Founding a company on your own isn't for every entrepreneur. It takes grit, guts, discipline, persistence -- and a lot of caffeine. Of course, being a solo founder is far from as simple as that. As with anything, there are highs and lows, triumphs and tribulations and decisions to make, with only one constant: You have only yourself to rely on.
Going it alone definitely takes a certain person, but at the end of the day, you get to see your passion realized, knowing it’s your vision and your baby. I can vouch that this alone makes it all worthwhile, but there are several other benefits that may even help you along the way. Namely, there aren’t many of us in startup world. The vast majority of existing startups and established companies have all had a co-founding team. Because it’s a rarity, being a solo founder helps you stand out, often generating interest right from the beginning, leading to exposure and word of mouth that are invaluable for a young company.
But with these rewards you also face a fair number of challenges and knowing what you are up against is half the battle.
1. Raising funds as a party of one
By far the biggest challenge for a solo founder is fundraising. The fact is, it’s really hard for one person to run a company, especially in beginning. This makes the whole endeavor much riskier, which naturally gives investors a moment of pause. It’s hard for one person to prove to investors they can do it all – from engineering to sales – because potential backers question whether your lack of experience in one area might be an obstacle to the company’s success. You may have years of experience, yet you find yourself needing to prove what you can do as a founding party of one.
Going it alone requires a lot of perseverance. Stick to it. It eventually pays off—literally.
2. Giving up your life while initially gearing up
Another big challenge is the sheer amount of work you need to do as a solo founder. In the very beginning, you have to do everythingyourself. You need to be sales, marketing, engineering and customer support. I coded my site out of my living room, learned how to get more likes on Facebook, figured out how to set up an effective company blog and attended countless events and meetings to talk with partners.
Still, doing it all on your own is very difficult, and you need to be very disciplined. In my case, I split up my days very specifically. In the morning, I would respond to emails and work on social media, and then I would focus on engineering from 3pm until midnight every day.
Be prepared to give up your life to start the company; you’ll be working weekends and losing a lot of sleep. It takes a ton of time, but the needle will move. And eventually you’ll build a great team to help drive the vision forward. Speaking of…
3. Building your best team
The act of recruiting is a looming challenge that deserves a closer look because learning to identity the right candidate based on a balance of experience and the culture you want to create at your company is a lot tougher than you might think. Like so many aspects of being a sole proprietor, it takes patience. You will make mistakes (which I certainly did) and then you have to learn how to fire people without the dynamic of “good cop, bad cop” to fall back on.
Successful recruiting and building the right culture simply takes practice. Plus, remember: There’s no shame in admitting you were wrong. It doesn’t make you weak, but it will gain you more trust and respect from the team.
The challenges are many, but don’t get discouraged. If you can stick it out and give it your all, the challenges can be overcome and you’ll reap the rewards.