To Have Or Not To Have Cofounders
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India has more than 30,000 startups. A key factor common to most of these startups is that they all have two or more founders. While this seems to be a preferred way to go about it, there are many successful solo founders such as Paytm’s Vijay Shekhar Sharma, CRED’s Kunal Shah, SHEROES' Sairee Chahal and Chai Point’s Amuleek Singh Bijral. So, it is often confusing for budding entrepreneurs to decide whether to go solo or choose a partner.
Entrepreneur India spoke to venture capitalists and founders about the advantages and disadvantages of having multiple co-founders.
Someone To Support And Have Your Back
Entrepreneurship can sometimes get very lonely. In times of distress, it often helps to have the support of a partner who is also equally passionate about the startup.
“You will always have someone to go back to and discuss. If all the co-founders are equally passionate and are on the same page, then 1+1 will not be 2, it will be 11,” said Deepak Tuli, co-founder and COO, Eka.Care, a healthtech startup.
“Being a single founder can get very lonely. No matter how well you plan your roadmap, you'll be carrying a weight that you might want to share with someone,” added Kausambi Manjita, co-founder and CEO, Mason, a Bengaluru-based SaaS startup.
During the initial stages, when one starts discussing ideas to start up, it seems easy and exciting. However, as and when the workload starts building up, it often gets too much for a single person to handle everything. “It is more of an uphill climb and there is an enormous amount of work that you will be doing. So, having cofounder(s) means not only sharing the costs of a working product that gets going but also sharing the stress that comes along with it,” added Manjita.
Different Viewpoints, Skill Sets and Responsibilities
With different mindsets, skillsets, and risk-bearing capabilities, the co-founders can together foresee any challenges and plan accordingly. Additionally, the more the number of people at the same level, the broader the opinions. This surely goes long way in making better decisions.
“While launching a startup, it is important to have the leadership team bring various skillsets to the table. With their different managerial skills, exchange of brilliant ideas, and moral support, the company can multiply its growth and reach newer heights,” said Rohit Pugalia, founder and MD, Soch Group.
Every individual has his or her own set of strengths and weaknesses and each cofounder can play to his or her strengths. For instance, Rohit Pugalia has firsthand experience in incorporating and investing in a multitude of startups and his co-founder Purvi Pugalia has in-depth knowledge in the fashion, lifestyle, and F&B industries.
“We’ve co-founded multiple businesses together in the healthy snacking and e-commerce industry and for us working together as co-founders has meant bringing solid business acumen along with a creative mindset in our business,” added Rohit Pugalia.
Having a co-founder means different styles of leadership that can help increase productivity, manage the team’s morale and effectively achieve the company’s goals. “And also, you can't look at problems from a single point of view. You need opposing views. And co-founders help you with just that. You can be better problem solvers, together,” said Manjita.
Difference of Opinion and Conflicts
Having co-founders, however, can have certain disadvantages, the most common being difference of opinion. “It's difficult to be on the same page every time which delays decision-making. If founders are going in different directions, then the team gets confused about the direction,” said Tuli.
Politics can sometimes come in between the equation way too early if you are a team of two-plus co-founders. Sometimes, founders tell us, two founders band together and alienate the third co-founder altogether. This leads to ego clashes which take away the focus from the product.
Overall, finding a co-founder for your business who would share the same vision as you is not easy and even if you find one, there could be disagreements while working together. Work ethics and standards of work excellence may differ. And, when there is a conflict, there might be a delay in reaching their end goal.
“Sometimes, two and more co-founders could lead to power struggles. There can be a power play in who gets more media coverage, who gets more investor attention, who the team respects or listens to more, and so on. Or rather, it's like inviting chaos to the whole setup,” said Mason's Manjita.
In such cases, the risks are higher. Often, entrepreneurs end up shutting shop when conflicts or power play struggles come in between work. According to Manjita, it is thus sometimes better to be alone than to be stuck with a bad core team that you cannot shake off either.
No Magic Formula
Ultimately, there is no right formula to the right number of founders for a startup to be effective. Having too many can lead to differences of opinion and slow up decision making and at the same time, when one decides to go solo, he or she may have to take all responsibilities such as fund-raising, product innovation, team management, hiring and investor meetings, among others.
“If there are multiple, say three or more co-founders, it can be quite workable as long as there is a nominated CEO (who has clear headroom in terms of gravitas and also somewhat higher equity than the others). Likewise, having a solo founder is also workable as long as there is adequate hiring and incentivization for key positions and more senior hires earlier in the journey to make up for the lower founder bandwidth,” sums up Deepak Gupta, founding partner, WEH Ventures, a seed-stage fund.