If you want to go fast go alone. If you want to go far go with others.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the different experience between founding Vibewire in 2000 and StartSomeGood ten years later. There were some pretty amazing technological and social shifts during that time which I want to explore in a separate post. What I want to talk about today is, I think, the single biggest difference for me experientially between founding Vibewire and StartSomeGood and that is that with StartSomeGood I have a co-founder.
While I had some truly amazing collaborators over the eight years I led Vibewire, I didn’t have a single person right from the start who was as committed, as on the line, as I was. Having Alex as my constant collaborator at StartSomeGood has been an extraordinary contrast. Even in the midst of our most stressful moments, and they’ve been many, having someone else that you can be completely open and raw with, who is as invested and committed to finding a way forward as I am, changes everything.
Practically, of course, having a co-founder means you can do more from day one, allowing each of you to focus on different critical areas. Having two heads instead of one leads to more and better ideas. But most important, I think, is the way having a co-founder alleviates some of the stresses of startups by making those stresses shared, allowing each of us to express it and get it out rather than bottling it up, and the encouragement and support that comes from this.
One of the keys to sustainability with a cofounder, and with a romantic partner as well for that matter, is compatibility in your freak-outs. One of you needs to be strong when the other is weak. If one person’s freak out triggers the other to freak out it’s just an emo mess. But it just seems that when I’m having a hard day and questioning everything Alex is strong and when he’s struggling I feel able to be practical and optimistic enough for the two of us, and so we continue.
Judged solely in terms of the skills and experience we bring to the table we are not perfect co-founders. Neither of us is technical enough; our skills and preferences overlap more than is optimal. We have too really push ourselves to pick up and stay on-top of things neither of us is naturally inclined to do and, bless him, Alex has stepped up to more of that than me and kept the good ship StartSomeGood moving forward with his leadership and commitment, such as during the recent site re-build. But what matters most this skill-set match is our attitude match; it’s what makes it possible for us to work through the ups-and-downs of a startup together, even as we’ve never lived in the same place.
I’m working near as hard as I ever have at the moment but there’s a lightness and satisfaction to it, a sense of progress and possibility and pride in our achievements. This is not simply from having a great co-founder but a great team, a group of people who share our vision and commitment to making it happen, who bring great energy and innovative thinking to their roles, who I trust to get the job done without supervision or micro-management.
One thing I’m certain about: I’ll never launch a venture without a co-founder again. The difference it makes to your enjoyment, sustainability and ultimately your chances of success are just too great to set out on the epic journey which a startup represents without one.