[Joshua Davidson, founder of Chop Dawg, allowed us to repost this opinion piece he wrote for his blog. It presents the contrarian view, that you can have a successful tech startup without a cofounder.]
Stop what you’re doing.
If you haven’t already read Selecting the Right Business Partner on our blog – go and read that first. Consider this the sequel to that blog post, and as well, the last prequel to Hiring Your First Employee. Once you read both of those, jump back to this post. Okay, ready to start? Let’s hit it.
It boggles my mind how often I hear someone explain to us at Chop Dawg that they need a cofounder in order to be successful. This isn’t to suggest that having a cofounder is a negative, in fact, a ton of positives can be found with having a partner in crime from the very start of the entrepreneurial journey – but it is as if the entrepreneur and startup scene has brain-washed individuals into thinking, if you don’t have a cofounder, you will fail.
I’m here to set the record straight. You do not need a cofounder to be successful. If you need proof, look no further than Chop Dawg. Within three months of opening Chop Dawg, I ran the show myself for over a calendar year before hiring our first employee. Though we have a long, long, long way to go before we accomplish our biggest goals as a company, I can argue that we have been successful to this point. Most companies that start out will never reach where we have grown to this point, nor, more importantly in my opinion, where we are going to be growing to in the future (which I can promise you, we will be).
So what’s the secret here? What do you need to do in order to be successful by yourself? I’ll give you two simple answers which are not mutually exclusive. You need to work your ass off, and having a great team can replace having a great cofounder. That’s it.
Let’s start with putting in the work. When you are by yourself, especially at the very early going, you need to be all-in with your company. Not only that, you need to put yourself into uncomfortable situations, learn as you go, and wear all of the hats in your operation. That means being the sales person. That means being the CEO. That means being legal. That means being a marketer. That means providing the service (or building the product). You need to do it all.
The reason most recommend finding a cofounder is because, well, people are inherently lazy and having someone who takes away some of the work, therefore, makes you lazier. In a perfect world, you’re working just as hard, but with two (or more) people. Of course, if you are intelligent enough to be reading this post, odds are, I do not need to explain human nature to you and how that isn’t simply the case for most.
I truly do believe that my own personal work ethic was shaped while working by myself and having to balance it all. I learned how to delegate my time, what I was exceptionally good at, what I was weak at, what I needed to improve at, what were considered important tasks to my company’s growth, and what were more-or-less simply busy work that I was using as an excuse to feel productive. I can say with full confidence that I was shaped by that era of growing Chop Dawg, and it has helped me become the person I am today – entrepreneurially, professionally, and personally.
Nonetheless, let’s be real, unless you are a freelancer, you want to build a company with a team. Let’s also get more real, if it wasn’t for the amazing team that we have here at Chop Dawg, we would have failed, gone bankrupt, and stopped existing a long, long time ago (queue the Star Wars theme song).
This brings me to my second point, having a great team. You do not need to depend on a cofounder to grow. A great team can accomplish the same exact thing. As long as you have a solid team, you can delegate tasks, you can find more talented people to help your company grow, you can handle more work, reach more capacity, expand upon revenue, and grow resources. A great team, as many say, will help you move mountains. It is true, all of it.
Having a team is also a benefit to the founder. To be frank, you have full control. Yes, early employees can have some equity (and I support that decision dearly) but nonetheless, you are giving out a substantially less amount than a cofounder would demand/require. You hold significantly more leverage. You can always add, replace, or manage your team members. You control your fate to a great extent.
Great companies are built every day without cofounders. New companies are built every day with great teams. If you have the work ethic, the perseverance, the enthusiasm, and the passion about your vision, it doesn’t matter if you are by yourself or have a founding team of five individuals. You will succeed. It’s all about understanding what you can do, what you will need to do, and how you will go about doing it.