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RodinStar / Startup

What’s it like to be a single founder?

A couple of weeks ago I did a post on ‘How do Co-founders make up after an argument?’ Got me thinking, what’s it like being a single founder? Does it help the startup grow as the founder remains focused in a single direction with little or no distraction? Is it great not having to share the decision making process or the blame and fame? Or does it get lonely? So I pinged a few single founder rodinhooders (btw most of them are married, so single as in the number, not their marital status!); asked them a few questions and got a very interesting perspective on the topic!

 

 

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If you are a single founder, pls share your story in the comments and I’ll be happy to include the best ones in the main post!! 

 

ps: i’ve shared everyone’s part separately, so in case you are interested in teaming up with any of them you will get the whole picture :)))

 

 

 

Joginder Tanikella (Jogi, to most of us!), CEO – Yantra Electronics, @jogitanikella

 

I am a single founder by chance.  

 

In the beginning, I was supposed to partner with someone but it didn’t happen. Hence, I started off on my own. 

 

However, being on your own is a very emotionally-complex and a mentally-draining journey and hence, I don’t recommend it to anyone at all. 

 

Recently, I have been working on new ventures where I have partners or co-founders and the experience is totally different in the following main ways:  

 

i. Of course, there are more people to share the financial outlay. 

 

ii. Different Experiences and Expertise are valuable. 

 

iii. The main point is that the right co-founding team will never let you feel down!  

 

For any venture, I feel that the co-founder should be better than me at least at one thing. Eg. The Ideal Co-founder for me would be someone who could practically implement our combined ideas/thoughts with excellent project management skills.  

 

My favourite co-founder teams are Google, Hotmail, Microsoft, HP, Infosys, Ocean Sparkle (it’s a long list!) 🙂   

 

 

 

Puneet Aggarwal, Founder, Nirogam.com, @ayurvedaguy

 

When there is darkness all around, light at the end of the tunnel is the only choice you have. Back in 1998, we were just about to sell our house to make ends meet. It was the great depression in my life, with my dad suffering a factory shutdown, and also the anxiety of not knowing what his son will do. I had chosen not to go to college and had completed a B.Com graduation through correspondence. I decided to take things in my hand.

 

With 3 years since the launch of Internet in India, I found a comfortable refuge in selling Web Space. It was not enough, but it allowed me to meet a lot of people. When I finally broke out selling supplements to USA using the Internet, Nirogam was born. So it happened to me. I didn’t chose the business that I am in, but it was like an arranged marriage where I got married to an Ayurvedic Supplements business and finally started loving it.

 

In that year 2000, I had not heard of words like “Startups”, “Founder”, “Co-Founder”, “Team Size”, “Scale up” nor had the chance to build any team or resources. I hustled along with my dad. I used to print orders and online marketing, my dad used to pack the parcels. I helped my dad in brown taping the parcels. Going by the book, my dad was forced to become my co-founder and do half the work.

Advantages & challenges of being a single founder?

– Looking back upon my situation, I would say there’s less chances of disputes and hence more time for action. You have more control over things. I am not sure whether this is an advantage.

Now that I know what is a co-founder, I would say, a co-founder is very handy when you have to use him as a sounding board. When you encounter problems, your co-founder helps you see those problems from a different perspective. Baaton Baaton mein – kai problem apne aap solve ho jaati hain.

 


This reminds me of a Doha by Kabir :

निंदक नियरे राखिए, ऑंगन कुटी छवाय, बिन पानी, साबुन बिना, निर्मल करे सुभाय
[Keep your critic close to you; give him shelter in your courtyard.
Without soap and water he cleanses your character.]

While initially, you might say that you wish to hustle, and do everything on your own, you must realise that you only have a few core skills. For all the things that you are not good at, there’s someone better out there who is waiting to take your orders. An engine can power the vehicle, but you need an accelerator to speed it up, and wheels to run on. If an engine tries to act smart, all it could end up is becoming a square wheel.

What would you look for in a co-founder (skills & traits) if you are/were looking?

 

Yes, I am actively looking for a co-founder.

– Skills which complement mine

 

– Remaining conscious and aligned to the same set of values, and vision.

 

– Eagerness to listen and more importantly, openness to learn.

 

– He/she should be absolutely comfortable with conflict. If conflict bothers someone, that is a big red flag. Conflicts are like those “Fatak (Railway crossing)” on those highways. You can’t avoid those. You should anticipate that they will come, and eventually, you have to wait while it resolves itself, and you again get back to a smooth highway.
– Integrity and Credibility – because these are the only 2 things which will hold you together during bad times. 

Name your fav pair/set of co-founders that have built an inspiring startup/s

– Alok and Asha
– Anamika and Tarun
– Infosys Founders
– PVR (Bijli brothers)

 

 

 

 

Perzen Patel, Chief Tasting Officer – Bawi Bride Kitchen, @BawiBride 

 

I initially started Bawi Bride Kitchen as a sort of gradual progression from writing on the blog and hence being a single founder was not so much by choice as something that just naturally happened. Given the pressures of running a hospitality business I wouldn’t choose to be a single founder as you really require a strong co-founder or operations head on whom you can rely on given the 24 hour nature of business. 

 

Today, given the choice I’d want to get a cofounder on board but only if they had the right attitude. Until then below are the 3 advantages:

 

1. Faster decision making 

 

2. Little conflict with anyone when it comes to taking important decisions

 

3. You know your vision best and there is no second person potentially leading you off into tangents that may be best for the business according to them. 

 

3 challenges of being a single founder?

 

1. No sounding board for important decisions. In the early days, decision fatigue sets in really quickly or your spouse becomes the defacto sounding board for this and they may not necessarily be the best person to be giving you advice for your company.  

 

2. No matter what happens, however trivial you are always the one who has to pick up the pieces and figure out a solution. Say goodbye to disconnecting from technology on holidays.  

 

3. Your thinking of the way ahead may be limited to a certain perspective and it’s always great to have a fresh perspective on board. Also, your startup is limited by the skill sets you bring on board at least until you can afford to hire key employees to take the pressure off you.

 

What would you look for in a co-founder (skills & traits) if you are/were looking?

 

Compatibility, Love for Food, Opposite Skill Sets to the ones I possess, Good Communication (I should not get the feeling Oh God, why is he calling when their number shows up on my phone), Get things done attitude. 

 

Rishi Gorantala, Founder, Rightaway Inc + @go_rishi

 

 Are you a single founder by choice?

 

No, I always wanted a co-founder. In fact, I started with a co-founder in the US first but we couldn’t work together when I decided to move back to India to focus full-time on my startup. I spent months (and still do) looking for a co-founder when I first moved to India but never really found one I wanted to work with so I decided to spend my time and efforts on building the startup, and building a team and “hiring” a co-founder, but even that didn’t work out for me so far. Someone said “try to get a co-founder, but never settle for one” 

 

3 challenges of being a single founder? 

 

Just 3? It’s a hell. Everything takes 4x longer and is 4x stressful. 

 

What would you look for in a co-founder?

 

 Personally, 

 

— strong values and ethics

 

— in it for the long term (7-10 years)

 

— technically sound, and is willing to adapt and learn 

 

Name your fav pair/set of co-founders that have built an inspiring startup/s

 

As an outsider, may be, Google and Airbnb founders; but honestly I don’t admire any one unless I know them personally. 

 

 

 

 

Natwar Maheshwari, Designation: Founder/CEO – Around.io @natwar86

 

Are you a single founder by choice?

 

Yes and no. I wanted to get the right co-founder but that in itself is a full time work. So, I kept an eye out for potential co-founders, but I still haven’t found someone who wanted to join for the right reasons. I came pretty close a couple of times, but finally decided not to go ahead. I am still great friends with these people and trust their inputs. 

 

If so, why do you prefer being a single founder (list at least 3 advantages)

 

No problems when it comes to decisions. In my team everyone owns part of the process/product and final decisions come from them. 

 

I know a lot of great companies shut down because of co-founder issues, I don’t have that problem.

 

Complete freedom for experimenting with new things. 

 

3 challenges of being a single founder?

 

It’s always good to share your vision with someone who can complement your skill set, takes a huge burden of learning everything off.

 

At times you are low and have no one to share your worries with. 

 

Confirmation bias creeps in, and blind spots can really hurt you in the long run. 

 

What would you look for in a co-founder?

 

First thing is their ability to be honest with themselves and everyone around them.

 

Second would be self-awareness, if you know what you have and what you lack, I believe half of the problems will go away. Because then, you will optimize for your strengths and delegate your weaknesses. 

 

Next would be skill set.

 

And I would not compromise on any of the three above 🙂 

 

Name your fav pair/set of co-founders that have built an inspiring startup/s

 

Recently read about one of the Flipkart’s founder accepting his mistake and stepping down from his role. That is something which I think is pretty rare in our ecosystem. I have respect for that.

 

I always liked what ex-PayPal team did after PayPal. That says a lot about each team member and how good the team was. Other than that Ben Horowitz is someone I really look up to. 

 

Alok Patnia, Founder & CEO at Taxmantra.com /  MakeYourTax, @alokpatnia

 

Are you a single founder by choice? 

 

No certainly not, I would have liked to have one sadly no one was ready to join me in the journey 🙂   

 

If so, why do you prefer being a single founder

 

I am single founder not by choice but by circumstances. Only advantage I can see of being a single founder is very quick decision making process but that can backfire also.  

 

3 challenges of being a single founder? 

 

Founders / CEOs are anyways very lonely, but being single makes it more painful.  

 

The reason being you always need someone to bounce off ideas / views and since you are all alone, you start searching for someone outside company.  

 

No one to share risks / challenges / responsibilities / accountability / financial risks.  

 

What would you look for in a co-founder (skills & traits) if you are/were looking?

 

If you are lucky enough, you would get someone / many may be who will virtually fill in the shoes of co-founder from the team itself. Each co-founder should be able to take up fully any of roles, such as sales / marketing, Operations, PR/ Finances, so that co-founders can complement each other. 

 

But, one thing which really needed is the same grit, fearless attitude and perseverance to be able to walk in this long journey  

 

Name your fav pair/set of co-founders that have built an inspiring startup/s 

 

google ( larry – Sergey) 

 

microsoft  (Bill Gates – Paul Allen)  

 

Indian context – Flipkart (Binny & Sachin)   

 

Ravi Mittal – Founder, QuackQuack.in and Truejodi.com, @ravemittal

 

Are you a single founder by choice?

 

Yes. When I started off, I was quite keen on my idea. While my friends really supported me, I wasn’t sure if I should ask them to join me as it would involve greater risk pulling them into such a naïve idea. Since I was keen, I decided to go ahead myself. Plus, I’m a person who can have compatibility issues and didn’t want to ruin friendships over business, and hence working alone was a better choice for me. 

 

Why do you prefer being a single founder?

 

1. I can take my own decisions without being weighed down by my peers.

 

2. Free to take quick decisions without having to discuss and dissect with co-founders

 

3. Concern if co-founder would/wouldn’t understand my vision and approach. Makes it easy when you’re doing things single handedly 

 

3 challenges of being a single founder?

 

1. You’re always short of a second opinion

 

2. You crave for an honest feedback from a like-minded person

 

3. You are the be-all and end-all. No support for different tasks/processes which could have been divided if there was a co-founder 

 

What would you look for in a co-founder (skills & traits) if you are/were looking?

 

1. Like-minded thinking and vision for the company / product

 

2. Flexible to go to any extent to work / get work done

 

3. Understanding and compatibility at personal level. Someone who can calmly take on my weird reasonings. 

 

Name your fav pair/set of co-founders that have built an inspiring startup/s

 

I admire the grit of Bansals (Flipkart) for their vision to take Flipkart to what it is today.

 

I also admire my dad and his partners (while they are no less than a startup) for immense compatibility and support through thick-and-thin.  

 

Jitendra Gursingh, Founder, Digilocal ; @jeetumg @digilocalin

 

Are you a single founder by choice?

 

Yes 

 

Why do you prefer being a single founder?

 

Faster decision making; No politics / back-biting / vested interests; feels good / bad for every success or failure 

 

3 challenges of being a single founder?

 

A lot of running around, everything has to be done by you; Difficult to master all skills / best practices; difficult to implement an SOP in daily work  

 

What would you look for in a co-founder (skills & traits) if you are looking?

 

Will never look for a co-founder.  

 

Name your fav pair/set of co-founders that have built an inspiring startup/s

 

The most recent one, Turakhia Brothers who managed to exit at $900 million.

 

***

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7 Comments

  1. Profile photo of Layak Singh

    Having Co-Founder is good but when you find someone not interested much , fire them immediately instead of keeping them just sake of Co-Founder. The pain is more with the co-founder without interest than not having co-founder 🙂 Look for ‘right best’ people not for ‘ stupid best’ people as they will ruin you. 🙂 

  2. Profile photo of Sagar Garg

    As a single founder it is really tough and emotionally and financially draining. Sometimes it is difficult to analyze and make the right decision strategy and it’s always good to have a bouncing board in a cofounder or a great team member. Since I don’t have a cofounder I and my friend (also an entrepreneur) often meet and discuss ideas about each other’s business. But it is always beneficial to have on board who is as much into the idea as you are. Hence my search for such a person continues.

  3. Profile photo of Janak Porwal

    So I am a single founder  (at Digiperfect). I have worked with co-founders in the past, and for me the biggest challenge was aligning vision and values. Biggest advantage of having a co-founder is emotional support. Complementary skills are actually a secondary advantage. However – the emotional support / mutual empathy is sustainable only if your co-founder is in the same boat as you (comparable personal finances, stake holding/salary patterns, priorities in life, etc). So if you find a good match – go for it, else it is better to remain single :).

    Elaborating on the emotional support part – as a single founder – you often cannot share your highs and lows with your team. You must learn to remain extra stable as an individual. If your spouse or sibling is in someway assisting you – it fills the gap to certain extent – but not as much as having an equally involved co-founder.

  4. Profile photo of Janak Porwal

    By the way – few days ago I have created a group for single founders on facebook. https://www.facebook.com/groups/709639845841032/

    The group is for single founders to seek mutual help where they need complementary skills, discuss ideas and challenges, etc. Group is also open to other entrepreneurs / mentors who would like to share ideas / be involved.

  5. Profile photo of asha chaudhry

    hey janak,

    thanks for sharing your side of the story. am sure your points will resonate with others…

    interesting to know that you have just started an fb gp for single founders. all the best for it! 

    btw, therodinhoods was created to make an entrepreneur’s journey a little less lonely 🙂

  6. Profile photo of Alok Rodinhood Kejriwal

    What a nice post Asha and thanks for getting some amazing collaborators

    I have had the PURE PURE LUCK OF HAVING AMAZING co-founders in all my 6 ventures (1 went badly)

    Contests2win, Mobile2win China, Mobile2win India, Games2win and therodinhoods!

    I think co-fouders ARE A MUST. I would not start a venture without one

    Check how I describe Mahesh and myself

  7. Profile photo of Amit Shroff

    Hi Asha,

    I am a single founder and here is my experience in last 6 years. I personally would not recommend anyone to start as single founder.

    Advantages :

    • You are your own – so you can take any decision and don’t need to depend on other co-founder.
    • Finance – You are free to take any financial decision.
    • Business Setup – You have the freedom to setup the business as you want, you can hire & fire anyone, you can rent any space, you can quote for any business etc etc
    • Learning – Since you are single founder, you learn lot since you have to do multi-tasking and handle multiple roles.

    Disadvantages (more then advantages) :

    • Financial Burden – Since you are single founder you will have to arrange your own finance, meet all expenses etc.
    • Multi Tasking – Being a single founder you will have to do multi tasking manage sales, marketing, production, finance, etc (unless you have lot of money and you can hire people to head each department).
    • You don’t get Funded – If you are a single founder 90% times your ideas would be rejected by investors, since investors look for team to fund. It is actually the team and idea they fund.
    • You loose your core – Since you have to do multi tasking, you are investing more time in other task then your core expertise.
    • Decision Making – Since you are single founder, you don’t have anyone to consult or discuss before taking right or wrong decisions. It is a wrong decision which you hurt a startup or a company.
    • Management & Monitoring – If you are a single founder, you don’t have any support to monitor work and team in your absence. 
    • No Holidays – Most since founder don’t go for family holiday since they don’t have support to manage their business.
    • Expertise – When 2 or more people unite together they bring in expertise, this help the organization. Imagine a founder with individual experience in sale, production & finance.

    Imagine how would Ranbir Singh run his Rocket Sales Cooperation if he didn’t had experience partners in Rocket Singh : Salesman of the Year. This movie clearly showcase that you cannot run business without co-founders.

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