Raza Shaikh: Managing Director, Investor, Founder, Podcast Host, & Startup Boston Week 2020 Speaker
Updated: Aug 28
We are excited to continue our Featured Startupers series with Raza Shaik! Read on for a glimpse into the conversation at our upcoming Startup Boston Week 2020 event: Made for Each Other: How To Find, Evaluate, and Decide on a Cofounder.
Raza is currently a Managing Director at Launchpad Venture Group, a Boston-area angel investing group focused on early-stage investments primarily in high tech and life sciences. He's heavily involved in Boston's startup ecosystem as an angel investor, mentor for Techstars and MassChallenge, and, most recently, as the co-host of the podcast On Boards.
In addition to being an investor, Raza also founded both Kendall Square Labs and NorthBay Solutions and served as CTO at both companies. Given the depth of his experience with a wide breadth of startups, Raza's excited to share his observations about finding the perfect cofounder.
Alica: You're currently the managing director at Launchpad Venture Group. Give me a snapshot of what drives you and how you've been so successful in your career?
Raza: I've been investing with Launchpad, an angel group, for over four years as a member and developing my angel investment portfolio. Launchpad invests in Boston and New England area companies. As I got more involved, I enjoyed it so much that I decided to join the management team as Launchpad’s Managing Director.
Alicia: What are some of your passions and hobbies outside of work?
Raza: My daughter is nine years old, so that covers a lot of hobbies that I’ve picked up! We just planted a vegetable garden and I enjoy other projects that I do with my children. Other than that, it's mostly enjoying friends and family.
Alicia: What has sparked your passion for working with startups in particular?
Raza: As I got out of college, I always worked for startups and small companies which led to an entrepreneurial journey. I immigrated to this country, joined startups, and worked with some good products and customers. In doing so, I started getting involved with Mass Challenge and Techstars. I was helping and judging for these competitions and along the way I thought, Hey! Why not invest in these companies? That continued to build my involvement and passion for this weird thing that people call startups. You start yourself, you help others start to invest, you mentor, and that journey continues.
Alicia: Could you name three key topics that you'll be during your event?
Raza: I think the two or three themes are ultimately one: why is a cofounder important or not important? There are exceptions on both sides: successful companies with a single founder and unsuccessful companies with a single founder and so on. But why have a cofounder? Second is what you look for in a cofounder. And third, the process or mechanics of how do I actually find someone? Do I find them at events? Do I talk to my college buddies about an idea?
Alicia: What are some common mistakes that you've seen startups make when they're trying to find or evaluate cofounders?
Raza: I would say the one mistake has two variations on it. One is just making it into a forced process of, I need to have cofounders, so therefore I must interview a few and the person looks very good on paper. So making it very synthetic or artificial, just because everybody said to interview potential cofounders. And the other extreme of that is never being able to find a cofounder because you’re somebody who doesn't get along with people and doesn't want to work with anybody else. I think it's one common mistake that could play out in either extreme.
Another mistake is just like in any relationship, whether it be a marriage or a business partnership. You have to build out that relationship, it doesn't come pre-built just because you did a good search or you started the company together. It also doesn't mean that it will fail. It means that you have to put in work, mutually with your partners. A lot of times people end up not putting in the work of building a working relationship, understanding each other, and noticing where each excels or not. Fallout of founders or cofounders is actually a pretty big reason for companies to die.
Alicia: What is your favorite piece of advice that you would give startups on finding their perfect cofounder?
Raza: It's just like dating or finding your match: you have to be yourself. My number one advice would be, your cofounders and partners must be on the same page for the vision and mission of what you want to build. It also helps tremendously if your cofounder or potential cofounder is as enthusiastic as you are.
Want to hear more from Raza? Check out Made for Each Other: How To Find, Evaluate, and Decide on a Cofounder. It's part of the Founder & C-Suite Track at Startup Boston Week 2020. See the full lineup & register here!