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Find a cofounder or continue as a single founder...decisions decisions.
6 points by omnisci 1816 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 11 comments
It seems that YC and Techstars put a lot of emphasis on avoiding single founders. Ideally, this makes sense considering starting a business is a metric ton of work and many times, it’s too much for an individual. However, it seems that the biggest problem that YC deals with is cofounder conflicts,. Many times these conflicts fatal to a business and ultimately cost YC money. So where is the benefit?

I’m asking this as I’m curious about finding a cofounder. Briefly, I’m a very motivated and particular single founder (well, soon to be) that is starting a tech business in the near future. While I know I need help to bring my idea to fruition, I am more interested in hiring the right people than finding a cofounder to help with the business. In my limited experience, it seems that finding a cofounder is almost like dating. There is no “formula” that can predict a good cofounder, and even if you think you have someone great, they bang your best friend and take ½ your stuff.

So, I’d like to have a discussion about which is better for a single founder. Do you go on the dating websites (http://www.cofounderslab.com) and find your perfect cofounder or stand your ground as a single founder and hire good people.

What does HN think?

I'm facing the same dilemma. I'm technical enough to get the product to MVP (though I suspect it will all need to be reworked to take it to scale), have enough marketing sense to get it distributed and have enough BD hustle to have found beta partners (we're an Enterprise B2B company) to test it with.

The one thing that irks me is being alone in the trenches. This $hit is tough and its like whack a mole. You nail one thing and another thing pops up. Wouldn't it be great to have four hands instead of just two?

I often think of it in terms of resources. Right now, the resources are my time, the money investors have put in and advisors' time to a lesser extent. To hit the milestones on the way to success you have to carefully allocate those resources. The kicker is the time portion. It is very easy as a lone founder to get deep into a rabbit hole (product feature, marketing approach or customer acquisition channel even) without having anyone to check you. Other eyes on projects help you to better allocate your resources in addition to giving you double the time-based resources to allocate. Advisors are cool but they aren't in the jungle with you and they won't wake up in the middle of the night to scribble ideas and email you about something that could be a game changer for your startup.

That said, with co-founders come issues of motivation, passion for the project, etc. Partnering with a great co-founder is like a marriage but it is not easy to find the right fit.

To sum it up, I have no clue. I'm weeble wobbling between the two myself.

Finding a co-founder is tough. Someone summed it up for me by saying most nerds didn't play sports, so they have no clue how to gel, play their position and just get things done.

Most co-founders don't have or don't believe in the project enough to vest in with money and others just want to captain their own ship.

To solve the money problem I put up an auction on Dreamybids.com, the auction winner will get 5% for the $25 they used to join the auction. Still it seems self motivation is a quality only founders have.

Finding the right co-founder can be hard depending on who you are and who you know. If you can't manage to find someone, hiring the right person (or people) might do, and you can always shift an ideal candidate into the co-founder position after working together for a while. It all depends on what resources you have available and how much you can do yourself.

Although my experience is limited I am in precisely the same situation these days. I have spent about six months looking for the right technical co-founder. I can't hire at standard developer wages and would prefer some help with the heavy lifting (my skill set is more design and business-oriented). Searching for the ideal candidate has been a time-consuming process involving countless emails, numerous in-person meetings/interviews, filling out profiles, applying for founder matchmaker services, etc. It has been a time sink much like fundraising... only I haven't found a co-founder.

Instead, I'll be bootstrapping as a single founder for as long as I need to (or can). I figure that since I have the capacity to start building the product envision I may as well get moving. I can always take on a co-founder later, after I have more to show.

I've been a solo co-founder for nearly 2 years and will tell you it's definitely not for the meek.

There's definitely a very prevalent stigma against solo founders for good reason. Most people can't get a company off the ground alone. They lack the psychological, techical and marketing skills.

The average person looks at what you're trying to do and often will say "you can't do that" but what they mean is "I couldn't do it."

My take is to understand whether you need a co-founder? Can you do business development and product development. Do you have a rich network? How high-touch is your sales/customer development process.

Whatever you decide, don't give up and good luck!

A startup is tooo much work for a single founder. A team of 2 is ok (at least). You can hire someone on the technical side, But at least you need a dedicated co-founder on the business development side( yes BD is API centric now, not people centric, but there should be an Owner for this). This is required to scale up your business. The actual growth of the companty has to be on the side of Gaining more business from customers, Not on the technical side, That you can give to someone else who work for you. But in the beggining you need to know how to do it.

Thanks for the comments. My concerns about a cofounder seem to be consistent with the comments.

I guess I really won't know until I move forward. Right now I have enough basic knowledge (technical, business, and marketing) that I could produce a beta version.

My goals are the following: 1. Make a beta for my users (already have them waiting) 2. ??? 3. Profit. By profit, I mean grab the attention of investors and fill in the blanks (mostly technical) by hiring. From there, if someone works with me long enough, I’d considering bringing them on as a cofounder.

This is basically the path I've followed (I guess I'm at your stage 2?), and I can't recommend it enough. I've worked with 3 developers now, and talked to God knows how many more, and while I think my current developer may end up being a fit as a true partner/co-founder, I'm really thankful I didn't jump into bed with either of the original two I was working with for various reasons (limited technical skills, lack of dedication, etc).

It's very easy to say "get a cofounder". Finding a worthwhile partner is much harder.

I saw a TED talk a few days ago (sorry I can't find it now) that said that there has never been a person in the history of mankind who could build a product, manage the company and manage the money. Most people can do one thing very good, some people can do all three things poorly, but no one can do all three well. You need to find a co-founder if you want to seriously attempt a startup. This is all coming from a solo-founder.

A single person can't do all 3 of those things, that makes perfect sense. A single person could, however, hire people to take care of some of those issues. Is that correct or just my being naive?

Yes, but you need money to hire those people. Where will you get the money? You won't get any investor money until you get a team, you won't get a team until you get money. Those other people are going to have to be co-founders.

Don't. You are much better off hiring people than having a cofounder. Because it's great when things are going well. But when they aren't you aren't going to be motivated AT ALL to work on YOUR idea.

Cofounders work better when you both come up with the idea at the same time.

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