Entrepreneur Office Hours - Issue #121
Is it possible to be a solo founder?
Some of the earliest advice I got in the startup world was to not building companies on my own. I even regularly tell my students that successful entrepreneurial action requires collaboration. You need co-founders. Heck, it’s even part of my premise in this issue’s Q&A.
And yet, I’ve certainly seen solo founders build successful companies. Perhaps it’s not “the norm,” but it’s possible. So how can it be done?
I focus on that question in this issue of EOH, starting with an article where I identify the “secret ingredient” to being a successful solo founder. I also talk with an entrepreneur named Jesse Lipson, who, as a solo founder, bootstrapped his way to a big exit.
It’s definitely not easy, but it is possible, and, after my research for this issue, I think I have a better understanding of how. Once you’re done reading, hopefully you will, too!
Everyone will warn you against being a solo founder, but, even though it’s hard, it’s not as impossible as you might think.
Solo founders are rarely successful. And solo founders bootstrapping enterprise SaaS companies is almost impossible. But Jesse Lipson did it when he built ShareFile. Hear how he did it on the new Web Masters.
Listen now on:
…or search “Web Masters” wherever you listen to your favorite podcasts.
FROM THE ARCHIVES…
This is another article I published in the wake of the 2020 COVID onset. And, thanks to COVID, the article is just as relevant as ever because lots more pitching is done virtually.
Office Hours Q&A
I’ve been looking for a tech co-founder to help me build my idea for a long time and haven’t had any success, and I’m not a tech person so I can’t build it myself.
I’ve found a company that’s offering to build the website I need for me for $10,000. I know it’s a big investment, but I have to have my product so I can start getting customers, and I’m getting tired of searching for a tech co-founder.
What are your thoughts on hiring a company to build my site for me? Is that a good idea?
I run into this scenario often. Someone non-technical with an idea for a website or app can’t find a co-founder, and then they get pitched by a company offering to build the site/app for them for a few thousand dollars. While I wouldn’t call those companies scammers, I would say they tend to be predatory.
Companies offering to build your tech startup’s product for you don’t care whether or not you’ve got a viable idea. All they care about is getting their money. As a result, they’re not going to be critical thinking in terms of helping you figure out whether or not you should pursue your idea. In fact, they’re probably going to be the opposite. They’re going to encourage you to build whatever it is you’re proposing because it means they make money.
And, by the way, whatever cost they’re telling you, please realize it’s going to end up being a lot more. Once you have your product and start getting it in front of users, you’re going to get feedback, which means you’re going to need to change your product, and those changes are going to cost more money. Usually, they’ll cost you lots more money. Probably more than you initially spent.
I don’t mean to demonize outsourcing firms who do contract work. They can be valuable in certain circumstances. But those circumstances rarely include people who can’t find tech co-founders deciding to pay other companies to build their products for them.
I’d encourage you to think more carefully about why you’re struggling to find a tech co-founder. And be honest with yourself. Maybe your idea isn’t as good as you think. Maybe your pitch isn’t as good as it needs to be. Maybe you’re not as attractive a partner as you believe you are.
In other words, the red flag for me in this scenario is the fact that you can’t convince someone to partner with you. Why not? If the thing you’re proposing is so wonderful, shouldn’t people be desperate to join you? The fact that you can’t convince anyone means, before you build whatever it is you need to build, you should solve the problem of why nobody wants to build it with you. Doing that is going to require some honest self-reflection. You might not be happy with what you discover, but the sooner you identify the problem, the more successful you’ll be.
Got startup questions of your own? Reply to this email with whatever you want to know, and I’ll do my best to answer!