Why Solo?

Pete Bernardo

Previously I wrote about what I knew I needed to learn in order to build a product. Occasionally I’ll get asked if I had so much to learn why was important to me to build Punchli.st alone.

I’m sure there is some deeper psychological reasoning but the easiest way to explain it is I don’t want to blame anyone else if this doesn’t work. Previously I have partnered with a few different friends to varying degrees of success. I have lost track of the business starts, but I can count with one hand the startups that are still around, zero.

I want to prove it to myself that I can do it.

So let’s talk about the pros and cons of starting a startup by yourself, but the first thing we should say is that this is only really a viable idea for certain types of businesses. Do you want to do a software startup? Great, read on. The other thing I should be clear on is that I don’t think this is a forever type thing. I have no desire to grow a business so big that I don’t get to leverage the byproducts of that success.

@geoff352 has told me multiple times that one of the key byproducts of business success and growth is opportunities for others.

Pro: You don’t have to argue with anyone. You don’t have to wait on anyone else’s schedule. You know what it should look like.

You don’t have to argue with anyone.

There is something nice about having a vision in your head and executing on it. Sometimes the loudest voice in a partnership will win. The key is while you might be able to move quickly because of the lack of debate you do have to consistently test your assumptions on the market. There is something special about not having to share the pressure of mistakes. That probably sounds counter-intuitive but for me, I like being in the fire and working through it.

Occasionally over the years I’ll think up a piece of furniture and build it. To be able to envision something, put the time in, and then have others appreciate, it is a special feeling. Not relying on anyone else is pretty liberating.

You don’t have to wait on anyone else’s schedule.

If your startup is a side hustle, I think having co-founders is usually a bad idea. Priorities change and ambitions grow, I have found that it is really hard to get on the same page for long enough with part-time co-founders. If you are going to start building something as a side hustle you really only have to worry about your schedule. You can go heads down on the weekend and you don’t have to worry about your co-founder not.

You know what it should look like.

About a decade ago I went to Future of Web Apps in Miami. Looking back at the event it was a hell of a line up: Joel Spolsky, Dave McClure, Gary Vaynerchuk to name a few but the talk I still remember vividly was Jason Fried. He had a ton of great points and still to this day I appreciate how his approach to business is still pretty counter to the typical startup advice. One of the things that still rings in my head was a comment he made around never hiring if you haven’t done the job yourself. His point is you won’t make the best hire you can if you don’t know what the job entails. For me, that has meant I need to learn how to be decent at sales to customer services before I can even think about outsourcing it.

Cons: You don’t get to argue with anyone. Things only move as fast as you, slow. You can potentially overbuild.

You don’t get to argue with anyone.

I think a lot of the beauty of a startup comes from the team becoming an actual team. The ups and downs solidify this group and are a built-in support group when you need it. Sometimes that group needs to say no to each other.

Being solo means you have to really be honest with yourself often about whether what you are working on is what is best for the business. It’s often lonely and you don’t get to high-five your team when you win.

Things only move as fast as you, slow.

I truly believe in the 10x developer, I have seen it a handful of times in my career to know it is true. So I know when I do software dev, something I just recently became quasi proficient in, it kills me knowing that what takes me days could be done by an expert in moments. I think the same is true in really anything from writing this blog post to deploying a server. If you are patient and passionate about what you are doing there is nothing better IMO than being able to do it yourself. Just know it can be incredibly frustrating at times.

You can potentially over build.

Since you don’t have to argue with anyone it is pretty easy to think you can code your way out of a problem. To me, the downside of this is actually the things you aren’t focusing on. Having the discipline to work on multiple aspects of the business consistently is really hard. If you go heads down on building for too long something will suffer.

I could probably write 100 more pros and cons but you get the general idea. I feel personally part of it is a phase for me and when I’m ready for a team it will happen but another part of me feels like this is prepping me to run a really great business.

Doing this solo comes with a ton of drawbacks, probably more cons than pros, but for me, I don’t think I would change anything for the world. Working with teams have been some of the most rewarding parts of my career, I love the camaraderie, but there is just something special about making the leap without the net.