Single founder

Don’t be a single founder, too risky! What if you fall ill, what if you die? You will not be able to make this work!?

When I started Paper / on the Rocks seven years ago, I was a single founder. For some I was the Vision (from an enthusiasts’ perspective), for some I was the Risk (investors).

The amount of times I was told by an investor they would not invest because the risk of having a single founder in a company is too big, are numerous.

Because I would A. not make a wise decision with their money, B. not be able to build a company on my own and C. What if I fell ill or would die? Huge liability.

Ok let’s see. A: did not run off with the money, used it to build the company together with a team. B. Like I said, built the company and it’s doing great!

As for C… Yes I almost died at age 33, roughly seven months ago now. A stroke hit me due to which I was unable to speak or understand a lot of things. Let alone run a company.

And the company itself?

The company survived because of three key ingredients:

1. This company was never ‘me’. It’s the team and mentors. They run the show. While I run around like an idiot waving the flag for our mission, they actually make it work. It’s because of their knowledge, expertise and grit, that the vehicle moved forward regardless.
2. Investors that are on the mission with us. There is a clear shared vision of the future. One of our most senior Angel Investors joined the team when he learned about my stroke. He continuously kept me in the loop, all the time telling me: ‘I am sure you’ll be back on your feet soon, and by that time, I’ll gradually step out of this role again.’
3. Luck. It is always about luck. The luck of meeting the right people. The team, investors, doctors, friends, family, supporters, partners, clients, fans. And by the way, the luck of me surviving a stroke.

The company lived on while I had to step out. Luckily, I am finding my place again (that flagwaving person).

For any lonely aspiring entrepreneur who needs to hear this:

– Do it. Start. The world needs crazy idiots who build something when others’ don’t even realise this is something the world needs right now. Don’t wait for a fellow founder.

– Find others to accompany you on the journey. Be it a friend who supports you. An investor who believes in you. A team, a mentor, you need people who believe in you and will be there for you on the journey.

– Remain humble. You are not a god. You are just a person starting a company. You are not even a god within your company. Just, the person who built the chair that is the company – and you temporarily get to sit in it, maybe. You don’t have the answers. The best you can do is go look for them. Find the joy in that and the peace. Be transparent at all times. You are Just. A. Person.

Building a company is wonderful. Seeing it thrive while you’re not there, is a gift. 

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