I’m always hearing about “founder dating” events that entrepreneurs attend to find co-founders. I’m guessing these events have worked out for some people, but like relationships, I prefer matchmaking to be more organic.
Some famous co-founders, like Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak (Apple Inc.), Bill Gates and Paul Allen (Microsoft), or Mark Zuckerburg and his three co-founders (Facebook), met organically. They knew the people they were getting into business with very well. For instance, Bill Gates and Paul Allen went to high school together, continued working together while Bill was in college, and eventually both decided to focus on Microsoft full-time.
On a similar note, there are many non-technical entrepreneurs in the tech space who are looking for technical co-founders. When I founded my company, I knew some programming and loved experimenting with it, but I didn’t know how to program for the web.
I thought about trying to raise money, but I feel very fortunate that someone advised me to learn how to program for the web instead of raising money. This way, I was able to learn how things worked, fix issues myself, and focus on building a company rather than hiring employees.
With StudyMode, one of our co-founders (Todd Clemens) entered the company nine years after we started the business. We’d known Todd since college because he co-founded a hosting company in college and hosted our websites. We’d kept in touch over the years and an opportunity arose for him to join the team and help us build the business. In this example, my co-founder Chris Nelson and I were able to grow the business to a point where we were comfortable bringing on a new, trusted co-founder with specific duties.
Benefits of Starting a Business without Co-founders
These types of examples lead many to the question, “is it better to start a business alone or with a co-founder(s)? There’s no right or wrong answer, but here are three distinct benefits to starting a business alone:
- You’re the sole decision maker. You may not always be right, but you get to do things your way.
- You can commit as much or as little time as you’d like. There’s no pressure from anyone else about how much you should be working.
- You can build your business and then figure out what type of additional people you’d like to bring on, whether they’re employees, co-founders, or advisors. You may organically meet co-founders as your business gains momentum and as you tell people about it.
All of these benefits relate to potential conflict in some way. Co-founders may have differing opinions in the direction of the business. There may be financial issues or financial success, which can both create conflict. Going at it alone allows you to run your business the way you’d like to do it.