One of the oldest debates in the startup world is whether you should have a co-founder or go solo to get started. Some investors only like founding teams of two or more. Some investors prefer clean ownership structures where each co-founder owns the same relative amount. Many investors shy away sibling teams or married couples. I prefer to look at each case individually.

As for my experiences, I have done the startup thing both ways and the bottom line is it all depends on the business and of course it depends on you. If you are contemplating making the leap and are ready to build your fort, this issue should be front and center on your mind.

There are three factors that influence my thinking here:

  1. Skills
  2. Effort, and
  3. Credibility.

Each startup will require a minimum amount of skills to get off the ground. If this is a software startup, someone needs to know how to write code. That seems obvious, but I am still surprised by the "business" guy that shows up in my office articulating their mobile app idea and have no real idea how it's going to get made. I assume they think that I will be enamored with their idea, invest and those proceeds will pay for their outsourced developer. Coming in to see me for investment capital so that you can go out and hire a developer is not my cup of tea. Why?

It's not your idea; it's the execution of your idea. To that end, the software developer you need to build out your idea is actually more important to the company than you are at this point. So, your decision to use a contractor or the decision to outsource the development of your gold seems kinda weak to me.

I see the role of a seed-stage CEO pretty clearly. Your role is to marshal the resources necessary to get to the next phase/level/step. Thus, your analysis of what you need to get this off the ground is pretty simple. Do I have the necessary skills to execute the first phase? If not, you best find a partner or co-founder.

Too many founders operate on a vision of the company three years from now when there are customers, employees, desks & chairs, and strategic decisions to make. Very few of you understand what steps are necessary to get to that place. The amount of effort required to find product/market fit is large. Do you have the bandwidth to produce the level of effort necessary to get there?

Lastly, what resources do you need NOW to give you the credibility to get through to the next level? If you have never raised investment capital before, you are a risk. Having a team of people around you could bring additional credibility. More credibility = increased odds of securing capital.

If you have the skills, effort and credibility to go it alone--fantastic. If not, make finding co-founders a priority early on and you just might find that 1 + 1 equals 3.

Published on: Oct 23, 2014