When it comes to funding and startup community as a whole, single founders are often highly discriminated against. Does that mean that single founders are unlikely to succeed? No, some research even shows that single founders are more likely to succeed than startups with multiple founders. Research from Wharton and NYU that studied 3,526 companies found that single founders were more likely to be successful than those who start a business with one or more partners.
Running out of money is the single biggest factor of startup failure. Being a single founder lets you work on your idea with a much longer timeline in mind. You don’t have to build a company in 12 months or risk running out of money. You don’t have to depend on investors to pay your bills. You don’t have to quit your job and risk your family’s financial future to work on your dreams.
If fact, you can work 40 hours a week, take a percentage of your salary, and subsidies your startup idea with that capital. You can outsource some of the development and other tasks to countries with a significantly lower cost of living and pay people 3–4 times the minimum wage there for a fraction of what you might be making at your current job. Just make sure you don’t have any Intellectual Property clauses in your employment contract, preventing you from working on your own company outside the working hours.
With access to information and online resources, there are a lot of highly skilled college graduates that are looking for jobs with salaries well below-average incomes in Silicon Valley. We will talk about my experience in hiring and managing the best talent globally in a different article.
This longer timeline to succeed does not mean you don’t have to take massive action every day. You still do; in fact, you should have people or mentors you are accountable to. People who have the experience ad are highly interested in your solution to a pain point they understand well. Your mentors should be people who are already successful in the industry you are trying to disrupt. You should feel accountable to make sure you deliver progress to them every time you meet, be it weekly or monthly.
Being a single founder also means you get to keep most of the equity in the beginning. That enables you to hire significantly more experienced executives with that equity later in your growth stage. Seasoned professionals are rarely interested in joining a small team with a new idea; they are looking for market-tested ideas they can help scale fast. You need to reach that level of success before you can hire seasoned executives. Giving away a lot of equity in the beginning to co-founders with skills that might be obsolete in 12 to 18 months, junior employees, and early investors might kill your chances to hire and raise the funding you need to scale later.
The second biggest cause of the early startups’ failure is co-founder disagreements. The skills that the co-founder brings to the table might not be relevant 12 to 18 months. Co-founders can put in a different amount of effort and time or bring an unequal amount of value to the company, building up resentment amount co-founders and potentially derailing the entire startup.
You can always find a co-founder later into your development stage, do not feel the need to find co-founders to check off boxes on some must-have list. Outsourcing might be a better way to compensate for some of the skills you have. If you need an engineer, it’s unlikely you will find a rockstar 10x engineer to be your early-stage co-founder. While getting an engineer with fewer skills are likely to lead to technical debt similar to outsourced helped, but s/he might end up having 50% of your company.
Finding the right market fit might end up taking a lot longer than you think. You might have experienced the pain point you are trying to solve yourself and feel that others have the same pain point. That does not mean you found a market fit; that is just the beginning of your discovery process. You have so much more to learn before your idea becomes a scalable solution. Often the product that will end up making your company successful will have nothing in common with your original idea.
Take pride in being the sole person responsible for taking an idea and turning it into a solution. Don’t wait for others to join you before taking action.
There is no one-fits-all model for building a successful company. Don’t focus on all the advice on startups are built; instead, focus on your future customers. Are you solving a real problem that people are willing to pay for, more than it cost you to build a solution, and it is high enough of a priority to them? If not, no matter how good your solution might be, you might still go bankrupt.