October 21, 2006

The 18 mistakes that kill start-ups - by Paul Graham

Paul Graham has an article on common mistakes that are often fatal to start-ups.

Guess what's No. 1 on the list?: Having a Single Founder (Ouch!)

What's wrong with having one founder? To start with, it's a vote of no confidence. It probably means the founder couldn't talk any of his friends into starting the company with him. That's pretty alarming, because his friends are the ones who know him best.

But even if the founder's friends were all wrong and the company is a good bet, he's still at a disadvantage. Starting a startup is too hard for one person. Even if you could do all the work yourself, you need colleagues to brainstorm with, to talk you out of stupid decisions, and to cheer you up when things go wrong.

The last one might be the most important. The low points in a startup are so low that few could bear them alone. When you have multiple founders, esprit de corps binds them together in a way that seems to violate conservation laws. Each thinks "I can't let my friends down." This is one of the most powerful forces in human nature, and it's missing when there's just one founder.

Arun Natarajan is the Founder of Venture Intelligence India, which tracks venture capital activity in India and Indian-founded companies worldwide. View sample issues of Venture Intelligence India newsletters and reports.