Podcast: How to solve your startup’s Catch-22 conundrum – Startup Basics Podcast

A very common conundrum for startup founders–particularly non-technical ones–is: “How do I get investment, when investors want to see a product and traction, but I can’t build my product and get traction without money?!”

In this episode of Startup Basics we will explore three possible workarounds to help you make progress and break out of this classic Catch-22 situation.

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How to find a great co-founder for your startup

Although it’s possible to build a successful tech company as a lone founder, there are many advantages to joining up with someone as committed as you that will be on the journey from the start. Choosing the right co-founder is vital for your startup’s success considering that 13% of founders surveyed by CB Insights stated that the primary reason why their startup failed was due to “disharmony among the team” and that another 23% blamed failure on “not the right team.” However, many founders either don’t know where to start when it comes to finding a co-founder or choose a compatriot that is the wrong fit. In this article, I will cover what to look for in a co-founder and how to find her.

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Do you need a co-founder to build a successful startup?

A TechCrunch article published in 2016 argued that startups that have more than one founder aren’t necessarily more successful. The author pointed out that at the time of writing, 52.3% of startups that exited (were acquired or IPO’d) had only one founder. This analysis flew in the face of conventional wisdom: that teams needed two or three co-founders to make it. While I don’t dispute the findings, I do think that summary statistics miss a number of nuances that are critical when deciding whether or not to bring on a co-founder. In this article, we’ll dive deeper into the dynamics that are likely to drive this decision.

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The Leaky Bucket and the Tech Pipeline Issue

The leaky tech pipeline issue has been well documented and largely acknowledged by the industry. As various companies struggle with how to attract more women and minorities in their hiring process and how to train their personnel in “tolerance” (please don’t call it this!), I’d propose that we examine this problem through the lens of growth hacking as I think there is much to be learned from this approach. In essence, the problem that growth hackers are trying to solve is identical: how do you attract and keep people using your product? The question that executives at tech companies ask is similar: how do you attract and maintain a diverse workforce?

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Should you look for a co-founder or raise capital?

I recently read a question on Reddit by an individual who was having difficulty finding a co-founder and asked whether she should first try to get funding, which would allow her to hire the team member that she needs. If you’re in a similar situation, my answer might offer a helpful perspective:

Investors look for the four ‘Ts’: total addressable market, tech, timing, and team. (I’d add a fourth T, which is traction.) Of those factors, my experience is that investors pay the closest attention to the team. Not having a single co-founder would put you at a tremendous disadvantage in that category.

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