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Advice for Solo Founders

It's better to have no cofounder than to have a bad cofounder, but it's still bad to be a solo founder.


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Dima Syrotkin

a year ago | 3 min read

Sam Altman said the following in his Y Combinator lecture "How to start a startup":

It's better to have no cofounder than to have a bad cofounder, but it's still bad to be a solo founder.

This sums up the solo founder's dilemma pretty well. Enough has been said on the topic of "it's hard to go solo and it's hard to find a good co-founder" already so I will get right to the possible solutions that I've observed worked.

Get a hands-on advisor

There are founders and there are advisors. There is no word for something in between: an advisor who spends 5-10 hours per week on the company, owns 10-25% of the company and doesn't only advise but also gets shit done when needed. So far the best term I could come up with is a 'hands-on advisor'.

A few months ago I become a hands-on advisor for the company called GrowthClub. GrowthClub is a community of founders with $5K+ MRR where founders exchange growth hacks and build genuine connections in 1-on-1 video calls.

The founder of the company, Maxim Zavadskiy, was a solo founder. Fun fact: I was a user of his service myself. I saw potential in what he was building and offered him some advice and help along the road. When shit got real, we agreed that I could be helping him on a continuous basis.

So far it seemed to work miracles. Try it out. Maxim themselves says "I'm quite certain that in these 5-10 hours a week Dima moves project forward more than would 90% of other possible co-founders working full-time for GrowthClub.

The most critical help that I get is co-piloting: a second, much fresher head for the decisions we take. Plus he also gets real work done, like writing this article or partnerships. It would have been impossible to score Dima otherwise, as he is already committed full-time to his company".

I'm quite certain that in these 5-10 hours a week Dima moves project forward more than would 90% of other possible co-founders working full-time

One of the benefits is that you can score someone with a lot more experience than you have. Stellar people already have their own projects and they might not be able to join you full-time, but finding 5-10 hours per week tends to be possible if your venture is inspiring enough.

GrowthClub

Another option that many people don't consider is joining GrowthClub itself as a member. Around 50% of our members are solo founders. Why?

A big part of our community is founders being helpful to each other. A part of that is bouncing off ideas and growth hacks, brainstorming. Another part is a bit unexpected and is our secret sauce: we consciously nudge people to help each other, form meaningful relationships, and to make commitments to others through structured meetings and exercises. That way you actually have chances on engaging in projects with other solo-founders and eventually become co-founders. Let me explain this more.

There are a lot of networking sites for founders. Yet they provide no structure for those networking meetings. As a result, genuine connections are rarely formed.

In GrowthClub, we are very selective with whom we take in. We always have an onboarding call, a trial meeting with every new member.

Our platform allows members to keep track of time and to divide the meeting clearly: 50% of the time I help you, 50% of the time you help me. We use some coaching exercises to help people with clarifying their goals and committing to the next actions.

All of this, exchange of growth hacks, genuine connections, commitment is exactly what every solo founder is missing.

Our vision with GrowthClub is to build a Silicon Valley in the cloud, and you might be now seeing what we are getting at here.

In sum

A co-founder is hard to find. An advisor isn't committed enough. Try to find a hands-on advisor or join a community like GrowthClub that provides you with 4 co-founders per month.

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Dima Syrotkin

CEO at Panda Training | Work smarter with the Chatbot Coach. Try for free at bit.ly/chatbotcoachtrial

My aim is to contribute to humanity's development through the levers of (1) personal development and education, (2) human longevity, and (3) political and economic systems. Interests: coaching, developmental psychology, self-managing organizations (Teal, Holacracy), longevity, aging, politics, economics, history, philosophy, metamodernism, China, AGI, meditation. I love meeting highly ambitious people. Are you one? Let's connect!


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