting too much of that most precious of resource: our time.
FounderDating started in 2012 trying to help entrepreneurs find a co-founder. Building such a dynamic community gave FD founder Jessica Alter insights that are allowing her team to roll out the new FounderDating Discuss. FounderDating members can now engage in community discussions and Q/A on entrepreneurial topics and gain from the wisdom of the entrepreneur and advisor centric community.
Alter calls it “the entrepreneurial love child of Quora and Reddit.” She added, “we now have the largest curated network of startup advisors anywhere and potential co-founders, but it’s about giving access to entrepreneurs to connect with the right people and information they need.”
These connections are no longer bound by geography. Someone in Vancouver can help someone in Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal, San Francisco or NYC or Tel Aviv. The platform is focused on sharing experiential knowledge and removing that barrier which can be a significant hindrance for a growing ecosystem.
She highlights that they’ve already seen:
- thousands of discussions/questions started
- 95% response rate
- 3-4 quality answers in hours
I caught up with Alter for some Q&A.
Did you envision FD:Discuss as part of your original “big vision” for the FD platform?
We always envisioned FounderDating to be the community for entrepreneurs. That means the best ways to connect with the people and resources you need. We didn’t know how powerful FounderDating Discuss would be at the outset though.
What’s the biggest part of this that you hope your community will say WOW about?
The biggest thing people wow about is both the quality of responses and how quickly they are getting them. If you’ve ever been stuck on something as an entrepreneur or even senior member of a startup you know how much time can go into getting a trusted answer. We’re seeing 3-4 quality responses within a few hours. Then add to this that when you ask a question about pro-rata rights you get Jack Smith (London and SF), founder of Vungle and Shyp responding about his experience, or ask a question about content marketing and you get a response from the editor of the a leading European blog. Imagine then that you (the entrepreneur) are in Vancouver or Toronto. That’s game-changing for the entrepreneur.
It strikes me that moderating the quality of “conversation” could be a challenge… how will you ensure a high degree of domain/subject authority? There’s a lot of noise the cut through, how will keep on top of not adding to it?
No system is perfect, it’s up to the company to set guidelines and make sure they are being enforced, but as you grow it’s something that is really up to the community. They do both by upvoting/downvoting or if something is really not ok by reporting it. When people see that bad behavior is removed quickly they really have no incentive to do it. In addition, FounderDating isn’t anonymous so if someone behaves badly the community knows who they are.
Since launching FD what’s been the biggest surprise or learning experience you’ve experienced?
There are so many, most come from mistakes. on one side, I think we’ve surprised (but pleasantly so) how willing people are to help and share experiences. No two situations are exactly the same, so hearing from other people who have done it before – even if only 80% similar – is not only helpful but comforting to entrepreneurs. On the other side, there is just a raw desire to be part of an entrepreneurial community – both to learn and network and also to give back. That’s not to say that cities like Vancouver and Toronto and NYC aren’t doing a great job, we just augment that.
What’s the single biggest myth about why co-founders are important you’d like to dispel?
Why co-founders are important –
a) I think most first-time entrepreneurs over index on skill set and under index on fit. Partially, this is because you don’t know how taxing being an entrepreneur is emotionally. A co-founder isn’t just someone good at something you’re not. They are your partner in crime, help you weather the storms, celebrate the wins. Personalities and incentives are hugely important. I wrote a blog about questions to ask potential cofounders a while back. You’ll note, 75% is about the “soft” stuff.
b) Second biggest thing – people waiting too long to do it. You should always be looking for co-founders, not when you raise money or might want to. Always have a side project going and be working with people to see if there is a fit/what your deal breakers are.
c) About “looking for co-founders” – that it’s only for people who don’t have networks. That’s crazy, tons and tons of people on FounderDating and beyond work at Google and Facebook and repeat entrepreneurs but knowing when someone else is ready to start a company (timing) and wanting to work with them as a partner is extremely difficult and not something people openly talk about. You might know amazing people but you can’t work together that way or you can but they aren’t ready to start something. A lot of variables need to come together at once.
If you’re an entrepreneur struggling with something, no matter how big or small, significantly decreasing the time to figure it out by hours or weeks is insanely valuable. With the platform’s global reach, entrepreneurs can unlock knowledge and experience that isn’t geographically limited. It’s an invaluable resource for first time and repeat entrepreneurs. John Battelle, founder of Federated Media, concurred, saying, “I’m impressed by not only how quickly questions are answered but also at the time and quality people will put into their responses.”
Time is precious, having access to quality information is invaluable, and most of the good entrepreneurs ponder coming up with the tough questions everyday. FD:Discuss opens up a new opportunity for entrepreneurs and advisors to work quickly and discuss both topics and answer pressing questions. Discussions range from the detailed “What is the best CRM system for startups” to the more high level “Should Designers Code?” The only stupid question is the one you’re too afraid to ask.