It would be great if someone started an incubator devoted to single founders, specifically tailoring the program to address some of the associated shortcomings. Perhaps it could also be a fertile ground to merge any compatible founders into teams.
If any angel(s) are looking for a niche in the incubator "market", this would be a pretty good one. Real value can be created if someone can increase the chances of success for single founders.
I'm a single founder who's had success, and am toying around with the idea of starting an incubator. Wouldn't mind a partner this time around -- the single founder way is great for utmost control but sometimes you need someone to help you see the forest for the trees.
In recent history, Mint.com is the poster child, however there is still an open question about whether he sold too early.
Lots of people like to point out Drew Houston of Dropbox as another single-founder success story (and it is!), but he did have a co-founder by the time they presented at Demo Day (if not before YC started, I can't remember which).
I think this sounds great. While I'm aware of a couple studies that show single-founder companies being less successful than multiple-founder companies, I think the problem is being exacerbated by a self-fulfilling prophecy created by investors that single-founder companies cannot succeed.
Your comment history indicates that you like to be contrary and/or snarky, so I'm not replying to you, but for others reading this thread... there are actually good VCs out there (and yes, there are a lot of bad ones).
There are definitely investors who do this kind of thing to business partners, but they are usually non silicon valley, non tech investors (like a local car dealership owner who is investing in a restaurant). It is really rare among professional investors. It might happen again at the private equity level, where established businesses are being restructured, but there you could argue the value is not with the founders in all cases, or with management. I have little experience at that scale though.
In a startup, the founders, and their relationship with each other and the company, is probably the biggest asset. If an investor doesn't like the team, he just won't invest at all.
jazzychad is clearly a smart guy, and capable of running things early - people like pg know that he has what it takes to get the company to a certain point, but also knows that jazzychad knows when he needs help, and isnt afraid to say so, a very important trait for successful founders.
9 times out of 10 you've come up with this idea on the crapper, in the shower, or at the bar with your friends - spend more time thinking at a high level, who will use this (target market), how much money could i make (market size), and what will it need (design, development[mobile, web], advertising, sales team, support, infrastructure), and how long it will take. After running through these things, the result is not likely to be you deciding to apply to YC as a single founder. [see last paragraph of comment if you just can't find a co-founder, it happens]
People who are capable of executing as a single founder will do so, and people like pg can see this by looking at the individuals history, and talking with them about their new idea.
Single founders that fail are founders who are overly confident, execute badly, or are scared of 'big scary investors' and negative feedback (yea there are more, these are just examples). Folks like pg can see these things in people, and will deny your application, rightfully so.
If you have an idea, and you think that YOU as an individual are the perfect 'team' then apply to YC that way, if pg agrees you'll get in. I can't imagine it happens very often that people who are humble and grounded think to themselves "I don't need anyone else, I am a baus!", if you do, step back and rethink things.
If its a matter of you just not being able to find a co-founder, why not just disclose it, and ask for help rather than trying to manipulate your app, or your idea to appear as though you don't need help?
IMO the question is more nuanced than "how many founders is best", e.g. at the Google IO funding panel, it was stated 4 is statistically optimal (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=15iWltPLuPY). But really, we should be asking what is right for a given type of industry/business, and what is right for different types of people.
If you don't have the confidence to go after something solo, maybe you shouldn't be in charge in the first place. Having said that, personal experiences have taught me that a great partner can help innovation through the checks and balances that occur during brainstorming.
I appreciate the post, I'm hoping to get my app in by tomorrow as a solo founder (though I am interviewing a potential cofounder, hopefully we can work something out within the next month).
I particularly loved the part where you asked pg why he let you in. If nothing else, I understand my startup backwards, forewards, inside out and upside down, and I'm getting closer to conveying all that in the app.
Life keeps getting crazier and crazier, but I wouldn't have it any other way.
I would be interested to know with the odds already stacked against single founders, what the likelihood of a non-technical single founder getting accepted is. I can't imagine it is high. Has there ever been one in YC?
I don't yet know enough about the single founder bit, but there is one unrelated sentence that you write that gives me great pause in the way you chose to write it:
"But, if you want to do something big in the tech sector, you absolutely must be in SV for the connections, money, talent, etc."
Really? You "absolutely must" be in SV? Seems like Groupon, Foursquare, Groupme, Bitly, Grubhub, Gawker, Gilt, Kickstarter, Amazon, Tumblr etc etc etc are doing just fine not in SV.
Great companies can be started in many places. A critical mass is helpful, as is money. You can get money from anywhere. I'm from Pittsburgh. A company there (Dynamics) just raised a $35 million series B. They are doing great on "connections, money, talent, etc" in Pittsburgh. Several of your YC batchmates will leave SV for other places. They will be just fine on all those things too. You might not have been fine in NC, but there are many places you would be able to raise money, find talent, etc. We ended up rejecting some VC's that wanted us to be in Cali but ended up with terms we liked from investors we like. (We're in Chicago) I have occasionally given thought to going back to SF/SV but for our business there wouldn't be any impact other than we'd have to pay higher salaries and rent.
Of course companies can be built elsewhere. People with one leg can finish marathons. That doesn't mean it isn't sub-optimal.
Startups are pretty dicey. I don't know what a founder's chances are, but I'm pretty sure that they are better in the Valley. Depending on your market, your personal network, etc., they might not be THAT much better... But it's pretty hard to argue that, on average, the Valley doesn't help your chances in StartupLand.
OP here. Ok, yes that statement was a little bit extreme on my part, but I think it is still 95% true. Startup location is another one of those holy-war topics, but if you want to learn by immersion, SV is the place to do it. There are certainly valid reasons for locating a company outside of SV, but for first-timers like myself trying to build my network of peers, professionals, mentors, friends, VCs, etc, it feels like this is the center of the universe (for better or for worse).
Sure, if you want to examine companies over 15 years (as in your list) you can find companies with big VC in many different geographic locations. That doesn't chance the fact that most such companies are in the valley. I find the idea that you should be in the valley if you want big VC relatively straightforward and uncontroversial.
Sidebar: Of course, if you're going to go for a different type of startup than YC's particular brand, you can do it from anywhere (central Japan, for instance). The article refers to such startups as a "lifestyle businesses". I find this terminology hilarious considering the most prominent example of a "lifestyle business" in our field has funded a racecar build by advanced beings for one of its founders.
They now have a pretty small Palo Alto office (<100 people) and over 3,000 in Chicago. I don't actually think it's that relevant as they started and got huge (Google wanted to buy them for $6Bn huge) without the presence in SV