Do I go at it solo or should I have a co-founder?

Mar 25, 2022

startup cofounder decisions

If you are unsure whether you should manage a startup business alone or with (a) co-founder(s), first consider the benefits and disadvantages of both sides:

Solo

  • Potential for less startup costs (fewer salaries, fewer people to support)
  • Allows you to set your vision by yourself, and you make all the decisions
  • Less potential for conflict (well, none if you’re by yourself), BUT…
  • It can get very lonely and carrying all the responsibility yourself is daunting
  • Investors often refuse to back solo founders and prefer backing teams

With a partner

  • More likely to have a broader range of skills and experiences (which can only be a good thing)
  • Less likely to head in the wrong direction as you can bounce ideas off each-other and act as sounding boards
  • You get to share the stress, the costs and responsibility, BUT…
  • Conflicts can happen and having a co-founder is very much like being in a relationship (or a marriage) and takes a lot of work

It’s worth considering a few points when taking on a partner:


Are you equally committed to making this venture work both financially and from a time perspective?

Make sure you both (or all if more than two) have similar expectations of the commitment you’re bringing to the table.


Do you like each other?

You will spend a lot of time with your co-founders. A lot of that time will be in a stressful situation, so you should find people whose company you enjoy.


Do you have complementary skills?

Two heads are better than one. Assess your skills and see how they complement each other (or not). When you’re starting, you need to be a master of many professions (accounting, business development, marketing, compliance, human resources, sales, vision etc…) so it makes sense to find co-founders who are better at and more enthusiastic about certain tasks than you are.


Last but not least, make sure you discuss early on what will happen if there is a conflict, how decisions are made or if one of you wants to leave. It’s always better to have those difficult discussions when you’re on good terms than further down the line under stress.

Why women are a success strategy

Women cofounders are still sorely lacking in the startup world – as well as on boards of big companies. But times are changing as people realise that putting a women in charge is a strategy that supersedes ‘any growth hack that has been in practice all these years’:

  • Private technology companies led by women are more capital-efficient, achieving 35% higher ROI, and, when venture-backed, 12% higher revenue than startups run by men, according to the Kauffman Foundation (Source).
  • Women founded companies in First Round Capital’s portfolio outperformed companies founded by men by 63% (Source).
  • According to a survey commissioned by McKinsey and Company, European firms with the highest proportion of women in power saw their stock value climb by 64 percent over two years, compared with an average of 47 percent (Source).

What our startups say about having co-founders:

“My founders left along the way. It is important that you think about this when you start working together. If you break up after a while, there are always discussions about money etc. I see this everywhere around me. Put things on paper to avoid big fights.”

Chantal, Co-Founder at Kromkommer

“Having a co-founder is incredibly important. I think you’re crazy enough to start a business with a co-founder, let alone without one. One of the most important things you do early on is figuring out what you don’t know and it’s probably most things, so find someone who can complement what you bring to the table. Plus, it’s more fun… you get to share your success with someone else and you get to provide therapy for each other when things aren’t going so well.”

Dan Kurzrock, Co-Founder and Chief Grain Officer at Regrained

Read more at: startupmanual.eitfood.eu

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