Wednesday 14 November 2018 9:48 am

Forget going solo: Why it pays to find a co-founder

Britain has always worn its entrepreneurial spirit proudly on its sleeve.

It was Adam Smith (not, in fact Napoleon) who coined the term “a nation of shopkeepers” to describe the British in The Wealth of Nations back in 1776. Today, calling us a nation of entrepreneurs is far more accurate.

New research from Octopus reveals that one in three Brits has considered starting their own business. But our findings also show that four out of 10 people would only feel brave enough to set up a business if they could find the right person to partner with.

There’s a very good reason for this: being an entrepreneur is not just a huge risk, it’s also bloody hard work.

Most one-man-bands hit a brick wall very early, either because one person can’t maintain the pace needed to keep the business afloat, or because they don’t have the necessary expertise to take a startup to the next level.

Two or more co-founders can help make sure the business maintains momentum and is headed in the right direction.

But the benefits of having a co-founder don’t stop at sharing the workload. The moral support a co-founder can offer should not be under-estimated either.

Entrepreneurs invariably spend the first few years of their business struggling and being surrounded by people who tell them that what they’re trying to achieve isn’t possible.

Faced with this, entrepreneurs quickly learn to rely on themselves, and their instincts. It becomes them against the world, and that’s a lonely place to be, which is why it’s far better to have a co-founder along with you.

Starting a new company is always a risk, and potentially a very costly one. But having a co-founder can give you the confidence that you can do it.

Of the entrepreneurs we surveyed, 89 per cent told us that having a co-founder provided the impetus they needed to start their own business.

Sometimes, having someone in your corner telling you to go for it is the last great push you need to be brave and back your judgement.

When we set up Octopus back in 2000, we were naïve in many respects. We were leaving behind careers at a very well-respected financial services company, and a lot of people thought we were mad.

But for me, sharing the risk with co-founders meant having a comfort blanket that kept me feeling secure once the doubts started to creep in.

Going into business with someone is like the decision to get married – only you’ll spend way more time with your co-founder than you will with your life partner.

You need to have the kind of relationship where you’re both true to yourselves. And, like all successful marriages, it’s about keeping the lines of communication open.

Perhaps the most revealing statistic we uncovered from our research was that a staggering 78 per cent of solo entrepreneurs admitted that a co-founder would have made their business more successful.

So, if you’re thinking of launching a startup, but you’re planning on going it alone, think again.

Finding a co-founder to take with you on the journey could be the best business decision you make.

Simon Rogerson is the City A.M. Entrepreneur of the Year