Starting up can be a lonely adventure. But some of the most successful startups today are founded by a team.
Aside from cases where there’s a pressing need for a technical co-founder, does starting up in teams up your chances of success — or complicate the matter?
To find out, we asked a panel of 11 entrepreneurs from the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) to share the pros and cons of going at it alone vs. having multiple co-founders.
Here’s what they had to say:
1. Look for Opposite Skill Sets
I think the benefits of co-founders greatly outweigh the pitfalls. One of the greatest benefits occurs when you select a co-founder who has a different skill set than you. This means you can effectively cover twice as much ground. It also means that you can excel at two different aspects of the business. Many founders are good at one side of the business but fail at the other. Co-founders solve this issue because they are experts in different fields.
– Dave Nevogt, Hubstaff.com
2. Create a Balance of Differing Opinions
Going it alone and controlling all of the decisions sounds nice and glamorous, but it’s considerably more difficult than having a co-founder. When you don’t have another person who’s as involved in the details as you are, you don’t get to brainstorm or debate the details, which is incredibly important. Having multiple co-founders can sometimes be a mess because you can create a situation where there isn’t any single decision-making voice, leaving some decisions in limbo for longer than necessary. I prefer to stick with two co-founders, creating a nice balance of differing opinions.
– Adam Callinan, BottleKeeper
3. Build a Business Faster
Having created startups as both a solopreneur and with co-founders, my preference is having other co-founders for three reasons: 1. Having a partner to share highs and lows makes the psychological impact of building a business easier. 2. Starting a business with co-founders with different skill sets will enable you to grow faster. Otherwise, you will have to become an expert in multiple disciplines. 3. Cash flow is crucial to the success of any business, and having multiple co-founders eases the burden of capital expenses early on when the business is in the build phase.
– Adam Root, Hiplogiq
4. Evaluate Them Carefully
Find a partner or two who can provide clear, unique value to the company and show long-term commitment to the business. Can you see them being involved through the hard times even a year from now? Try not to go into business with friends, and avoid bringing on too many partners. Unfortunately, most partners will be a letdown, so evaluate them carefully before letting them come on board.
– Andy Karuza, Brandbuddee
5. Have the Same Vision
The biggest benefit of having a co-founder is being able to cover more ground. Two sets of eyes can watch over a greater area, but there’s a catch: Both sets of eyes need to have the same vision for the company’s future. Otherwise, you’ll end up getting cross with one another, and a cross-eyed company runs in circles.
– Nick Friedman, College Hunks Hauling Junk and College Hunks Moving
6. Create More Ideas and Energy
The more ideas, energy and feedback you can cultivate, the better — up to a certain point. Having a co-founder or multiple founders results in new ideas, heightened energy and more support to scale a business quickly and effectively. Moreover, creating an environment of healthy debate where ideas are challenged results in great outcomes. Of course, too many cooks in a kitchen delays or often precludes arrival at a key decision. It’s important to balance the fine line between encouraging new ideas and debate and not having enough of a fresh perspective to make the right decision.
– Ryan Frankel, VerbalizeIt
7. Grow Faster When Separate
Since day one, we’ve been a multi-location team. With my co-founder and I working on two different continents (U.S. and Europe), we have managed to grow our business internationally very quickly. You understand, build and manage relationships in these markets better than if you were to handle everything remotely. The only pitfall I see is managing the six-hour time difference when scheduling calls and meetings. It isn’t too bad, but we’ve had several 2 a.m. Skype calls.
– Marvin Amberg, Caseable
8. Go It Alone for Total Freedom
There are countless benefits to the diverse talent that having multiple co-founders can bring. However, being a solo founder comes with one enormous benefit: the ultimate freedom that comes from being the sole decision-maker. As a solo founder, I can craft my company exactly how I want to with no compromises. For me, having that freedom and decision-making power is worth what I may have lost by not having partners.
– Laura Roeder, LKR Social Media
9. Capitalize on Different Strengths
The benefit of having at least a pair of co-founders is friction and grease. Successful partnerships lie in finding a good complement. You never want to work with “yes-men” because they don’t challenge you or drive you to consider other views. You need a co-founder with different qualities and strengths from yourself.
– Ty Morse, Songwhale
10. Go Solo to Build for the Long Term
I chose to go it alone, and I would do it again. Co-founders can be nice, but to move from a startup to a company, the business needs a clear direction and a solid vision. It can be confusing and distracting for a team to have multiple founders offering different ideas versus one founder with a solid plan. It is really hard to scale with multiple co-founders, as the team’s leadership needs change.
– Sarah Schupp, UniversityParent
11. Share the Load
There are so many aspects to running a startup that you need either a complementary co-founder (a business guy if you’re technical and vice versa) or a ton of capital so you can staff up right away. The greatest benefit is definitely being able to share the load. Pitfalls can best be avoided by making sure open communication is a constant and all egos are checked at the door. If every bit of energy is focused on making the product better, then whenever there are disagreements about how best to do that — and there will be — they will ultimately be for the good of the product.
– Danny Boice, Speek
The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only nonprofit organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, the YEC recently launched #StartupLab, a free virtual mentorship program that helps entrepreneurs start and grow businesses via live video chats, an expert content library and email lessons.