Starting as a Single Founder might be your best decision to building a successful Startup
There are a few beliefs that are so engraved in the startup culture that a few people who are starting out dare to disagree with them. Some of those beliefs are you need to have a co-founder to be successful, or you must open a Delaware C-Corp to start your business, quitting your job and focusing full time on your idea, and many more that we will examine in our journey of creating a single founder startup community.
There are three things that are highly likely to kill a new startup, running out of money, co-founder disagreements, and not finding the right market fit.
You can reduce the risk of all three of those things by being a single founder. Let’s be honest; it’s all about your idea, to begin with. Rarely would two people come up with complementary skills come up with the same idea and accidentally meet each other at the exact time; both are willing to quit their jobs to work on that one idea.
Don’t get me wrong, I think that adding co-founders at a later stage is highly beneficial, but don’t do it until the idea you have proves to have the right market fit.
Starting out as a single founder means that you don’t even need to quit your job in most cases before that. I do recommend going through your current employment agreement to make sure that all your inventions outside the work won’t belong to your current employer and definitely, don’t use any work issued software or hardware to work on your idea. Don’t work on your idea during your paid work hours. That said, if you work 40 hours a week, you still have 128 hours a week left. If you sleep for 6 hours a day, you have 86 hours left each week.
When you start your own business, you are likely to work 80+ hours a week. It’s highly unlikely that you can raise money and scale fast enough not to screw up your cap table. Start slow, experiment quickly, listen and iterate fast, and fall in love solving with your target customers’ pains and not with your idea.
You will need capital, using your life savings and getting in debt for just an idea that has not been tested in the market place could lead to financial ruins. Subsidizing your startup with your current paycheck might be a much better idea. You can outsource much of the time-consuming activities for less money than you make per hour. We will talk a lot about what things you should and should not be outsourcing.
It might take a thousand iterations before you narrow down your idea into a sustainable business model. You can learn a lot about fast iterations from the lean startup methodology proposed by Steve Blank and Eric Reis.
Don’t have the technical expertise to be able to build the product? Learn the basics of the technology you think you will need. There are a lot of free resources online to learn almost anything for free or cheap. You don’t need to know how to code, understand the limitations of the technology, and enough to see what you need in a developer. Otherwise, you will learn that your idea might cost you 100x times more than you were told months or even years into paying developers to build out your product.
A cup of coffee might be your best investment to pick a brain of people who can tell you how to accelerate your idea. Don’t be afraid to invite people out for lunch or even dinner, since you will have more time to ask questions, but respect other people’s time. The way to get people to give you suggestions is to focus on building a solution they want to see. Many people don’t have the time to work on everything they are excited about, but they would love to advise and guide fellow entrepreneurs to see those things to be brought to life.
Wait to incorporate; you don’t need all the costs of having a C-Corp to test your ideas. You don’t even need a website. What you need is to understand your target customer pain points from every perspective. Why are they doing things they way they do today, why don’t they use alternative solutions? Are your users going to be your buyers, or are those two different individuals? There are millions of questions you need to answer before you will truly understand your marketplace. Don’t just build solutions; only you will need and love.
Learn everything about your competition. You are highly unlikely to be the only one with a similar idea. If you don’t know who offers similar or alternative solutions, it’s more likely that you are not very good at competitive research. Find someone who can help you with that.
You will need to be good at 100 things as a founder. You will be able to delegate many of them to someone better than you at each of them as you grow, but don’t try to grow faster than it can be done sustainably.
Your network will be one of the most valuable resources you will have; you will also need great mentors, champions, advisors, and fellow founder friends. These relationships take years to build.
As you might have noticed, building a successful startup overnight without being a successful serial entrepreneur is often a myth. Being a single founder who still has income from other sources can give you the running room you need to become successful and let you focus on long term success rather than require you to focus on short term income to pay the bills.
The longer runway will also let you find more qualified professionals to join you on your journey to success, rather than to give away equity upfront and being disappointed that your co-founders don’t put in the same amount of effort and results as you. Your current friends might not be your best business partners. However, the people you will meet on your journey of being a founder can become the best co-founders and partners you have ever dreamed about. Sometimes that means waiting for years for them to exit their current ventures to join you.
Being a single founder also means that you can’t use an excuse that someone else must do something, and you have to wait for others. It’s up to you to get everything done as quickly as possible. Massive action is the key to success.
I want to take you on my journey to being a single founder and CEO of multiple startups, share my experiences, painful lessons, and resources I learned about along the way to help you become successful. I hope you will join me on this journey. Please follow, comment, and share this article with everybody you want to see be successful. It takes a village to raise a child and to build a successful company.
- When is it the right time to get a co-founder?
- How to find the best mentors
- How has VC funding changed over the years?
- Getting into Accelerators
- Creating the right culture
- Getting the resources, you need to succeed
- Competitive advantages of a startup
- How to hire and manage freelancers
- Managing work, startup, and family
In the fourth part of this story, we will discuss:
- Startup revenue vs. profits
- Managing expenses
- Getting your first customers
- Setting the right KPIs and key metrics
Stay tuned and subscribe if you want to read about my take on topics and tell me what else I should write about in the comments.