Home Going Alone: Thoughts on the Single-Person Startup

Going Alone: Thoughts on the Single-Person Startup

There are more than 20 million single-person businesses in the United States, comprising about three-quarters of all businesses, according to Inc, citing recent Census data. But despite those numbers, the notion persists that founding a business alone is more difficult and more risky than founding it with two or more people.

Because that two-person founding team is often praised as the perfect, well, marriage of skill and responsibility, many solo founders feel as though they should search for another person with whom to take the startup plunge. But as the costs for starting a business have declined substantially and as “lean” has become the modus operandi for many new companies, as Geoff Lewis wrote in a Business Insider article in April, “Not having a co-founder is no longer a valid excuse for not starting.”

In a post today entitled “The Royal We: Single Founder Startups,” Ray Grieselhuber examines some of the reasons that people continue to believe that having co-founders increases your odds of startup success. Co-founders, so the argument goes, help solidify your emotional fortitude. They mean more hands to get the work done. And they provide an importance source for new ideas.

“Being a single founder is just a starting place. If you decide to raise money or achieve profitability on your own, you can hire the people you need to come up with new ideas and do more work. You’ve already demonstrated to yourself that you have or can find the emotional fortitude to survive.” – Ray Grieselhuber

Grieselhuber disputes each of these, arguing that having “more hands” is “the least important, although it is probably the one that most people think of as being hardest when they hear about people doing startups on their own. You could have 20 people on your team and there will always be more work than you can handle at any time. In many early stage startups, having too many people can be a kiss of death (not that 2-4 is too many, necessarily.)”

He does agree in the importance in having an influx of new ideas, although these needn’t come from co-founders. Single-person founders need to work to find ways to generate new ideas, to get feedback, to get advice.

Grieselhuber concludes that “Many of the startups I meet would work just fine with just The One, because they have that right mixture of charisma, determination and product vision. This is important to note because, even if you start out on your own, it doesn’t mean you won’t someday be able to hire employees and recruit strong players for your executive team. Being a single founder is just a starting place.”

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