Some would-be entrepreneurs dream of money. I’m more of a romantic: I’ve been pining for the day when I’ll meet my perfect partner. At risk of jinxing myself and breaking my heart – again — I think I may have met the (business)man of my dreams?
But first, a quick flashback to a previous life. In my early 20s, I spent six months cleaning pools in the suburbs of New York. I passed much of that spring and summer with the owner of the one-man company, Pablo Sr, the father of a high school buddy of mine, Pablo Jr. In between all the pumps, hoses and tubs of chlorine, PM would make pit stops (up to 10 times a day) to drink a corner deli coffee in a white styrofoam cup, which he would top with milk and down in one gulp. Charged with caffeine, he would share various pearls of wisdom: about pools, dealing with clients, running a business, and raising Junior.
He once told me about a failed attempt to join forces with a fellow pool maintenance dude, and concluded that you should never go into business with someone who brings the same professional profile/background to the (pool)party. You end up overlapping, competing, fighting about decisions that you both have strong opinions on…and leaving uncovered all the same things that are missing from your respective similar profiles. Sharing the workload and splitting the revenue, economies of scale notwithstanding, are not more than the sum of the two halves, he told me.
I had that wisdom whistling in my ear in the first months of this project, as tentative attempts to partner up with two others colleagues eventually fizzled. Despite PM’s advice, I knew I needed the energy and ideas that can come when you have someone sharing the same vision and background, and roll of the dice. Still, my more rational inner voice always remembered Pablo’s credo that my ying needed a yang, someone who could combine his/her internet business background with my journalistic experience.
And so last week, through a mutual friend in Paris, I set up a rendezvous with Mister X, who’s resume featured all what I am missing. And more. In fact, he has spent the past year here adding a French master’s degree in international politics to his computer science degree and six years of content management consulting for startups. How’s that for a profile for a biz-tech partner for a world news website!?
But looking for a partner truly is like dating. On paper means nothing. I’d heard a bit about Mr. X, and was curious to know more, and just as importantly, to see if we got along. And he was apparently at least curious enough about what I was doing to meet up. We met at the Mabillon Metro stop in the Latin Quarter and found a nice cafe. We each ordered a beer.
All seemed to be going well, as he told me about his past work and current studies. And hints of possible futures? I told him about my journalism career, and painted a quick picture of where the news business is these days. It was a conversation, a back and forth. But I was also effectively pitching him my project as best I could. Talking to a potential partner is both similar and different to pitching other people. It starts out much more casually. But you are all too aware that if it goes well, really well, the project becomes HIS like no other’s, with a commitment of time and energy, and that roll of the dice, that doesn’t compare to anyone else: not investors, not employees, not colleagues or advisors. Only to you. And indeed, if it happens, you will be seeing more of each other than virtually anyone else in your life. So in some way, you must actually tread a bit more lightly on your first encounter. He needs to like me as much as the project.
As with the search for a life partner, a key is timing. I know that I am single, and looking to hook up, but I can’t know for sure what his status was. A couple of times in the past few months, I’ve met with people who might have fit the partner profile, who had the right skill set, but simply were not at a place in their life/work to commit to me. Though Mister X seemed to react positively to the idea and basic plan for execution of the project, he wasn’t giving any indication of his availability status. Though he’d used the expression “up in the air,” about what he would do after he finished his degree this spring, it sounded like he was pretty sure to resume his consulting business. I had made it clear that I was clearly on the hunt for a partner, but he didn’t blink.
And then, about 40 minutes in, while talking again about what the project needs to get going, I finally said: “I don’t know if you might be interested…??”
He paused about two seconds, and then said: “Hey, so long as I can be running a business, I’m open to anything,…” My heart skipped a beat. A tried to hold back a smile. But soon, I was letting my guard down a bit more, and told him what a great background he has for this project. As we walked toward the metro, we even talked about what the first steps together might look like. Then we shook hands, and said we’d be in touch when he got back from a long planned two-week trip to Morocco. And though I am marching ahead as before, a single man on a one-man mission, I am already pining for our second date…