Hi there! My name is Charlotte and I’m Co-Founder & CEO of Equalture (a hiring software that leverages gamification to debias hiring for SMBs) and living in the most beautiful city in the world: Rotterdam. Being an entrepreneur for 4 years now and building my second company together with my twin sister, I get a lot of questions from other founders and people thinking about starting their own company.
Since I believe that every single founder experience can be helpful to other founders, I decided to translate these frequently asked questions into a blog series: Startup Flight.
In this very first blog: How I experience having a Co-Founder who’s actually my twin sister and my tips when selecting your Co-Founder(s).
‘’And what if it goes wrong?!’’
That was the first thing my parents said in June 2016 when Fleur (my twin sister) and I told them that we were about to start a company together. And my friends said the same by the way. Or actually they mostly laughed (nervously) about it. Fair enough, I don’t blame them.
Starting a company with your family. With your twin sister! That’s a recipe for problems and family breakups, right? This couldn’t end well for both of us. At least that’s what the people around us saw in their crystal ball. Well, in practice, it wasn’t that thrilling (fortunately).
In fact, we did pretty well! It actually worked. Not only in terms of collaboration, but also in terms of storytelling. We started our second company, Equalture (an HR SaaS platform) in 2018 at the age of 21. And what happened at that point is something we couldn’t predict.
Equalture turned into a media circus. Twin sisters, 21 years old, starting a tech company together with zero tech expertise (I didn’t even know the difference between an API and an IPA). So at least the story worked out. But even more important, the company worked out as well, because now — 1.5 years later — we built an incredible team (which will be doubled in 2020) and we managed to sell our product in 5 different countries.
So what’s the recipe for surviving those first 1.5 years that many startups (90% actually) don’t survive? Well, having my twin sister as my Co-Founder helped for sure. These are the two reasons why (and also my two tips when searching for your Co-Founder(s)).
By the way, this is a picture of me (left) and Fleur (right). Typical twins, right:
Co-Founder Lesson #1: Be as different as possible.
Although Fleur and I are the typical twin sisters (same laugh, same voice, spending way too many hours together, et cetera), funnily enough we are completely different when it comes to work preferences and skills.
Where I love thinking about milestone B, Fleur loves to think about how we get from A to B. Where I love the more technical parts of Equalture (product development), Fleur loves the commercial part of the company. And where I’m creative and a complete chaos, Fleur is the definition of structure and planning.
Starting your startup means that you and your Co-Founder (if you have one) should be able to do everything: Product, Sales, Finance, Marketing, Support, and so forth. My assumption is that no one masters all different skills, so always be aware of your skills/preferences and the ones of your (potential) Co-Founder. You don’t want to brainstorm about product development all day without anyone in the room caring about sales. So always try to be as different as possible to ensure a right combination of skills and interests.
Co-Founder Lesson #2: Act like you are twin sisters.
Alright, I know that sounds weird, so let me explain this.
Fleur and I love each other. And at the same time we sometimes can’t stand each other. Our team calls this The Firework Effect: We can sometimes disagree so badly on a topic that we switch from loving to fighting in a split second. The consequence is a 2-minute battlefield , followed by the transition from fighting to loving again. And right between those two transitions the coolest ideas are born.
There’s no shine without friction (we use this sentence in The Netherlands quite often, but I have no clue whether it’s a common saying outside NL, so hopefully you get me). Battlefield-level discussions are sometimes necessary to come up with innovative ideas. So you should feel comfortable enough to create or experience these kinds of situations with your Co-Founder(s). And I don’t only feel comfortable doing this to Fleur. Luckily enough we got Jaap (our amazing third Co-Founder and CTO) on board last year, who also feels like a brother to me in heavy discussions. And that’s perfect, because (1) we never stay angry too long and (2) we always like each other at the end of the day.
So sorry mom and dad, sorry friends, you were all wrong (fortunately). It’s amazing to build a company together with my twin sister and my ‘working-brother’ Jaap. And maybe even more important: It works. Just because we are completely different and act like twin sisters. For me that’s the recipe for Co-Founder success.