Working as a solo founder doesn’t mean working alone. How to make it, especially during difficult … [+]
Being a solo founder can be hard, especially in the most challenging economic circumstances. Some people feel they can’t start or build a great company because they’re going solo. Some feel pressured to find a cofounder, some miss working with a sparring partner. Others may feel empowered as a solo founder. Whatever your case, you can’t do it alone, and when times are hard, it’s even more important to stay connected.
So, when are you going to find a cofounder?
Have you ever been pressured into finding a significant other, someone who will be at your side every day for the foreseeable future? Indeed, have you ever been pressured into finding a cofounder? As a solo founder myself, I’ve doubted that I can make it without a cofounder in my company, but I’m throwing away that stigma as I talk to more and more impressive solo founders. That’s not to say you should work on a startup alone but having a “cofounder” there is not always the key to success.
The obsession with finding a cofounder seems to have developed with the professionalisation of creating and scaling startups. With that have come accelerators which mainly support companies with more than one founder. Indeed Paul Graham, from Y Combinator is known for saying that being a solo founder, is the number one factor that will kill a start-up. There are also programs such as Antler and Entrepreneur First that focus on matching you with the right cofounder.
Finding a cofounder
Finding the right cofounder is not always easy, however. There are several aspects to consider, such as skills match, a shared vision of the company and complimentary work ethic. What’s more: is this someone you get along with? You’re going to be spending a lot of time together.
That’s not to say it must be a perfect fit, but it should work. You may be lucky and find someone with the right fit straight away, or later in your founder journey, but sometimes you can find the right person at the wrong time or not find that fit at all.
The thriving startups from solo founders
Pae Natwilai, originally from Thailand, finished her Masters of Global Innovation Design at Imperial College London with a magical assignment, quite literally. She designed a device to manage a drone, almost like you were waving a magic wand. This master’s degree kickstarted her on a journey as an entrepreneur exploring the playful and practical applications of drone technology.
She is now the CEO of the thriving company Trik which creates automated drone 3D mapping and 3D reporting software and has been named among the Forbes 30 under 30. She is a solo founder. Since Pae started her entrepreneurial journey, she has been looking for the right cofounder. She has also previously felt the pressure to find someone through accelerators and programs but didn’t find the right person. That doesn’t mean she worked alone. Notably, she had fantastic support from her first employee who still works with her today, Pae told me.
Melinda Nicci knows her customer; she’s been working on her idea for 20 years. She launched Baby2Body in 2015 a health, fitness and wellbeing coaching platform. When she first launched, she was told that she should have a cofounder, especially a technical cofounder. Melinda refused to follow a narrative that didn’t work for her, especially as she knew her market so well. Five years on, her company has helped hundreds of thousands of women.
Baby2Body was not created alone, of course, Melinda found a rockstar first hire who is also still in the company. What’s the difference between a founder and a first hire? Melinda explains its sometimes just a label, but sometimes it can be the difference between who’s taking the most risk or who’s not taking a salary.
Being a solo founder doesn’t mean going alone
There are many more solo founders who have made a great success of the company, including Pierre Omidyar, the founder of eBay, and Sara Blakeley, the founder of Spanx. We need to remove the stigma from solo founders to empower more people to move forward with great ideas. After speaking to many solo founders, one thing is clear, however: going solo, never means going alone. We need to highlight the different options available to find the right team whether that’s a great cofounder, a first hire, a great community or an accelerator program with the right support.
During difficult times, it’s more important than ever to feel connected. Find people who you can talk to about your ideas, your challenges, find a network of people who support you. Talk to them regularly, keep them updated and thank them. Through this, you may find the perfect cofounder when the time is right, or perhaps the great first hire who’s going to help you scale the business. Don’t let going solo stop you from moving forward.