FounderDating: It’s like OkCupid for entrepreneurs

FounderDating | BCBusiness
Among FounderDating’s successes, Boston-based social media marketing firm ViralGains.

Founders spend countless hours sweating over their projects, and often that sweating won’t be done alone. Adding a co-founder to the mix can bring a whole other realm of skills and experience. But what if you just don’t get along?

Those hours spent together can make or break a company, regardless of how good the idea is. How, then, can someone with a great plan find a person they can work with who has the skills they need? Enter FounderDating, a site that promotes itself as a way for co-founders to find one another in an environment where the personal comes first.

“Finding the right person to start a company with—it’s a hard thing,” explains FounderDating co-founder Jessica Alter, who will speak to the issue on a panel this Thursday at GROW, an ongoing international tech conference in Whistler. “If you were just looking for a skill set… you need to go through a dating-like process.”

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An entire ecosystem of sites to link founders with one another and with skilled entrepreneurs has arisen over the past few years. Today, there are around a dozen such sites, of which San Francisco-based FounderDating was one of the first.

Like real dating, it begins with a certain level of choosiness. Only a third of applicants are invited to join, and of those, half have technical skills like hardware, software or biomedical engineering. But the romantic parallels extend beyond just the first pass. “Like dating, it’s a process,” Alter says. “You shouldn’t start just when you want to have a child. You should start a year before, you should work on side-projects, you should learn what you can and cannot deal with. What are your deal-breakers?”

Since launching in 2012, the site has expanded its functionality. These days, Alter prefers to describe FounderDating as a sort of “LinkedIn for entrepreneurs,” as the site now helps entrepreneurs connect not just with co-founders, but with advisors too. The common thread for FounderDating since its inception is that the site remains about the human element of starting a business.

Alter believes that while progress has been made in helping entrepreneurs access capital, infrastructure and initial customers, the human variables remain too risky. “What’s always been important as a fourth leg is people,” he says, “co-founders, advisors, knowledge, expertise—people you can work with.”

Three Canadian cities have co-founder networks so far: Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver. In Vancouver, Doug Squarebriggs and Vance Pan launched tech startup Nodally Technologies after the two met at a FounderDating event. Outside of these cities, however, advisors and entrepreneurs can still sign up, since as Alter puts it, “very few people care where their advisor is.”

But they do care who that advisor is.