Five founders on how they met their business partner

Building up a company is a long-term commitment. Many even compare the partnerships between cofounders to marriage

One critical factor in choosing a cofounder is ascertaining whether you have professional chemistry. It’s a complex assessment that an entire industry has sprung up to help solve, from Y Combinator’s cofounder matching service to startups like MVP Match

But how do founders really meet the right person to work with? From grade school side hustles to an impromptu running club, Sifted chatted to five founders about how they found their business partner. 

Martin Kõiva & Kair Käsper: Grade school side hustles

Some cofounders follow a traditional route. Martin Kõiva and Kair Käsper, cofounders of Klaus, a customer experience startup, first met in grade school. 

But before their current venture, they experimented with a series of side-hustles through college — from selling beer and making t-shirts.

“There’s this one very specific Georgian restaurant… for more than half a year, every week, on one night we met there with a friend of ours who put together the prototype”

“We came up with this customer loyalty program when we were selling beer at a festival. And nobody could figure out why we were having long queues and nobody else was,” Kõiva says. 

The duo eventually started workshopping their startup idea on days off from Estonian software company Pipedrive. “There’s this one very specific Georgian restaurant called Argo Baar in Tallinn, and for more than half a year, every week, on one night we met there with a friend of ours who put together the prototype,” says Käsper. 

Phoebe Smith & Superbright: Philanthropy through art in a setting of creatives

With the rise of remote work, freelancers and startup entrepreneurs have spoken out about the loneliness that comes with being self-employed. Social and networking events at coworking spaces provide a potential remedy — as well as opportunities to meet cofounders and collaborators. 

For Phoebe Smith, CEO of creative production hub HēLō, workspace Second Home was the key to jumpstarting a collaborative project with design studio Superbright. She’s now raising money for Ukraine through a digital art installation auctioning off a series of NFTs. 

“It’s easy to get started with people at Second Home because you already feel very connected, and so the barriers are removed somewhat, and you can just get going,” Smith says.  

It’s easy to get started with people at Second Home because you already feel very connected”

Second Home has been designed to champion chance encounters — helping members to meet, grow, start new things, meet new clients and suppliers, and make friendships. 

Smith, who’s been frequenting its locations for five years, adds that Second Home’s east London locations have seen a gravitational pull for London creative types and offered connections in unexpected fields, like architecture and design.

Hannes Bend & Chaysen Rathert: At a coworking space 

Hannes Bend & Chaysen Rathert: At a coworking space
Hannes Bend & Chaysen Rathert: At a coworking space

According to researchers at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, remote workers thrive particularly well in coworking spaces because of a combination of the people they’re working alongside, flexibility in their hours and a sense of identity that comes with organically formed social ties.

When Hannes Bend, CEO and cofounder of mindfulness startup Breathing.ai, spent time at Google HQ, he says he missed a sense of community and project diversity. 

Community building is very different here. You have all these plants around, these very peaceful companions, and then the people are amazing”

So when he set up his own startup, he looked for a coworking space that felt less pressurised — where he could organically make connections with other creatives over after-work drinks or while teaching his trademark breathwork classes. 

That’s how he was introduced to his now cofounder and chief technology officer, Chaysen Rathert: by a mutual acquaintance who was also a member of Second Home. 

“Community building is very different here. You have all these plants around, these very peaceful companions, and then the people are amazing. You don’t really have that at tech companies, because everything is tailored toward efficiency,” Bend tells Sifted. 

Fabio Bin & Paolo De Nadai: Five dinners

Fabio Bin & Paolo De Nadai: Cofounders Five dinners
Fabio Bin & Paolo De Nadai: Cofounders Five dinners

Breaking bread and brainstorming a new startup idea is a popular combination. Keith Ferrazzi, an entrepreneur who launched a networking consultancy business, examined the power of a shared meal in his bestselling book, Never Eat Alone. Ferrazzi argued that a shared meal, more than other potential sources of network building, offers opportunity for memory formation and relationship strengthening.

That was how WeRoad founders Fabio Bin and Paolo De Nadai launched their concept for a startup that pitches group travel adventures. 

“Paolo was so energetic, he was a founder and a CEO at the same time as starting these new business ventures, and I was impressed by him, so I invited him to dinner,” Bin says.

“It was the first time in my professional life that I had met someone not just interested in growing profits and business, but in building something big from a people standpoint”

“We started talking, not about business, but about vision, about company culture, and it was the first time in my professional life that I had met someone not just interested in growing profits and business, but in building something big from a people standpoint,” Bin tells Sifted. 

After the fifth or sixth dinner, De Nadai made him an offer to jump on a new project with him. Bin couldn’t refuse. “I was more than happy to cut my salary,” he adds.

Elliott Jack & Sam Serra: An impromptu running club 

Event organiser Elliott Jack and startup founder Sam Serra met via Second Home coworkers at its Spitalfields location. “We started a running club, so we used to go jogging every now and then,” Jack says. 

As the two entrepreneurs ran along London’s Thames River and through the empty streets of the City Mile during consecutive Covid lockdowns, Serra made “just an off-chance, side comment” about his ecommerce furniture startup Hucoco. 

“It was just at the right time when I needed to buy a shit-tonne of furniture, to set up backstage for three festivals in southern Portugal” Jack says.

Serra now lives in Portugal, and still works out of Second Home’s Lisbon location. It’s the same location where Bend and Rathert met and started talking about breathing.ai. For the three founders, all newly digital nomads in Lisbon, Second Home has offered both a professional community and a thriving social network in a new city. 

“I go surfing with them, I have parties — just anything, really,” Rathert says.

Second Home knows what entrepreneurs need to thrive and has memberships to suit every style of working, from flexible private offices, fixed and hot desks, to day passes. They have locations in London, Lisbon and LA. Book a tour to find out more.

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