Is it more difficult to build a startup with a single founder versus having multiple co-founders?
They say two heads are better than one, but what are the pros and cons of being a solo founder vs. a co-founder?
In my experience, it is significantly easier without a co-founder. The reason for that is that startup types often have very definite plans for what they want to create. I have found that having a great secondary person working for me is a lifesaver, but have a second owner has generally proven more difficult.
It is ideal to know what the personality makeup of each of the founders is ahead of time. If you don't compliment each other, you will clash with one another. I am studying entrepreneurial personality types right now to see if there are targeted predictive indicators for success.
Having built teams for companies for the last 13 years, a clear definition of leadership roles is critical. I think that is true with entrepreneurs as well.
I have done both. The others here will respond to the plusses and minuses. My two biggest cautions to you is the divorce phase which will ultimately happen. The second is the potential for a stale mate. One of you must be the decision maker/breaker when you just can't agree. A strong written agreement with a buy/sell is a must!
It is much harder, consider it impossible, to get funded as a solo founder. You need to have a team. Whether the team are co-founders is immaterial.They should have clearly defined roles, of course.
A solo founder always is at risk of stepping in front of a bus and no one knowing who is to replace you.
I hope you are well. Kyle, I can say from experience that both scenarios have their pros and cons.
Multiple Partners - Pros
-Incorporating different skill sets and expertise
-More bandwidth to handle growth
-Ability to approach and grow business from different points of view
Multiple Partners - Cons
-Opinions on direction of business may differ
-Effort & level of conviction may differ
-Inability to make decisions without approval
In short, there are so many external resources that are available for an individual owner to help with effeciencies, growth, costs, and direction. I would evaluate if the partnership is necessary to be successful or more of a want to share the experience and risk with.
I'm sorry I couldn't be more help.
Kyle, the vagaries and the nuances of start-ups make partnering a good idea, as you draw from each other's strengths and get synergies. It is good to have a written agreement and an exit or buy-out clause.
Invariably, things will breakdown in terms of relationship but one or the other party can make a financial return in selling out so one may have to be pragmatic.
So, the "building" that takes place in the first few years can benefit from multiple co-founders but mismatch of efforts and personalities, interests and goals will surface and almost all will break up in the medium term or thereabouts.
One other thing to consider is that founders often command higher equity ownership which can sometimes lead to difficult questions when raising outside capital. Good luck.
Choose your partners wisely. I have had 3 businesses, all with partners. Choose people that don't have the same skill set, have skin in the game and want it as badly as you do, with the capacity to give 110%. Otherwise, you're looking at trouble. I personally recommend women -- better follow-through and organizational skills.
I tend to prefer one founder businesses because you are in control. That said, I tend to find single founder businesses to be humbling because every mistake is yours.
Co-founders get to blame the other person. co-founders get to argue or fall into a rut because the other founder won't... Single founder businesses do not have that excuse.
On the other side of the coin, there are co-founder businesses like Google where management is inserted above the founders and then someone is always there to push learning in your face. Those multiple founder arrangements work quite well because (a) the founders are forced to learn and (b) the founders as a group can push back on management if it is being unreasonable.
So, all in all, it ia about balance.
Having "founded" several initiatives, I think it depend on what your vision is, the type of initiative you are pursuing, and the people involved. For instance, I founded a national non-profit and because non-profits are dependent on grants private, and individual funding - in this case - it helped to have co-founders who essentially shared in developing my vision and became the "founding board," thereby giving me the best of both worlds whereby I could pursue my vision while being able to take advantage of the vast experience and networks that my founding board brought to the organization. On the flip-side, when establishing a for-profit enterprise and based on what I've experienced, if it is "your" vision and unless the other "co-founders" have the same mind-set and/or vision, it can be somewhat more challenging and can actually impede development efforts - which is why, in this scenerio, I think "silent partners" come into play because these are people who believe in your vision and trust in your ability to grow the business, so much so that they want to be a part of it and are there to offer their support because they have a vested interest, but who do not "need" to have a formal say in how the business is established or grown. However, there are for-profit scenerios whereby a business would not exist without co-founders and in these instances, I think it depends on the not only the vision but the strengths of the people involved - for instance, if my forte' is in planning and I know my weakness is in marketing - then, I would naturally gravitate toward involving a co-founder who maintains marketing as a strength, etc., etc. - just my "two-cents!"
Well, two heads are better than one only when they compliment each other, otherwise, they are worse than one when they conflict with each other.
I am a solo founder, apart from the other common pros and cons that have been mentioned, the major cons I feel is that angels / VCs tend to shun away from me simply because I'm a single founder.
It boils down to how much funding one need and the freedom in decision one wants to give up. Going solo means the decision are in a person hands but there is no one to delegate tasks or make sure the risk undertaking is not difficult. Going in with multiple owners it could complicate if some are a not all in and it should be place in a legal framework.
Having read the replies I feel there is enough viable information here for you. I would only like to submit to you that you start out as a single from there as your company grows if/when you can then graft players into your company as needs arise. Some may feel this typifies a lack of commitment and to that I say; that maybe the case but as each of us have grown so shall a company. Finally I submit that if you have others that share your vision and all are of one accord then go for it, but taking the advise of Dennis to heart.
I'd say it's more difficult to build with a single founder. Don’t go at it alone. Find one or more partners in whom you believe. Your partners will help you get through the tough times, offer advice, and help you celebrate the little wins. Also, new partners add new ideas to the mix. Find and rely on the resources you need to navigate the obstacles you will encounter along the way, and to get feedback to ensure you remain flexible and innovative. Seek advice and wisdom from those you trust and who have already been through what you’re facing.
Be sure you know what you don’t know, and be open to finding the right person/people who can help educate you and ensure you get varying perspectives on your options and actions. Consider partnering with a seasoned mentor or business advisor—possibly, someone who has started their own business and successfully grown it.
Being an old timer in a s/w product development I:
• founded and funded a company
• hired developers and built a product
and now am looking for an equity co-founder to market it and manage the business…
As everyone else has said, there are pros and cons to each but if you're interested in raising money from outside investors they tend to prefer 2-3 founders on the team - assuming all of the founders have something significant to offer and not just because the original founder read somewhere it's easier to get funding with a 2-3 person founding team ;)
My recommendation would be to honestly assess your where your weaknesses are and then consider co-founders who can round those out. A co-founder needs to be someone who balances you out in both skill set and personality. Here are some tips for choosing a co-founder that will help you grow your business rather than causing conflict and headaches: http://www.catecosta.com/tips-for-choosing-a-cofounder-for-your-new-startup/
And, as always, get it in writing. Make sure that you agree upon everything and have a very clear partnership agreement and have your co-founder on a vesting schedule.