Why do so many accelerators and other startup programmes insist on you finding a co-founder?
On our Oxygen Accelerator programme, we accept applications from single founders, but do tell them that they will need to find a co-founder or two before the programme starts. Some accelerators will not even accept an application from a single founder.
What is the logic behind this?
1. Skill Set
A single founder cannot possibly have all the skills necessary to run a business. You may be the most amazing developer, but I am sure your sales skills, marketing expertise or design skills are not of the same quality. Therefore, you have gaps in skills that your business will need from day one.
Could you not just outsource the work you don’t have the skills for? Absolutely not; in our experience any startup that has tried to outsource key aspects of the business has had a nightmare that ultimately led to failure. A startup is so dynamic and fast-moving that an outsourced partner cannot keep up. They will not work all hours to hit deadlines and they will not help set direction. What usually happens with an outsourced partner is that it costs three times as much as planned, takes three times as long and when it does get done, it’s not quite what you asked for. So our advice is, don’t try to outsource any key skills as a startup – it just doesn’t work.
2. Accelerator (/Startup) Intensity
Another reason for needing co-founders is that the Oxygen Accelerator programme is super intensive. Think a military bootcamp but for tech startups. We work long hours and ask you to deliver milestones on a weekly basis. It would just not be physically possible to achieve what you need to in 13 weeks if you were on your own. That’s why we say a minimum of two co-founders. Even if you’re not on an accelerator, unless you have unlimited savings, you’ll need to be moving at a seriously fast pace to ensure you waste as little time and money as possible.
3. Investment in a team
If at the end of the 13 weeks (or at some point in your startup journey) you are looking for seed investment in your startup, and most of our teams are, then there is an expectation from investors that they will invest in a team. Investors understand that the idea is only a small part of what they are investing in and their main investment is in a quality team. A team that can execute is investable in; a single individual with an idea is not.
Three is the magic number
You don’t have to believe us that you should have a team because there has been a lot of academic research that proves that teams are much more succesful than individual founders. Here is a paper from Aston Business School with some interesting findings.
A Co-founder team size of three is more likely to be successful, stands a higher chance of gaining investment and generally gets better exits. If one of those three is female, then you have even better chances. Once you get beyond four founders you have diminishing returns and it can even have a negative effect.
Read next: How to find a startup co-founder