Not too long ago I begun interacting with the young founder of a web 2.0 firm. He’d done an impressive number of things – identified a key market need based on his own work experience, built a prototype, gotten paying customers, hired—initially part-time—subsequently full time coder and even raised a small investment from an accelerator. After our first interaction, which was mostly spent learning what he’d done already, what had worked and what hadn’t, we begun discussing business models and his intent to raise angel money.
Somewhere in the discussion I raised the question of “Do you intend to find to find yourself a partner or two?” You’d have thought I had slapped him, in the way he reacted. Once he got over the initial shock of my question, he was genuinely puzzled. While he never came outright and said it, I could see that he continued to be befuddled by my seemingly dumb question. “Why would I need a partner?” – the unasked question hung over the rest of our meeting. It set me thinking as well and here are three reasons – better decisions, stronger company and emotional support – and that I believe having a partner (or two or three) can help your startup.
Two heads are better than one Your business and you will do better, if you have another set of eyes, ears and all the grey matter that hopefully lies between them, available to you. While perseverance is one of the most critical things for business success, it always helps to have someone tell you that you are being pig-headed or this is the time to let go of a customer or an employee. Do you sign up to a particular deal, should you build that product or abandon it, should you borrow or raise some more money – all these decisions are easier and most likely better when made with another set of inputs, that a co-founder can provide. Advisors, consultants and mentors can play this role some of the time and can be useful in not being so close to the decisions, but they rarely have to live with the consequences of these decisions the way a co-founder or partner would have to.
Successful businesses require teams Having co-founders, finding and persuading someone else, to embark on the insane journey that building a business can be, is the first step in making your business successful. It is not just investors who look for a team – one with complementary skills, but potential employees and prospective customers all care about the fact that your company is more than just you. Sure there have been single founder companies that have been successful, but why make it more difficult than it needs to be to build your business. Yes, teams and successful ones can be built with employees, but they will never be the same as having a co-founder or partner who has a same stake in the outcome.
Entrepreneurship is lonely business Entrepreneurship is hard enough without having to slog through it on your own. Sure if you are lucky, family, friends even advisors or mentors can help make it a little less lonely. However, none of them can give you the time that a good co-founder or partner can give you. Even if your co-founder is very different from you, they’ll be able to better understand and empathize than anyone else about the challenges you face, the frustrations you feel and help smooth out the highs and lows that are inevitable in any startup.