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Will single founders please stand up? (gabrielweinberg.com)
224 points by epi0Bauqu on Jan 11, 2010 | hide | past | favorite | 149 comments

It is important not to be dogmatic on this issue.

Startups come in all shapes and sizes and there is plenty of room in there for single-founder companies. I have represented at least one single-founder company that eventually grew to $16B valuation in the fiber optics space and another that grew to $1B valuation in consumer electronics software. Are these unusual exceptions to the rule? Sure. But they do exist and there are undoubtedly a reasonable percentage of successful startups like them that start in just this way.

The startup process is best viewed as a continuum, ranging from the very early formative steps to much-more sophisticated steps later on. At some point along the continuum it is essential for most successful startups to add other team members because, when you scale to something great, you basically can't do it alone. But no one says this teaming process has to occur as the absolute first step in the process. It can occur later and, indeed, much later (both of the multi-B companies I mention above were several years into the process before the sole founders brought in other key team players).

The key at the beginning is founder credibility, whether found singly or in a team. If someone is sharp enough, he will find the means eventually to add key people even though, at inception, he finds himself working all alone.

Having said that, I will be the first to say that it takes a pretty exceptional founder to be able to start alone and build to large success. But many such founders exist and they can rank right up there with other founders in all the qualities that count toward success. At least that has been my direct experience in having worked with a broad range of founders over many years.

I'm another single founder. I spent a lot of time looking for cofounders but after a few months without success I decided it was better to create something, even if it wasn't an optimum setup, than to keep spending energy playing matchmaker.

I've found that people have wildly different ideas about both the reason to do a startup, how to execute, what's important, and where to exit. There's a great diversity even among people who know/read a lot about it. In fact, I'm amazed that the multiple founder system works at all. Except for cases where everybody is a college friend or something, it looks like a recipe for a lot of conflict.

Yes, it probably is a recipe for a lot of conflict. But that's part of the idea. If you and your partners work the same and think the same, a lot of the point of having a partner is lost.

The question is not whether or not you and your cofounder disagree. The question is whether you can nonetheless find a way to make decisions and move on. If every disagreement causes your progress to stop dead, you've got a problem. If every disagreement is resolved in favor of the person with the loudest voice, you've got a problem. But it is in fact possible to make progress even with a team full of people who disagree, provided everyone is sufficiently open-minded, mutually respectful, and willing to indulge in whimsical experiments.

A lot of startup stories contain moments in which the cofounders had big disagreements; e.g. the time when Steve Wozniak had to be dragged kicking and screaming into quitting his day job with Hewlett-Packard.

I'm a big believer and promoter in small, highly-performing teams. Teams get that way by having a lot of different skills and worldviews and still managing to mesh. So I'm on-board with your comment.

What I've found, however, is that cofounders are especially tricky to integrate. I think once you have a running app/business it gets easier, but that entire process of taking something fuzzy and making it concrete is just a very difficult process for some folks. People are really good at BSing! Heck, if there was a prize for sitting around talking about startups it'd be a big bunch of folks winning it (myself included at times). But once you move past idle talk and start feeling for a market and a problem? It's not so sexy any more. And then when you're talking about all the hours that's required? People have a tendency to melt into the woodwork.

The ones that are extremely motivated are usually that way because they're emotionally attached to some concept -- and that concept may or may not be workable in the market. Which means it's like pulling teeth trying to have an honest conversation about viability.

Then there are the technology bigots, of course, and the "idea" guys.

I don't know about other startups, but the one I'm working on now is a pretty big commitment -- big enough that my "day off" is basically taking a long lunch today and surfing HN. The rest of the week, day and night, I'm working.

I don't see that combination of willingness to work on something that might not be hot at first and also being able to pivot when needed as being very prevalent. It's probably just me, though.

I agree. I hate the "all talk and no bite" talks .. we can argue to death about every single point, but we need some execution, even if it's to disprove a hypothesis

“Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration!” - Edison

Maybe there needs to be an eHarmony.com for finding co-founders.

http://fairsoftware.net/find-cofounders-for-your-startup and http://www.meetup.com/Co-Founders-Wanted-Meetup/ are dedicated to finding co-founders. The first one is for worldwide online, the second link is for Silicon Valley in person.

(I'm behind both)

Starting a company has been compared to getting married, and while plenty of people have met their future spouses on dating sites, they don't meet, talk a few times, and then get hitched. Perhaps the missing bit is finding something people can work on for a while without the commitment of a company (sort of like dating...).

...while plenty of people have met their future spouses on dating sites, they don't meet, talk a few times, and then get hitched.

This is true only of American dating sites. A number of Indian dating sites are based on that exact model.

I guess the lesson to take from that is this: if your expectations are low enough, and social pressures not to quit are strong enough, any reasonable pairing can be made to work.

Agreed. That's why if you check out the concept of virtual company, it's a great way to start working with someone else with limited committment.

To me, first and foremost, the fact that you don't have any out of pocket expenses is a good thing, it eliminates one barrier to entry. Virtual companies achieve that. In comparison, joining a "real" incorporated startup as co-founder, the first thing you do is split the legal costs and buy your shares. So right there, a few thousand dollars before you even know if you should work together. And there is no "undo" button, unlike virtual companies.

That's also why in the co-founders meetup I ask the presenters to not only present their business, but reveal a bit of their own personality. I believe that compatibility as co-founders comes equally from being passionate about the same things but also being compatible personality-wise (read this http://blog.fairsoftware.net/2009/11/19/first-co-founders-me... for more on the topic).

A quick google (find co-founders) shows there is at least one: http://www.partnerup.com/

I've been a single founder for 6 years now. I've created half a dozen webapps and products in that time, some of which were eventually sold and others I still run today. I've never raised money -- a few VCs have contacted me but I knew there was no chance I'd be what they were looking for. I pay myself well, I work relatively little and outsource to contractors any work that makes sense to get help with. I used to do everything myself, but learning to give up a little control is a good thing.


Can you tell us a little more on what type of work you outsource and where you get your contractors from?

Mostly graphic design work. I pay designers for uncoded website and logo designs, advertising creatives and occasionally small graphics. I used to do the design myself, but I'm not very artistic and a good designer produces better work in far fewer hours, so I'm willing to pay for it. I've run some design contests on 99designs.com and keep in touch with the winning designers for future work, and also met some people through the SitePoint forums.

Can I ask how you sold some of your webapps? I mean, did some company bought them or you used such websites like flippa?

Wow, you're in Warminster? I'm near Ambler. Small world.

Single founder on my 4th start-up, my first alone.

#1 - Two of us. A package for specialty manufacturers. I wrote the software, he sold and implemented it. We agreed to make it a product business, but he sold it as a service. Totally different animals. We were always behind and had no chance of building any equity that way.

#2 - Four of us. A package for continuous manufacturers. I was one of 2 programmers along with a designer/analyst and a business guy. I should have been spending all of my time programming, but I spent 75% of it refereeing among the other 3. I kissed the ground when I left.

#3 - Two of us. A package for job shops. Things were just taking off when he died.

#4 - I'm taking everything I've learned from the other businesses and from my customers over the years and writing a self-service web app that builds enterprise quality systems for small & medium businesses. Single founder is the default. I'd gladly have a co-founder or two, but only if the fit is (almost) perfect. One of the many reasons I came to hn was the possibility of meeting co-founder(s). Who knows, it still may happen...

Your cofounder died? Wow, that must have been rough.

More single-founder stories: Overture (Bill Gross), eBay (Pierre Omidyar), Napster (Sean Fanning), Lycos (Michael Mauldin), Amazon (Jeff Bezos), AOL (William von Meister), Digg (Kevin Rose).

Source: "If you’re going to launch a startup, how many friends do you need?": http://buzzpal.wordpress.com/2008/01/06/if-youre-going-to-la...

Lycos was not a single founder startup. It was a weird deal where CMGI bought the technology, turned it into a company, and then hired someone to run it.

Nor was Amazon, really: Bezos had a de facto cofounder called Shel Kaphan, who wrote all the initial code.

If you count early employees as co-founders, then fine (that's probably why you wrote "de facto").


"Over blueberry pancakes at the Sash Mill Cafe in Santa Cruz, Bezos managed to convince one of them, Shel Kaphan, to become employee number one."

They used that phrasing because that's how Amazon's PR people described the situation to them. The reality seems to have been more like two cofounders than boss + employee. Though I would not be surprised if Shel was actually a cofounder in the strict legal sense as well, meaning that he got stock at the time the company was founded. I'll ask him next time I talk to him.

ojbyrne would take issue with you calling Kevin Rose a single founder. ;-)

A bunch of the other ones seem suspect too. Wikipedia lists the founder and first CEO of Lycos as Bob Davis - Michael Mauldin invented it as a research project, but if you go by research project inception and not incorporation, Larry Page is the sole founder of Google.

Be wary of information from random blogs. ;-)

Markus Frind of Plenty of Fish is another

Actually, Napster had a cofounder, Sean Parker (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sean_Parker).

Shawn also had an incredible amount of help from Jordan Ritter and Ali Aydar before the company was even a company. He also would have been a lot better as a single-founder, as his co-founder uncle John Fanning took advantage of his inexperience.

Berkshire Hathaway/Warren Buffett. (Though the name at first was not BH)

You're probably thinking of Buffett Partnership, an investment fund which he ran largely by himself, using friends' and family money as initial capital.

Berkshire Hathaway is a textile mill that Buffett turned into an investment company, but by then he had been a successful investor for over 10 years.

I'm talking about the fund that he used to buy BH with.

Charlie Munger helped out Warren a lot. Not sure at what point their partnership started -- but it was before Buffet was making a ton of money.

I believe he started working with Munger 20 years after he started his own fund.

...which was around when Berkshire Hathaway turned from a textile manufacturer to an investment vehicle.

It's hard to lump financials in with tech startups, though. Technically, when he Buffett started the Buffett partnership, he had lots of cofounders. The structure of an investment fund is a single managing partner (who makes the decisions) and then lots of limited partners (who put up the money). In the eyes of the law, they're all cofounders.

If you go by practical instead of legal definitions - who provided the know-how? - then Buffett's early partner was effectively Benjamin Graham. After all, it was at Benjamin Graham's firm that Buffett first learned about investing, and Graham served as a mentor long afterwards.

Investors/mentors are not cofounders.

He and Munger were friends and colleagues earlier than that. I think they were in contact in the 50's.

I'm not sure about that. If I remember correctly from the handful of biographies I've read, I believe they met personally later than that.

max levchin claims to have started slide without a co-founder

Wasn't balsamiq (Peldi) a single founder? I've founded a few startups as a single founder, but they'd most likely be classified as Micro-ISV's instead of startups. But I'm okay with that.

He's married and I'm pretty sure his wife plays at least a peripheral role in the company... So, sort of(?)

My first startup I was the sole Founder and I had a number of early employees. I was the prime mover and I was the one who had the most stock. Until we were funded, their salaries were paid with my savings. My second startup I was the Founder but I had a bunch of early employees who were called co-Founders. I was still the prime mover but no one was getting paid until we started to ship products. We basically had equal amount of stock even though I started the company first and I took risk when no one else would. My experience is that it was a lot harder to get VC fundings when there were large number of co-Founders. VC's are not company builders and in order to ensure timely execution towards a financially successful exit, they would have no problem firing the Founder(s). So in some way, having a large number of co-Founders is sub-optimal (for the VC's).

I was a single founder when I started in 1994. Since then, I have had several businesses - none of them have been $10m businesses, but they have brought in great income. I grew two of them and then installed managers to take them forward - I still own them. Some thoughts from me:

1) I tried co-founders, but found that they didn't work as hard as me. Most people like to be lazy, so finding someone with the same work-ethic is difficult

2) I want to make decisions quickly and having a co-founder could slow that down for me

3) Employ people quickly who can help you. You don't need to give up part of your business to get good people. What motivates people is not just money - its often pride in a good job, good working conditions etc. I always run a very flexible in terms of time that people work. They work when they want and always get the job done

4) Don't be afraid to fire people. There are "givers" and "takers". I always fire takers as soon as I recognize them.

"Taker!?! Fired!"

"And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country."

Yeah, plainly spoken I know, but true :) Well, true from my experiences anyway!

Single founder here. But I'll admit it: I can use as much support as I can get sometimes.

I've been thinking of starting a "braintrust" of solo entrepreneurs so that we can pursue our respective passions but also reap some of the benefits of having a co-founder, by sharing ideas, debating stuff, etc.

Anyone interested in joining?

There's a couple of these already in progress, but you usually have to get introduced to them via your network. Ask around :)

I'd rather start my own ;)

That's the single founder spirit :-)

I’m in. We have to meet at a scotch bar in NYC, though ;)


I am.

How I started my company is kind of funny. While talking to my friend, I had this idea I thought was great. I tried to sell it to him and asked him to develop it, but his heart was in doing another project, his own idea. I told him, it's not hard at all; let me show you. He was still not interested. I proceeded to do a design and built a prototype. One thing led to another, it became my product and my company.

To be a single founder, you need to be quite special. Most people are not that special. A lot of those who think they are that special, actually are not.

It's not smarts you need - it's self organisational ability, and most people lack that if there is nobody else watching them.

If you cannot self-organize then you likely would not make a very good co-founder either. I do not want to be the co-founder who needs watching over nor would I want to have a co-founder that needed me to watch over them. It's all external motivation and that's the worst kind.

Actually to me one of the things I miss is being able to show what I've done. It is engergizing to show your work and if you don't have anyone as exited is harder. Same thing happens when you work on a company that doesn't understand what you are doing.

I couldn't agree more. I have been a Cofounder (with 4 others) once and a single founder twice (all 3 companies are profitable and alive). Based on my experience, I feel convinced that "unless" you start together as cofounders, its just very difficult/rare to "find" a cofounder who works out. There are a variety of reasons and I have seen some in my attempts at looking for one.

Being a single founder is tough, but for those who can do it , it can work really well. There are some strategic downsides to it like decision making is based on just the single founder's gut/knowledge/experience, and its important that single founders understand the downsides and work around them.

I am a single founder because I don't think I would find a founder that would work equally harder, and have equally deep experience on the subject or simply be equally relentlessly resourceful.

I found that the only thing that makes me significantly upset in the startup is people I deal with. Working with another founder I bet would create a lot of conflicts.

This is a bit unrelated, however I once heard a quote regarding co-founders:

"Even when there are multiple founders, somebody is in charge"

Co-founders don't necessarily mean "equals." You can have co-founders that are less involved than yourself (still giving you the value of a co-founder, without requiring them to be equally as invested as yourself).

Another thing to think about is ownership of the idea- almost by definition, the person who comes up with the idea will be the most involved. If you're looking for a co-founder, it will be much easier if you don't yet have an idea, and come up with one together.

It would be nice to see a table with HN members and their startups next to them. Does anything like this exist?

There was a thread called "What are you working on?" here http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1032699 and someone suggested the topic come up periodically, which I thought was a great idea. Even better, I think, would be if pg would add a 'Projects' link up top and the projects of members could be listed. The list might be sorted by vote, or perhaps randomly, and refreshed daily.

This is a brilliant idea.

I took the liberty of creating a wiki page for this, figured it would be easier than clicking on users' profile pages all the time to see what they were working on. Hopefully we can get some users on there in a more organized fashion.


grab here: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1032699

you could have a syntax so that once someone leaves a project, you'll go back and scan their HN profile for changes. Or else just a way for someone to leave their username and the site will go out and scan the profile page, either once or periodically as per user setting (which can even be on the HN profile page)

Yes, there are several lists. The most complete one was done in 2009 in a Google Docs spreadsheet. I have a hard time finding it again, thanks to Google not allowing you to download these docs...

If anybody can find it, please post the link here and then someone should email pg jeromec's suggestion of having a project page. At the end of the day HN is all about collaboration and inspiration so that would help a lot, I think.

I'm now a single founder (again). I also was a single founder with the first three startups I did. I keep trying out cofounders, but they all seem to lack perseverance. Most also have difficulty understanding the tech. I would welcome a business cofounder any day. Email me if you are interested.

I'm a single founder. Thinking about crossing over to the dark side, but it's not such a bad life. You keep more control of the company, but things move slower as a result.

Why not just wait until you can employ someone? :)

Please, would experienced someones address this question?

For example, the essential difference between a co-founder and employee #1, and why you might want the one to perform some set of duties rather than the other.

I think money has a lot to do with it. Founders work only for equity until the company has traction. Employees expect to be paid.

Yeah, that occurred to me as I pressed Send.

But assuming you can afford employee #1 (making cost somewhat moot), why otherwise might you decide to go in either direction?

cofounders typically have a lot more equity, and hence are typically much more motivated to work 24x7 until things are up and running. employees are not motivated in the same way.

Axod is mentioned in the article and his site, mibbit.com has over 100k uniques on compete. Are you saying he is in-experienced?

Compete makes it look bad! http://www.quantcast.com/mibbit.com FTW :)

I haven't employed anyone, but I'd say if the only thing you need is to 'speed up' as OP says, employing someone is probably the way to go. If you're still feeling your way around finding traction then maybe a cofounder. But this is just my 2c.

Yeah I need to get on quantcast.com too, the Nov/Dec numbers are way off for me.

Sorry, totally not what I meant, although I can see how it could be understood the way you did.

I just wanted to see further discussion of co-founder vs. employee (#1). I tried to ask it in an enthusiastic way.

This is why I'm single, I guess. :)

I've actually been seriously thinking about that. Not sure how long that would take, but I'm definitely open to the idea.

Finding a co-founder who matches your views and passion on all the points mentioned above to a reasonable degree is as hard as finding the mythical soulmate. Maybe someone can have a startup like eHarmony (eCoFounder?) for finding such like minded people.

It's sort of worse. With relationships, if you break up, you move on, find another mate. You get over it. Once you're sure they're "the one", then if you like you can do a family startup and create some babies.

But with a startup, you don't usually have any time before you start building something. So if something does go wrong, the split up is bad.

It'd be like having a baby with every one of your ex girlfriends :/

I think ideally founders should have already worked together on something.

The best idea may be to consciously "date" your co-founders by working with them on side projects, possibly open source.

This prospect is just scary to me. Personally I'd be looking for a co-founder as driven to succeed as I am. I've sat down with 1/2 dozen potential co-founders for one of my projects and have decided to go it alone because of this. I'm building a company to make money, not to give away the fruits of my labor.

This prospect is just scary to me. Personally I'd be looking for a co-founder as driven to succeed as I am. I've sat down with 1/2 dozen potential co-founders for one of my projects and have decided to go it alone because of this. I'm building a company to make money, not to give away the fruits of my labor.

This prospect is just scary to me. Personally I'd be looking for a co-founder as driven to succeed as I am. I've sat down with 1/2 dozen potential co-founders for one of my projects and have decided to go it alone because of this. I'm building a company to make money, not to give away the fruits of my labor.

This comment on the article summed it up nicely for me:

"I always thought it was contradictory that venture investors call out "conflict between founders" as the #1 reason for startups failing, yet they're always very reticent about funding a single-founder startup."

David Lean, the great film director, said you can only have one director on any film or you risk diluting the vision.

I think the same is true for creative startups. I find that getting employees and giving them stock and calling them 'co-founder' is all fine as long as there's no confusion that they're to follow my lead.

I think you can argue that all great startups are, in a sense, single founder startups. Woz for Apple, Gates for MS, etc.

Woz for Apple... Really?

Hell no! Woz and Jobs definitely co-founded Apple and build the Apple II. Woz never would have created a polished product on his own, and Jobs has never directly contributed to engineering. But you hire a lot of additional engineers, and not so many additional visionary leaders. Woz became less instrumental over time. As early as the first Macintosh release, Apple had become more Jobs than Woz, but that isn't saying much since Jobs soon left the company.

The Apple II had little in terms of "polish". Back then it was just about the technology, and the Apple II had it in spades. The Mac was more Jobs than Woz, but as I mentioned, the Mac was almost stolen outright from Xerox PARC.

visionary leaders

Can you tell me what vision Jobs added to the Apple II?

Woz' retelling in Triumph of the Nerds (pbs.org/nerds) was that he had little-to-no self-confidence while working on the Apple I. The Apple I itself was a wooden box full of parts, barely suitable for a hobbyist, used to play simple games. The Apple II had a proper stylish case (with fancy logo), documentation, advertising, and a vision of a platform for personal computing to compete with the mainframe. It was a salable product, and extremely successful.

Mac was almost stolen outright from Xerox PARC

Also incorrect. The Xerox Star was an expensive prototype used for research. Many ideas were taken from the Star, but while the first Macintosh looks a lot like a modern computer, the Star was quite different, even having windows that couldn't overlap and other things we would now consider silly.

But, Jobs didn't create the Macintosh - he just hired the engineers who worked on the Star to join his great engineering team to polish and productize it. His contribution has always been to set the bar and only allow things that are great into the final product. This is possibly the most important thing an executive can do, but rarely properly executed.

Cringely did a good job with Triumph of the Nerds (based on his book "Accidental Empires") - if you haven't seen it, I'm pretty sure that you can find it on YouTube.

Mac was almost stolen outright from Xerox PARC Also incorrect. The Xerox Star was an expensive prototype used for research.

Well, Adele Goldberg, head of the Star, and who held the meeting with Jobs, is still around and would tend to disagree. She fumed at the idea of sharing the GUI and had to be strong-armed into giving away the technology.

You might want to read "Dealers of Lightning" which details a lot of this. It's a great read.

Adele Goldberg, who held the meeting with Jobs is still around and would tend to disagree.

Adele is right that the Star pioneered graphical computing. I a somewhat amazed at how little credit people today give to Xerox PARC team. But to say that it was stolen is misleading. The Mac was not a clone of the Star but a derivative system with usability improvements and resource compromises to allow it to run on consumer hardware. (Compare this to Windows, which was a half-hearted implementation of the Mac, compromised to run on common consumer hardware.)

If Xerox had actually productized the Star, it would have sat on the desks of publishers and C-level executives, and probably have been mostly forgotten. Jobs certainly stole Adele's thunder, but I think that he did the right thing.

You might want to read "Dealers of Lightning" which details a lot of this. It's a great read.

I'll check it out. Much of this was also covered in Triumph of the Nerds.

Woz says that because he's a sweet guy. There's no right or wrong answer here, but I can tell you I was there and no one cared what color the case was. The Apple II was a genius product for reasons that had NOTHING to do with: the case, the logo and the advertising. I'm sorry. Woz may be nice about it but historians will remember Steve Jobs as "the guy standing next to Woz in the photos."

The Apple II was a genius product for reasons that had NOTHING to do with: the case, the logo and the advertising.

Well, yes... but there are many things that are genius that I have never heard of. And plenty that I know of that will never be well known.

no one cared what color the case was

Well, Jobs did. As a programmer with some depth, I know how little engineers care about product development and marketing. Great things sell themselves, right? I used to agree, but after seeing the waste of unwanted products and the tragedy of unused pearls, I can no longer believe the Field of Dreams mantra (If you build it, they will come). The guts of the Apple II didn't sell themselves, and the color of the case does matter to buyers. Certainly it was a feat of engineering that would have been impossible without Woz. I also think that it would have been a forgotten player without Jobs.

The Apple II was a product of genius.

After that it was imitating and copying, where the only added value was in marketing/colors/user experience. In music, people sometimes would ask "Lennon or McCartney?" to separate the wheat from the chaff. In hacker terms that question might be "Woz or Jobs?"

A friend of mine did hamachi.cc from start to the point where it was acquired by another company with 4 million users. That took 1.5 years. He did everything - the UI design, coding network interface drivers, the server, marketing, support, ecom site and business development. So, yeah, it's doable, and, yeah, the workload is ungodly, and, no, he didn't want a co-founder.

There are pluses and minuses.

I think emotional stability is the most important personality prerequisite.

Some advantages:

- Zero communication overhead so you're more efficient.

- Huge incentive to automate daily maintenance tasks.

- You know the codebase inside out and can make massive changes (you understand the entire system). But that kind of thinking has also led me to screw up spectacularly so be careful.

I'm a single founder as well. I've learned the hard way that even those who initially seem to have the same drive and capabilities as I do usually don't in the long-run.

I started my first two companies alone, then started a third as a partnership with three others where I was a silent partner, then closed down my first company, then brought in a co-founder for my second company and renamed it, then took over the third company (the partnership) through buy-outs, then desolved my partner for the second (renamed) company.

It's kind of confusing, but the punchline is that every single co-founder who I at one time had a lot of confidence in has not held up their end (all of them admitting they hadn't at one point or another).

That being said, I would love to start a company with someone who shares my drive and capability.

Nothing wrong with being a single founder, a 1 founder business with 40K in profit is already ramen profitable. A 2-3 founder business with 40K in profit is not.

I'm a single founder. I fall in the "tech cofounder" and would welcome a "business cofounder" any day. And, speaking of which, find me if you'd be interested.

I think the Smart Bear guy was a single founder too.

(edit: His name is Jason Cohen)

CodeReviewer is one of the slowest/buggiest crap developer tools on Earth, largely due to its reliance on windows file sharing. It's often using 40% CPU for no reason, sometimes does not notify on new reviews, goes unresponsive every 2-3 days, etc.

Purely from an FU-money-exit point of view, I suppose SB was successful. But IMO that guy seriously needed a good technical cofounder.

What a lot of single founders are out there! I am pleasantly supprised. I would dare predict that the first company to successfully compete with Ycombinator will be the one that does (truly) accept single founders.

I'm also single founder. I've spent quite a bit of time looking for a co-founder and would like a co-founder, but at this point, I figure I just need to ship something and worry about it later.

Single founder, and damn it's tough. :)

Interestingly, there seems to be a higher percentage of single founders in the MicroISV type of companies.

patio11/Patrick is another single founder.

But he's also unusual in other ways. He never quit his day job and he doesn't live in any of the major technology areas.

(He's also remarkably forthright about his experiences and finances... something I find really motivating)

I'm a sole founder and I'd love to have a smart, hardworking cofounder. I'm a nights and weekends coder and will likely remain so until it makes sense to go full time.

I'm currently developing (with Rails) a timeline app called Preceden, which will compete with more established timeline sites like Dipity and Lifeblob. I'm in the Philly area, but I'm shooting for the Bay Area in a few years. If you're interested in talking, you can find details in my profile.

P.S. We really need a central place for this.

Single founder working on http://www.whyspam.me right now.

I like knowing how to do EVERYTHING that has anything to do with my application. I do design, coding, sysadmin, marketing, feedback studies. Its been a fun experience, but hopefully this will give me some street cred so i don't have to do it again. Maybe someone could do an article on best sources to outsource areas of web development in the future.

As far as i'm concerned my site development has been free yes i have to pay server costs, etc. but i haven't had to outsource or hire anyone to do anything else yet. True i've spent quite a few of my own man-hours on the project but i consider the lessons learned and experience gained more than payback for that time.

I think being a single founder can be great if you're just getting started, and your idea is manageable, the lessons you learn will be invaluable. That being said, in the future, I would like to be able to produce more in less time, and having some extra help would be very nice, especially now that I know what I'm doing!

Getting users is just as hard building a product. In a way it's harder, because it is very easy to put energy into product that should have gone to user acquisition. The biggest weakness of being a single founder is that you can't put 100% effort into getting customers (since you're distracted by building the product).

To find someone to devote free time to more work, to reach the end goal that maybe months down the line is hard to do. I've been approached by others to join their side projects, but I would rather work on my own and I think this is maybe how a lot of people feel. Any other founders in this predicament as well ?

I started a startup first, found a cofounder who subsequently completely ditched out when the economy sank us and we ran low on cash. Been running the product on fumes by myself ever since

Though I've admittedly almost burned out on it. I certainly understand why almost all my advisors insist on the necessity of a cofounder. When you hit the lows and there's no one there to balance off of you can just hit rock bottom. I think a lot of the single founder success stories are guys that had a lot in their favor when they started.

But maybe its also harder to kill a company when there's only one person. Like the business currently makes nothing but I could keep it alive as a hobby for 4 years and then sink money into it again when things change. Thats an advantage that a lot of startups don't have or think about, "slow cooking"...

I have a fairly solid startup idea that I would like to pursue. Is it better to take the leap (i.e. should I give my 2 weeks notice from my current job), create a rough prototype of the product and then try to find co-founders based on the prototype? Or is better for me to try to find a co-founder that I can convince to help me with the idea and then take the leap (i.e. quit day job) to develop the prototype. What's hard for me is that without a 80% working prototype to share with potential co-founders, it's much harder to convince them that the concept is valid via power point slide decks, etc. From reviewing some history on Mint, it seems like Aaron Patzer went solo first, and then convinced people to join him based on his prototype. Are there other success stories like his?

It might be a better idea to make a at least a specification/business plan first without quitting since it will force you to really think through the idea. There are always facets you may have missed that could kill it (or convince you even more). If you decide to take a leap... you have a spec!

I'm a single founder, done all the work in product development, marketing, and sales. It's not bad at all.

I was a single founder for a while. I farmed out a few projects and just happened to find a good coder and good person to start a company with..

Maybe it's something that should just happen organically? Has anyone met a cofounder at a mixer or cofounder matching site that worked out well?

Me! while i always try to find someone to help me on my projects, it really is difficult to find someone as passionate a founder as I am. But I never let that fact stop me from doing what I do. It's also forced me to become technical.

Personally I much prefer to be a single founder. If you have the technical skills, the rest can be learned. Not saying the business side of a startup is less important, just that it is easier and quicker to learn.

I'd be willing to bet that if you geeked-out on 'business' you'd find it's a much deeper subject than it appears to be from the perspective of a tech guy alone.

Ha! I first thought this meant "unmarried" rather than "unpartnered."

Same here. I clicked through thinking "Wow, I always thought most founders were single and being married made me a minority."

I've been struggling as to whether finding the right co-founder for my startup is worth the effort.

I think I'm going to stick it out on my own, at least for now.

EDIT: I originally said I was "on the verge" of bringing out my startup, but the language bothered me. I've given myself a two-week deadline to get the Web site off the ground, and a bit more time after that to get the business actually running. HN taught me I should push myself to get the startup moving, or it'll never happen, and that's what I'm doing now. =)

Single founder here (on xp-dev.com)

It can be really, really, tough at times (I remember being on the verge of pulling my hair out a few months ago), and it can get a little lonely, but I decided to go solo as I really didn't find anyone that could had the same level of ambition and resonated well with my personality. though that can change in the future. thinking about a couple of new ideas that I will be looking for co-founders.

Another one here. But I'd love to have a cofounder that could bring something else to the table.

Maybe we should start a list of companies interested in finding cofounders?

I've founded a few small things on my own (done.io probably the most recent, and working on something called Forrst now). Something I've noticed is that while it's great just executing on stuff by myself, it can be a very lonely place, and it's definitely easier to slack or give up on something without someone else depending on you.

I'm a single founder: by circumstance of location, self-funding, age, and family. I do understand why investors prioritize investment into startups with co-founders. I suppose if I was splashing money around, I'd do the same.

I have been through enough to learn to engineer my startup plans to the resources I have.

single founder working on the COD Network under http://www.mcsquare.me , I never knew how hard it could be, sure I've read it before but never could I imagine it's this hard. You have to do everything, blog pitch, SEO , hacking, bug tracking , monetisation strategy, design , and and and.....this is my first startup, so I learn many things the hard way and it's mostly a learn by doing. I'd gladly have a co-founder sometimes...I just entered the beta and I'll probably at some point need someone to help me, but I guess I won't name him co-founder.

Single founder here. http://Ear-Drum.org - an RIA to truly engage in rich music immersion; promotion, collaboration, education, and community.

I spent two years waiting for technology to catch up, refining the concept and business model according to how the industry was changing, and it's changed a lot. Just launched the beta a couple weeks ago.

Being a single founder has forced me to engage and figure out how each segment in the company functions. You're doing everything so when you grow and start hiring people you'd have developed deeper insights into how to manage them, what kind of results you should expect and what challenges they face. Experiencing the nitty gritty of every facet of your business is crucial - I believe, to steer the ship competently. It's not just about knowing the people but the shoes you're asking them to fill and being a single founder there's no option but to learn that, especially on days you'd otherwise just pass the task off to someone else or share the burden. Innovation comes out of struggle.

But it is a rollercoaster and it's equally important to have people in your life to pick you up when you hit the wall, and knock you down when you get too cocky. If those people can't relate to or can't appreciate the work you're doing then a lot of that support can be lost unless you can relate it to them and figure out how to get feedback. Being able to sell your idea to people outside your niche is a valuable skill to master in itself.

As for me, the beta testers and other musicians tend to be hugely passionate and supportive, but that source of inspiration might be limited to my particular product. People might not get as excited at you when you're working on postagestamplickers.com. It's important to tell people what you're doing and discuss your idea with as many people as possible. It's both motivating and good for spotting holes in your bucket. I'm a firm believer in doing over talking, but when you're cold, tired, and lonely you'll be glad you're on a solid path and took the time to store some enthusiasm away for the hard times.

I'm not explicitly for or against being a single founder, but in my case gaining a deep understanding of the company as a living breathing organism from every possible vantage point is absolutely the most important thing, which when it comes down to it, is about creating something organically and moving forward pragmatically. It keeps you from taking steps you're not ready to handle. If I had a co-founder certain things would be more fluid, but I'd miss out on a bunch of raw experience that will shape how I lead and venture in the future.

Me. I'm working on my first, looking for help, but that good match is hard to find.

So, are we going to do something about this (like a support group or something) this or will this just die out after this thread?

I work on my own, although I'm not really working in 'startup mode' at the moment. More doing consulting as a day job and testing out various ideas to see if any of them stick.

I am a single founder, though my wife helps on occasion.

I do try to get as much advice and input from friends and colleagues as I can, so in all honesty I'd have to say it's a team effort.

point of view is worth 80 IQ.

More founders == more points of view. If some of them coincide with the customers' points of view, so much the better...

I too am a single founder - my site/business is http://www.podfeed.net

I'm a single founder - my site/business is http://www.vivapixel.com

This thread reminds me of a quote a friend of mine says "If partners are so great, why didn't God have one?"

Well, depends on the religion.

(As an atheist, I'm still looking at my screen and waiting for my app to self-generate...)

Hence the interest in genetic programming ;)

Edit: Most systems seem to lack any sort of intelligent design

I am a single founder. Still keep my day job (tenure is a beautiful thing!).

If you're a single founder, chances are the co-founder you'd take on most readily is another single founder.

Curtiss P AisleFinder.com

Isn't "single founder" just a result of not being able to get others to join your effort?

No! You could also be too greedy to share or too mistrustful to believe others won't screw up your idea.

Seriously, why so negative? It's not like five are necessarily better than two.

No, I had people asking to join me. I was not interested.


single founder, for the simple reason that i like to be in control.

imho, it is always a mistake to make somebody not strictly necessary for the business a founder. dishing out vanity co-founder titles at employee level equity stakes is debatable.

I thought it was too hard to start a company with a single founder because Paul Graham said so. That guy knows everything about start ups. He is possibly the greatest entrepreneur of all time and didn't benefit from a bubble or anything. Anybody more successful than pg only got there due to luck. Everybody involved with start ups should just read everything he writes, conform to it, and help spread the word. You can't become a trailblazer until you embrace this dogma.

This deserves the down votes because it's a little more smirky than funny, but there's a valid point here.

YC has has been called a cult before, and I don't think anyone would argue that there are some eccentricities, and one of these is the over-valuing of the two founder model.

You can't become a trailblazer until you embrace this dogma. That's a great line, actually, and says it all.

ha ha ha... good one.

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