In the startup world, my current position isn’t particularly enviable.
I am a one man wolf pack. Yes, I am a single founder, a.k.a. a random guy hacking on stuff alone in his living room.
Being a lone wolf isn’t always a bad thing. Except for the fact that in startups, it kind of is.
Conventional wisdom is that you should have a cofounder when you start something. It is all over startup blogs and articles. Accelerators and VCs highly prefer founding teams. And not without good reason. Empirically, most successful companies start this way.
I assure you that I am not a one man wolf pack by choice. If I could choose, I would be part of an awesome team. Right now.
So, why aren’t I?
This has been one of the most difficult issues for me to handle in my time as an entrepreneur.
The single founder dilemma.
At any given moment, there are two things I can do:
- Look for a cofounder. This would be great, but it is a lot like dating. I have no idea how things will work out. I just need to keep putting myself out there. The problem is that each coffee meeting takes time. This time easily adds up, begging the question: is there a better way to use this time?
- I can also start getting shit done. I’m not short on ideas. And I am technical, so why not just start coding? Besides, each git commit feels like real tangible progress. The problem is that we all know that most startup ideas suck. So “getting shit done” can often be a colossal waste of time.
And herein lies the trap for the single founder.
It gets worse.
As I already mentioned, I am not short on ideas. I am also not short on confidence. Look, I didn’t quit my job because I didn’t believe I could make stuff happen.
But, I am not the only one like this.
So what happens? Most single founders choose choice (2) and start getting shit done. Sooner or later, we get pretty far along (at least in our minds). And by some point, we start to drink our own Kool aid. Shoot, this project just might become something!
By the time we meet another single founder, there are several questions:
- Do I drop my project?
- Do I get him or her to drop their project?
- Do we work on something together, requiring both of us to drop our projects?
- Or, do we hack on something part time?
Numbers (1) through (3) require people dropping work, and people are bad with the sunk costs problem.
In theory, alternative (4) seems like the best option to me. It allows people to try each other out, while making some progress. The problem is that it requires both people to set aside time. And each minute not working on your main project increases its likelihood for failure.
What I’m doing
So what to do? I haven’t completely figured it out yet.
The only reasonable answer seems to do both at the same time, and leave space open for alternative (4).
There is one thing that I do know, and I learned it from dating: if you never date, you won’t meet people. Simple as that. Meeting people is necessary. And the upshot is that even if you don’t meet a cofounder, you will slowly build out your network.
At the same time, I am never really short on ideas. I just can’t guarantee they are any good. In the meantime, I’m going to keep building stuff.
Who knows that will happen. Maybe I’ll meet someone awesome tomorrow. Or maybe my next project, Soulmix, will gain traction. If I had to bet on it, I think it will be a long process of building products and building relationships. At some point, it will probably seem natural to work with a friend on an idea that we are both excited about.
Are you a single founder? Have you been a single founder? How have you handled this dilemma? I would love to hear your thoughts!
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