Solo Founder vs Founding Team
I'm a solo founder of a mobile app for recycling in the UK, but have no technical background. I was wondering if any of you share a similar background and have successfully launched your business? It seems that everywhere I look on the internet, investors seems to dislike solo founders, esp. if they have neither a business nor a technical background (I'm a cancer biologist). I'm working on building an MVP with no-code tools and wanted to know if I would still be penalised for my lack of traditional founder skills?
Hello @Tamsin97I have shared a similar background, and have successfully launched my business.I am a tech co-founder at Neurastats. So, I work closely with a lot of early founders and have several clients in the very early stages of building their businesses. I can help you if you need some help related to tech while building MVP.Let me know if you are looking for someone with technical experience in developing mobile apps.If you would like to take the conversation forward, hit me up at [email protected]
Hi Monisha, Thank you for offering advice! I'll definitely shoot you a message to discuss this further :)
Sure @Tamsin97Will await for the same :)
How tech heavy is your solution meaning can you continue using the no-code tool or you will need to onboard a CTO (potentially tech cofounder) down the line?Investors do tend to have a bias against solo founders for 3 reasons: 1) what does that say bout your leadership skills ie. can you bring people on board/sell them your vision and of course can you work with others? 2) workload: you will get very swamped very quickly so it is good to divide and conquer 3) in your specific if your product is tech heavy (the secret sauce is in the tech) and you aren't technical then yea it's a bit problematic, however if you are building something that is not as tech intensive say an ecommerce platform for consumer goods, then you can get a pass there. All things considered though, that does not mean it is impossible, many solo founders get funded all the time so don't "self select" yourself out of the competition!
Hi @iynna, The plan is to onboard a CTO down the line. I completely understand the investor's point of view and ideally would love to be working in a team at this point in time, however it's proven difficult to find a technical co-founder from my network as they are all currently working on something and would rather focus my energy and time on building my product and working with users instead of looking for a co-founder. The idea at this point is to build an MVP with no-code, raise investments and then hire a CTO. Is this a potential course of action/argument I can use to defend my current situation (solo founder)?
Hey Tamsin - I work with so many founders in your position (in fact you are in the exact position I'm trying to help.)From my experience not having a tech founder does not hold investors back from working with you if you:1) Can show some technical fluency and understand how you will work with technical talent (either hiring a CTO, or development agency down the line)2) Can showcase that you've done plenty of work to get the ball rolling on your product (for this I recommend no-code, so well done you are already there!)3) Have a technical person on your advisary board so they know there is a tech representation on your team.4) products' secret sauce isn't in tech (as @iynna says below)In my mind I actually think you are wise for focussing on your product rather than spending a lot of time searching for the right technical person right now. Finding a technical founder is incredibly time consuming, challenging and can very easily go wrong. Instead I think your energy is best spent building a product & focussing on customers. That's what will impress investors.Happy to chat more to you about this - as I said before, your problem is literally the one I set out to solve!https://techniclarity.co
Thank you for your input! How does one determine whether the secret sauce is in the tech? And if it is, can it be argued that I have the intention of hiring a CTO down the line? (The plan is to only build an MVP with no-code tools in order to raise investment and use that money to hire a CTO)
To judge on if the secret sauce is in the tech ask yourself:Is what makes me different to my competitors the technology (e.g a specific algorithm or technique)? Or am I different because I have different values/a targeting a different audience/solving their problem in a novel way? If it's the first, then your secret sauce is in the tech. (Most business won't have their secret sauce in the tech if you are capable of building your MVP with no-code).
Hey @Tamsin97,I'm also a solo non-technical founder in the sustainability space (and in the UK!). I started out by building with no code and think it's a smart move (especially now, as no code is developing so quickly that it's an amazing starting point for validating ideas 🤩). Then I bootstrapped, hiring engineers to build an MVP while I started working on sales (I didn't spend any time/energy on fundraising as I knew it would be very difficult without a technical co-founder or significant traction). We now have our first investor and are launching pilots, but a technical co-founder is the right next step for us. Both in workload and funding, being a solo founder is hard! Not impossible for sure, but really challenging. I agree with the other responses, from my (limited) experience when talking to investors the following will help to derisk:1. Do you have domain expertise in the area you're building, startup experience or a network that gives you an unfair advantage? 2. Have you got technical advisors who can provide regular input?3. Can you demonstrate what you've been able to do without a technical co-founder - e.g. traction that proves people need what you're building and will pay?4. Can you articulate why you don't have a technical co-founder or team - to show that you understand the value of a technical co-founder and can explain why your alternative plan works equally well - or at least well enough for now? Either that no code will meet your needs until you grow to X point, that you have potential candidates for a CTO/co-founder, or that you have enough technical knowledge (and support from advisors) to manage contractors/an agency. Have you thought about alternative funding methods, like grants or a small crowdfund to get you started? I would say the downside of no code for me was that I underestimated maintenance of the product (at the time I was using a Webflow, Zapier, Airtable, Memberstack stack, probably less of an issue if you're using something like Bubble), which left less time to work on other areas of the business as you're the one investigating and fixing things when something breaks (almost all the time with Zapier haha). Seems like we have a few things in common, happy to chat if you'd like :)
Wow thank you @mayalingam it's reassuring to know that it is indeed possible to succeed with a tech cofounder! Would love to connect, just sent you a request on linkedin :)
I do not know why VCs screen for coding ability. Ability to code does not at all correlate with the skillset required to be a good CEO. Additionally, as you mentioned, with all the new no-code tools available now, you can build your own MVP without it. I think ability to build your own MVP does signal that you are serious about the business, which is something investors look for.I really recommend finding a co-founder. Entrepreneurship is lonely and tough. I found a co-founder and she has been stellar and I don't know what I would do without her. When stuff hits the fan, I feel like she's there to help and that has been immeasurably valuable to me. It's really been 1+1>2.Additionally, I think it's hard to have all the skillsets in one person you need to build a company. Everyone has things that they are working on. The best teams I've seen complement each other where they are weak.Lastly, I do think it depends on what your ultimate goals for your company are. Many companies should not be venture backed and VC is not a good fit because you will give away 30%+ of your company as you raise. It's an extremely expensive form of capital, perhaps the most expensive...I don't know why more women don't consider bootstrapping instead. Fundraising can be a distraction (time consuming to talk to investors) when you really just want to be working on the business instead and making progress there.
Thanks for your comment. I would love to have a cofounder but haven't come across anyone in my network who would be a good fit or has the same drive. And I would rather focus on building the business than put in the effort to screen potential cofounders. Personally, I would prefer to go fast and raise funds to hire a qualified team down the line. Unfortunately bootstrapping isn't an option for me as I've just graduated from university and I have barely anything left after bills and necessities... so exploring the option of crowdfunding and angel investments since I'm still in early-stages.