As a first time entrepreneur, most of us feel the need to work with a co-founder. Whether it’s someone who will complement our skill set or just someone that you trust, it feels like the necessary thing to have.
For your first business, I would strongly advise that you stay away from having a co-founder. Entrepreneurship is a long journey and it’s one where most of the obstacles must be tackled alone.
You probably want a co-founder because….
You’re scared that you can’t do it alone.
If you’re afraid of accomplishing things on your own, entrepreneurship may not be for you. When problems arise, you’re in charge of fixing them to the best of your ability. Whether it’s a pr crisis, the phone lines crash or paypal disables your account… it’s up to you to come up with a solution. Starting your own business will put a tremendous amount of pressure on you and it’s something you have to be ready to assume.
You want to delay accountability.
With two people and equal accountability, you’ll keep each other in check to get the work done right? Entrepreneurs don’t need to be told the things they need to do. They’re usually too busy trying to conjure up more time in the day so that they can cross off another thing on their list.
You don’t have all of the skills.
The most attractive co-founder relationship is where two people have different skill sets that complement each other very well. It’s true that the most prestigious startup incubator in the world Y-Combinator (birthplace of Dropbox) almost exclusively accepts startups with more than one founder… but this is your first company. This is your business idea. You can hire, freelance, fire and outsource your way to all of the right talent you need.
Why your co-founder relationship won’t work…
No one cares about the business like you do.
With my blog WhiteRaverRafting.com, no one cares about the content, sharing and relationship that we have with our readership like I do. Even if you bring on your friend who seems fully vested in the idea, they will not care about the business in the same way you do. They won’t understand your attention to detail, need for perfection or passion to work late into the morning.
It will kill your relationship.
As a new entrepreneur your talent pool for possible co-founders usually consists of friends. There is nothing worse than working with a friend and I strongly recommend against it. Money, responsibility and failure will absolutely destroy your friendship. You’ll resent them for not putting in as much effort as you or vice versa. When one person doesn’t hold up their end, blame is assigned and history is immediately forgotten. Startups are emotional… tempers fly. When you know someone well it makes this way worse.
You don’t know how you work.
When you start a business or launch a startup, it’s like being re-programmed from all of the education you’ve received and media you’ve interpretted. Simply put… business is f*cking hard. All of your ideas and concepts are broken, your understanding of people changed and eventually you build on new routines and concepts. You know how to reach maximum productivity, realize when to take breaks and are constantly trying new ways to fit in your social life as well.
Without knowing how you handle new situations, financial crises and screaming customers (if you get that far)… it’s hard to setup a healthy working relationship with a cofounder. It may sound easy like let’s divide all of the parts half and half, but it’s not like that at all.
There are so many lessons you have to learn when you start your first business and it’s best to experience these on your own first. You’ll build your own processes, find comfort levels and complete challenges that you never thought was possible. Your businesses success will be the direct result of one thing… you.
Figuring Things Out As a Solo Founder
**Technical Requirements: **
For technical jobs like coding or design, it’s easy to hire a freelancer off of Odesk or Elance. I recommend hiring a project manager (expensive freelancer most likely local based) and having them interview potential freelancers and monitor their workflow. Do not think that you can just post a website spec and immediately get the whole project built. You could approach a technology firm in the United States, pitch them your idea and let them put to paper how it would work. Then you take that to companies in China or India and let them do the build for a fraction of the cost.
Marketing and Sales:
Largely these are skills that can be developed over time, but the difference is that you can start immediately and at least be poor or average. You can’t just pickup programming and start building applications.
The internet makes learning these skills easier than ever before. You have websites, blogs, podcasts, presentations, videos and tutorials that can teach you what to do and show you case studies. There are millions of experts online who share their expertise and knowledge and are often eager to help others when they can. Connect with alumni from your school or join forums (I’ve been posting a lot here). You cannot be afraid of relearning everything and there is an abundance of free information available online.
Personally, I prefer to study successful people and the strategies that they were able to use in their businesses. Even though Andrew Warner likes to say, “Ohhhh man I’m doing this totally wrong I need to do this for my business” in every single one of his interviews, he tells some revealing things with entrepreneurs in all kinds of different industries. My two favorite podcasts are TropicalMBA and Mixergy.
Join a networking group or mastermind. A mastermind group is dedicated towards one goal and the members hold each other accountable. There is a certain loneliness factor being an entrepreneur, especially when you first start out. Having a group to talk to, bounce ideas off of or create new strategies with is invaluable. Many long time entrepreneurs say this is the #1 thing they wish they got started with earlier.
Here’s what he had to say,
The main benefit of having a mentor is that it’s helped me put the copywriting learning process into hyper-drive. I can’t imagine how much longer it would have taken me to get to the point I’m at if I was doing it on my own. Especially valuable has been the advice on what to say and how to approach meetings with clients. A high level of preparation means you can be more confident, and ultimately, more professional.
The advice and expertise that you’re able to get from others is invaluable. It can prevent you from making the same beginner mistakes and ultimately lead you to creating a better business.
Funding will be one of the biggest challenges you face when you’re building and scaling a business. When you take money, you lose control. How much you’re comfortable with is up to you. When you watch a show like The Sharktank… those guys are literally stealing money from the good businesses as they regularly take 50% or more of the companies. Holy crap that’s a lot of equity!!!
The chance of you securing capital as an entry level entrepreneur are minimal, so it makes sense why some of them would take it. Investors want seasoned pros who represent less risk and a greater chance that they’ll see a return. Traditional business loans are almost impossible in today’s environment, so you’re going to have to get lean. Remember if you take no funding, you take no orders.
The good news is that you don’t need millions of dollars to launch a business today. Welcome to the world of bootstrapping. Less money means you have to justify every purchase, marketing spend or new hire. It’s very possible to build a multi-million dollar company without ever taking VC funding. We did it at GiftCardRescue and 37signals has a blog dedicated them.
You may not need millions, but what do you do if you need a couple thousand or even tens of thousands of dollars? The internet has again solved a problem in the fundraising market by creating crowdsourcing platforms like Kickstarter or IndieGoGo. You can also apply for grants and enter contests to get the money you need.
Original Grain (wooden watch company) just raised $100,000 on Kickstarter and revealed it all in this interview with Sean Ogle.
Ultimately you have to want it, you have to believe and you have to be persistent to the point where people think you’re a little bit crazy.
**How bad do you want to be successful? **
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