A First-Time Founder's Notes on Finding the Ideal Co-Founder

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I can only say I feel extremely lucky in finding Paperchain’s co-founder, Rahul.

I started fleshing out the idea for Paperchain in July 2016. All I had was knowledge of the problem—and as I’ve learned further, inadequate knowledge of the problem—and an idea on how it could be solved.

That was the genesis of Paperchain. I knew the industry had trouble identifying rights owners and I knew disparate databases was a driving cause. Everybody in the music industry knows this. I had been following Bitcoin for a couple of years and more recently, Ethereum.

The idea that more tangible assets could be validated and transacted via a blockchain protocol was interesting to me and the first practical use case I could think of was music royalties.

I put together a quick pitch deck with the problem-solution and shared with trusted friends who had positive feedback. I flipped that into a landing page, setup social profiles and started blogging about the approach.

I hired a contractor to help build a prototype for how a blockchain could interact with a media player and allow streams based on validation of rights owner information. This was enough to generate initial discussions as I started to pitch my wares to the industry. A few things became apparent (through development and also through further validation interviews):

  • a third-party software that could disrupt the user experience of streaming platform subscribers would never be allowed on those platforms
  • there is no blockchain technology that could process the required volume of transactions (we’re talking tens millions of transactions per minute in this use case)
  • the application came nowhere near to addressing the root causes

I knew I had to get into the problem further, and I knew I had to have somebody with me. The discussions that were about to start were growing exponentially more technical, and while competent, I am not an engineer. I posted a small note on the site that I was looking for a technical co-founder.

I went to as many tech meetups in Sydney as I could, pitching the idea and putting out the word. I was vocal about wanting to find a female co-founder, as I wanted diversity to exist within the company from the start. I didn’t give much thought about specific qualities I wanted, I only knew I wanted somebody who I wanted to start a business with and could stand to spend the next chunk of my life with.

That first blog post was picked up by Music Ally in October 2017 and Paperchain was covered as “another blockchain-based startup to watch” in the music industry. This generated mild traffic to the site, resulting in a small spike in waitlist and newsletter sign ups.

Most importantly, the Music Ally post landed in front of someone at studying at Berklee in Valencia.

As Rahul tells it, he was talking to a friend at Berklee about his upcoming thesis topic—he wanted to research rights ownership in the music industry, and most importantly, the problem of unpaid royalties. It just so happened that his friend had signed up to my newsletter a week earlier after reading the Music Ally article. He told Rahul that it sounded exactly like something he wants to work on and should get in touch.

Rahul emailed me in early November. I knew immediately that this was someone I wanted to talk to more. After our first Skype call, I knew this was somebody I wanted to work with. Rahul came on board in December 2016 and we’ve been working together since then.

It’s hard to describe how you come to know some things. There are some people you meet where you know immediately if there is chemistry or not. How aligned you are on a vision. How emotionally invested you are ready to become in a business and a partnership. That’s how I’ve always seen Rahul.

He quickly became the other driving force behind Paperchain that the company needed.

We did not meet in person until June 2017 at the Midem music conference.

Meeting him in person never felt like much of a big deal. We had already spent hundreds of hours on calls together. Countless emails and Slack messages.

The only thing that changed was the energy. I beamed with pride introducing myself as a founder of Paperchain, pitching to anybody who would listen, knowing that he was on the other side of the room, doing the same. We both lost our voices from talking too much that week.

I returned to Sydney feeling like I had found a lifetime business partner.

We’re about to join up again for a few months for a series of accelerators in Europe and then find a city to base ourselves out of.

For our first in-person meet in Cannes I gave Rahul a copy of “Good to Great” by Jim Collins. On the inside I inscribed, “Thanks for starting a great company with me.”

Paperchain is an idea that gave birth to a friendship. I am forever grateful to it, and Rahul, for that.