Don’t wait for Mr. Technically Right (or for Mr. Right either)," advises one single, non-technical founder who started her company without a business or romantic partner.By Maxine Manafy (Founder & CEO, Bunndle)
I am a 37-year-old unmarried woman with no children. I am single. The word "single" has a stigma associated with it. Women backup with shame when someone calls them single. After you hit a certain age, our society, along with most of the world, puts pressure on us to marry and settle down. Every year I wait, I am losing the opportunity for my good eggs to hatch – for my wrinkles to stay hidden. I am missing out.
I am also a single founder.
When I began my journey, I had an idea that I could build an ad network for apps and do it better. That’s it. No prototype. No money. No engineers. And as a single founder, I quickly learned that:
- It’s hard to get funded.
- It’s hard to hire developers, especially if you are not technical.
- It’s assumed that nobody would join as a co-founder and therefore, my idea was bad.
- It will take longer to do everything.
- I will bear the entire burden of the business and need to be able to do it all.
Most investors and entrepreneurs will advise that it’s best to have a co-founder – that it’s better to start something with at least one other person. In fact, it’s a good idea, they say, for technology companies to have at least one person be the technical co-founder while his or her counterpart handles the business side of things. If you are an engineer or developer, you will have a better chance of doing it on your own, but will still need someone to eventually balance you out on the business side. If you are not technical, the odds are very much against you.
Going Solo Is Hard... But Not Impossible
I felt stuck. So I did what I knew how to do. I started selling. I went to potential customers and vetted my ideas. I asked if they would actually spend money with me if the solution existed. Would they sign up as a customer? Would they sign a contract? They said yes. A few investors realized I had a viable business concept and decided to invest.
But even after my business got funded, finding a technical person to join didn’t get any easier. While I continued my search, I tried to move the business forward in whatever way I could: building product specs, building a prototype, focusing on customer acquisition and traction. It took almost a year before I hired my first full-time engineer.
Investors will tell you not to use contractors for product development because they will not be as engaged and the code will probably be thrown out. This is true. But if you are in the early phases of your company, likely you need to get to the first minimum viable product. This may eventually lead you to hiring a full time engineer, soliciting customer feedback, or pitching an investor. Before I found the first engineer, I used contractors knowing that the product would evolve and I would likely throw out the code. A real business needs a full-time team. But using contractors as a method to keep moving forward can be helpful.
It's OK to Go It Alone
Starting a company is an emotional roller coaster. Having a partner to share the pains and joys can help a lot. But I don’t know that you have to wait. If you have a dream, something you are passionate about doing, and have the guts to go for it, you should. Don’t wait. Don’t wait for Mr. Technically Right (or for Mr. Right either). Life isn’t going to slow down and you may miss out on a great opportunity. You will need to be creative in how you sell yourself to investors; or, maybe you just have to wait awhile and prove that you can do it on your own until they invest. Either way, don’t stop moving. Focusing on whatever I could do to move the business forward allowed me to show progress. I made the business real. You can do the same.
As women, we don’t often think of going it alone, in business or in life. Alone is scary. We expect the worst. It’s not accepted socially. It can cost us – both professionally and personally. In the back of our minds, we naturally assume that we must have a partner. We think it’s easier with a partner and that we can’t do it on our own. We stop ourselves before we even try.
But alone and single is not new for us. It may require us to work harder and prove more. So what? Let’s do it. Let’s go for it, because we have to start somewhere. If we want more in this world, we are going to need to take more risks. We are going to need to do the un-normal. Normal is boring. Normal is dependent. Don’t invalidate yourself before trying. Single and alone might be where you start, not where you end up. Somehow you need to be seen and this may be the only way to get there.
Don’t wait for Mr. Technically Right, Mr. Right, or anyone for that matter. Stand up and get started. The world is waiting for you.
Women 2.0 readers: Are you waiting to find a partner to start up?
About the guest blogger: Maxine is the founder and CEO of Bunndle. Prior to Bunndle, Maxine led business development and user acquisition efforts for Xobni and served as VP of Business Development at Viximo. Maxine has also held business development and operations roles at Yahoo! and Mochi Media, driving distribution and revenue. In her former life, she was a manufacturing engineer at Intel and KLA-Tencor. Maxine has an MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business.
Photo credit: Lee Haywood via Flickr.