The Startup Dilemma: Single founder v/s multiple founding members


The human mind has been a subject of fascination, entertainment and sometimes ridicule for philosophers, psycho analysts and more. The startup founder’s mind, could therefore be an interesting subject for analysis. (what a startup can learn from the bystander apathy experiment might make an interesting read)

An interesting case in point here is how easy it is for a single founder company to run a company? Is it imperative to have co-founders? We see two views coming forth. A single founder has too much stress, s/he has to make all the decisions. “It is easy to startup as a single founder because there are no clashes of opinions. You take in views from all quarters but finally it’s you. But as you scale up, it becomes difficult and there’s too much to do,” says a single founder of a Bangalore based startup. The biggest challenge for a single founder is that there is no shoulder to cry on. You don’t want to take your stress home and talk to your family about it neither will your friends understand what you’re going through.

But a single founder has an advantage when it comes to ego clashes. Humans nurture big egos, which can grow bigger as the person ‘grows up’. Sharing from his experience, Bowei Gai, a serial entrepreneur who sold his last company to Linkedin shared, "Two member founding teams encounter an impasse many a times when nobody is willing to budge from their stand. There hardly seems a way out. If you talk about the ideal team size, YCombinator's philosophy makes a lot of sense but again, it is not always possible." So, what is the YCombinator's philosohy? The three founder theory- a tech guy, a designer and a hustler. A hustler is someone who can do everything and often is the key member of the team. He’s the one who can save your company when it is stuck in quick sand.

But what if you’re not three? While there is no clear answer to the question, there is consensus that anything more than three usually doesn’t work out. There are too many decision makers then. One, two or three, the debate can rage on but for all kind of team sizes, there are some challenges they have to charter across:

Becoming Dispensable

One of the big responsibilities for a founding team is always building a team which is stronger than they are. The tech head has to find a person who can code better than s/he does, the sales lead has to build a team who has innovative ideas in their hat. The work has to be delegated and the core team has to become dispensable. The founders cannot keep on doing the hands-on work, they have to grow beyond it and think of the bigger picture.

Losing a friend

The path of an entrepreneur is not easy. Differences in opinions are bound to be there and arguments can heat up. Maybe this is one of the few advantages for a single founder but if you’re starting up with a friend, you need to be really sure. You can’t just startup with a stranger but if you’re starting up with someone whom you have known from years, it doesn’t mean that you’ll necessarily click when you do business together. There have been innumerable examples where companies have fallen apart and relationships broken for a lifetime.

Doing things you don’t want to

If you like writing and that’s what you want to do, take up a job as a writer. If you’re starting up a newspaper, writing will be a very small part of what you’d be doing. So, as a founder your goal should be to build a business. You’ll have to do things that are not your strong points. You’ll have to pick up skills, implement and master them quickly.

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