How to find a business partner


Does anyone have any general advice on finding a business partner? I want to find a like-minded person to start a business with. I'm done with school, I don't know a lot of people, and I don't live in a terribly big town (Grand Rapids, MI) so I imagine I have to be especially resourceful. I've checked the meetup groups around here but so far I haven't found any kind of "entrepreneur meetup." Any advice? For those of you who have business partners, how did you meet them?


asked Nov 19 '10 at 05:55
Jason Swett
555 points
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  • What do you mean by business partner? It's a loaded word. Do you mean an involved investor, or do you mean a person who will roll up sleeves and slog through the ups and downs of startups, contributing real sweat equity? – Alphadogg 13 years ago
  • The latter. I'm not interested in investors. – Jason Swett 13 years ago
  • Jason what type of venture interests you? Can you share your educational background and experience? Business partners I have had in the past have been family (BAD IDEA) and folks where we have had the same vision, morals, goals, and appetites for business. Like finding the girl you will marry, you can look and define what you like, but cant force the marriage. – Frank 13 years ago
  • I'm a professional web developer (about 8 years' experience) and I suppose it would make the most sense for me to develop a software-based business. However, I'm not married to that idea. I have several invention ideas that I feel are worth pursuing as well. I want someone who can help keep me sane and someone who I can bounce ideas off of. If I can find someone who is as enthusiastic about developing a successful business as I am, and we at least have SOME overlap in skillset, I feel like I would be happy with that. – Jason Swett 13 years ago
  • Participate in activities for general interests of entrepreneurs and also look for partners in the field that you are choosing to pursue a venture in. – Tim J 13 years ago
  • Myself and alphadogg got a little off topic in our converstions. My suggestion would be to start small on your own, and then add a partner if you feel you have to. The best thing you can do is copy an existing idea and create it again yourself. If you have Business questions feel free to email or post them here. Your first business is always the funnest one, and can be one of the most rewarding experience in your life. take an idea like and create it agian, with some additional features, better pricing etc. The worst case is that you will have a killer example to add to – Frank 13 years ago
  • your portoflio as a develper and will make your resume stronger. Most likely it will make you decent supplemental income, turn into a full time gig, or will be bought out. There is no reason to bring on a partner if you can copy someone else's business model. Plus you probably want a partner that compliments your skills and abilities. You might be better off asking advice from those who are less techy to get real feedback. If you need more developer help, consider hiring the help, and even from offshore. – Frank 13 years ago

5 Answers


There is no defined place to find trustworthy, hard-working business partners. You either know one, or are one-degree-of-separation from one. Having someone join your venture in that capacity is like a marriage. They have to be fully supportive and fully invested. They must be a good match to your personality. You may not need a business partner. You need employees willing to work for equity.

You can find a Russian bride pretty easily, but how often does that work out long-term?

answered Nov 19 '10 at 06:30
1,383 points
  • My wife is a Russian Bride!!! :) Ukraine actually! :) I would have mail ordered her, but i met her here in the states. – Frank 13 years ago
  • I should have said "mail order". Apologies are in order. I won't edit as a "Mea Culpa"! Thanks for not flaming me. – Alphadogg 13 years ago
  • So, alphadogg, what's the take-away point here? Just go on living my life and I run into someone by chance? I completely agree with everything you said, but I didn't find anything in your answer that seemed like a suggestion. – Jason Swett 13 years ago
  • #alpha is right, the take-away is that you cannot force these relationships. Just like friendships, or intimate relationships such as a spouse, a business parter is something that does come along. The important thing to realize is that many people will come along. Some to exploit you, some with good intentions, some with bad. The best thing you can do is make a list of characteristics that are important in a partner (in life or buisness) that way you seek out and spend time with individuals that are a good match. Look at yourself first and determine what makes you a good partner, and ... – Frank 13 years ago
  • define what a good partner is. Both for youself so you can aim to be that, and for your search. As for the search part, Alpha is right, you cannot Mail order the right partner. Although i have had great success with mail ordering employees! :) – Frank 13 years ago
  • BTW, i only married my wife because she is smoking HOT! That is how shallow my list's are :) – Frank 13 years ago
  • @jason: In fact, yes. If we use a "US marriage" analogy, can those be forced? Do they usually work out? The counterpoint to what I've said is that you have to get out there and "date a lot" to meet many people in general so that you play the low "bumping into" chance often. Go to Toastmasters. Start your own GR entrepreneur's meetup. Etc. – Alphadogg 13 years ago
  • @jason: That said. All my partners have been people I've already worked with. – Alphadogg 13 years ago
  • @jason: And, why a "business partner", versus an employee who's compensation is solely equity-based? – Alphadogg 13 years ago
  • Okay, thanks. Three good suggestions there: go to Toastmasters, start your own meetup, consider people you've worked with in the past. (I actually joined TM in March and I've found it to be a great networking opportunity, but I'm looking for more.) – Jason Swett 13 years ago
  • To answer your other question, I want a partner, not a subordinate. I want someone from whom I can expect an equal contribution, someone who's just as invested and interested as I am. – Jason Swett 13 years ago
  • @Jason: This is one way you don't want to get too close to the "marriage" analogy. Be careful with seeking out "full equals". The idea/vision is fundamentally yours and yours alone. You will never find anyone as invested as you. That has to be understood by you and made clear to others, while also showing you are prepared to be generous with any future fortunes and opportunities. – Alphadogg 13 years ago
  • That's a good point. – Jason Swett 13 years ago


So 'business partner' has the clue. 'Business' - it's about creating and monetising value for other people. 'Partner' - you're going to be very close together for maybe a very long time.

Here's what I do.

I work really hard to meet people who share my interests. Find the groups. Complain about there not being any groups until someone corrects me and shows me the group, or I've met a bunch of people who agree there should be a group like that - and we start one.

I invest time with people knocking around business ideas. I'm looking for someone who thinks a bit like me but at least comes at things from a different angle. I'm looking for someone whose present situation and aspirations are reasonably similar to mine. And I'm looking for someone who I can imagine depending on in a crisis.

When I think I've found them, I say, "let's see what it's like actually working together." I don't care much what we do, as long as (a) it's reasonably compact; (b) it's reasonably challenging; (c) we both care about it; (d) we can both afford the limited time, cash, resource, reputation risk.

Some people I've been thinking it would be cool to work with drop out because they can't see the point. If we're going to do something, let's do something huge and amazing. But I don't want anyone to trust me that much without any actual experience of working together. Impulse partnerships just don't have that great a track record.

Then some people make other excuses. They're generally the coffee cup entrepreneurs. At the moment, this is a dream for them. The last thing they want now is to spoil the dreams of success with the mess of actually going for it. So I'm happy to hang out with them - but they're not the business partner for today.

If there's anyone left - well, now we need to get on with whatever it is. We need to agree something to do. We need to get started. We need to solve problems. We need to build trust. We'll need to cover gaps where neither of us has the experience / capability / temperament we need. And we'll succeed, or we'll fail, and we'll find out if the time was fun enough and profitable enough that it's worth doing more.

My experience is all that is going to take at least six months, and maybe much more. So meanwhile I need to know how I'm going to make ends meet, and how I'm going to continually meet more people, find more opportunities and create something meaningful independent of my search.

That's hard work.

But if you're an entrepreneur, it's exactly that hard work that will energise you, and build the network that will support venture after venture.

Good luck!

answered Nov 20 '10 at 19:24
Jeremy Parsons
5,197 points


I'm exactly where you are right now. I'm a software developer and I'm looking for a biz co-founder. My answer to this is: Go to as many meetups and entrepreneurial events as possible. There are a lot of biz guys who are looking for techies like you and me. Talk to them as much as possible.
If you have your own idea (like I do) - it would be harder because usually they have their own ideas and try to recruit you for 10% of equity :)

answered Nov 20 '10 at 06:58
970 points
  • Just out of curiosity, what kind of developer? I'm mainly a LAMP developer. – Jason Swett 13 years ago
  • I'm LAMP as well (mainly PHP) – Salmon 13 years ago


Are you sure you need a business partner? I have generally been the kind of person who finds an idea, and executes on it. Most people who want to be my business partner have ideas, and no execution.

I would recommend you do a bit of soul searching into why you are looking for a partner. The most successful partners tend to excel in different areas - typically one in tech and the other in sales, and can augment the others weakness.

If you have the skills to execute on your idea, I would recommend you just start working today. If you don't already have a natural partner, plan on hiring help after you get revenue instead of giving up 50% equity for a partner you may not really need.

answered Nov 19 '10 at 13:41
Charlie B
151 points
  • I have the ideas, the skills to execute them, and I've been executing them for the last several months ( It's just no FUN without a business partner and there's no one to turn to occasionally to say, "Does this make sense? What do YOU think of this?" I trust my own decision-making skills, but without someone to bounce ideas off of, it kind of feels like fumbling around in the dark. – Jason Swett 13 years ago
  • So, you want a mentor, not a partner. Or, what I mean is that a partner is a broader thing that includes mentors. You could find another unseasoned individual, and that would make two people fumbling in the dark! :) I would say get to talking with local angel groups. – Alphadogg 13 years ago


What role would you like you partner to play? Do you need a business help, sales, or technology? If you have an idea for business -- it'll be easier to identify what you potential partner is.

Can you do this business by yourself? Talk to others that have business experience, partnerships are the hardest business to run. Search this board for posts on this topic.

Best of luck.

answered Nov 19 '10 at 14:32
1,698 points
  • That's a good question. I suppose I need all three, but in the short term I want someone who can get right in there and share the work with me. I'm a web developer and my current idea is software-based, so I would want someone with at least some experience building websites. I hadn't thought about it in those terms before, or at least I hadn't come right out and said it, so I think you just helped me narrow down my search a little bit. Thanks. – Jason Swett 13 years ago
  • Can you outsource work? It's cheaper than giving a part of the ownership and it's always easier to switch providers, than partners. – Usabilitest 13 years ago

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