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Can a Start-Up Survive with a Single Founder?

There are a number of companies out there that were founded by two or more people and it is clear that the general rule of thumb is that a company is much better off with a co-founder, but can a start-up business survive with a single founder?

There are a number of people out there who feel that they could survive in the business world as the sole founder of their company, and this may well be true. Many famous business entrepreneurs managed to start their company independently – just look at Michael Dell (Dell, Inc.) and Sir. Richard Branson (Virgin Group Ltd.). There are a number of companies that have been incredibly successful started by a single founder.

Of course you are less likely to achieve huge success over a short space of time when going-it-alone. Without the added expertise of another person, or indeed the added capital, you may find yourself going through a lot of trial and error to get things right.

In a recent article by Paul Graham titled “The 18 Mistakes That Kill Start-Ups”, he lists the single founder as being the number one mistake, but this is not necessarily true. Of course we have alluded to companies who have survived and gone on to massive success who only have one founder. Starting off yourself can get your initial business underway and the addition of other people at a later date can improve your business without making major decisions and changes at the start of the business’ life.

Graham states that by neglecting to find a co-founder, you are displaying to other people a lack of confidence in your idea, however this is not strictly true. It could be that the single founder already had enough money behind them in the early stages of the company, which would allow them to hire employees instead of trading equity for co-founders. In addition, this capital could have come from an equally successful company that had a co-founder, but the single founder decided to launch a separate business on their own. Indeed it could be that the single founder had problems in the past when working with a partner, or perhaps the business is currently only capable of supporting one person as opposed to two. And, of course, there are some people who simply want to keep their business small and as a result do not need another influencing person on board.

Although it is possible for one person to have all of the skills, knowledge and capital to get a business off the ground, it is not generally considered to be the wisest idea to start a business with a single founder. Though it might not necessarily be the way you want to start your business, having a co-founder can alleviate a lot of pressure and bring in new ideas and expertise. Even if you feel capable of starting the business alone, you would be much better off having a few colleagues with which to brainstorm or who can advise you through different decisions.

I believe that the single founder start-up does have a chance of being successful, however it will take a longer period of time and it could be a much more traumatic experience if things go wrong during trial and error. It is not well advised for a business novice to found a business alone, unless they are prepared for a long stretch before the company gains any major success. Should a person have the expertise to cover a range of different business needs, the experience of starting a business and the capital, then the single founder start-up can be hugely successful, if Richard Branson is anything to go by.

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