By successful I mean profitable. I've heard success stories of people making millions from adsense or from creating software products. A good one that comes to mind is the founder of Plenty of Fish which sold to IAC for over $500M. Besides that I can not think of other examples.
I think you can add Dyson to the list, but Facebook wasn't a solo founder company.
I'm a solo founder, and I'd change the situation if I could. I'm always getting told that I'm not investable because I'm a solo founder, I've even hired people to pretend to be a cofounder. My business area is specifically and technically very very challenging.
Sometimes there is just no way of meeting a qualified cofounder, I think that it comes down to your personal circumstances, geographic, personality, finances, etc.
PoF (Plenty of Fish) was started by a Canadian sitting in his flat bored, the technical spec of the project was pretty simple, even CraigsList, neither raised funding to start their projects.
I've found it difficult to maintain cofounders because of the time it has taken to develop and bring the product to market, but more importantly, these potential cofounders don't know anything about what it is to be a founder.
People, especially in London, are too 'broke', we live pay packet to pay packet, even when earning £100k a year. Most aren't willing to adventure or bet upon themselves to make a project work.
I would certainly get a cofounder, but it seems that the thinking of cofounders is that they need to be paid to be onboard.
I'm a solo founder. It's a tough tough road. I see why so many do it as teams.
im considering a co-founder, just have to find the right one.
@hugh proctor, who is telling you your company is not investable because you are a solo entrepreneur?? That makes no sense. Either 1. you are dealing with incompetent investors, or 2. your product/company is not showing signs of profitability. I can't tell you how many stories I have heard of investors bringing teams to solo entrepreneurs. But it is because they believe in the company and the product or the entrepreneur enough that they believe surrounding him with a team will lead to success. If I were you, the next time you are told that I would really press the investor...if you can illustrate profitability. It is true that having a great team is very important. But the only thing more important than having a great team is having a product/company that addresses some need and stands to make a profit.
If your metric is only "profitable," I guess you could consider me a "successful solo founder." A few years ago I recognized that there was a severely underserved managed WordPress hosting market--the small-business customer who has a lot of traffic but not massive traffic. I created a hosting company to serve these clients specifically, and in three years generated > $50k ARR. I sold the company to a competitor (whose infrastructure I was using anyway), as I was ready to step back from the bump and grind of working at the trouble ticket level.
At $50k, you are just barely crossing the line of being able to hire someone else to help, and I wasn't ready to hire another full-stack engineer until I could pay them >= $100k with benefits. You can see the challenge, then, of founding a technical company by yourself: your work gets harder and harder and your time away from your family becomes greater and greater. It's like an exponential function; as the time involved approaches the limit of what one person can achieve, you have to sustain this for a period of time until ARR can increase to the point where it makes sense to hire someone else.
Of course, my own pride and desires inhibited any attempts to reach out for VC funding. A successful SBA loan application was stalled because I really didn't want any debt. So in the end, you could look at this as I do: a successful testing-of-the-waters.
I had friend that started a very successful chain of restaurants by himself. He did have his wife's support but otherwise he was the sole proprietor. In my own experience I'd suggest finding a cofounder to work with. Starting your own business is a marathon and not a sprint, and if you can find the right cofounder it really helps to have someone you can trust to care about the company with you. There will be times you'll need a break or to take sometime away from the business , or there will be times that your energy level just isn't as high as it needs to be. Your cofounder can help in those times.
Also it's good to understand where your own weaknesses are and find a coFounder to compliment yourself. Also your special talent that is allowing you to start a business is what you need to be spending the most time on. but running a business requires many many other tasks. The right coFounder will also allow you to focus on the special X Factor that makes your company special and not get bogged down in all the other tasks.
Yes, lots of them: https://medium.com/@haftrm/successful-solo-founders-5c7f60ef6a0e
There are some examples : Tumblr, Tesla and Oracle come to mind. But there are a lot of different skill sets needed to solo fund a business, much less having the capital to pay for it all.
To Hugh's point, it is difficult to find a co-founder. I've found hiring tech freelancers to be a costly initiative long-term for various reasons. I want to find a full stack developer that has the skills and entrepreneurial spirit to join what we're doing. Anyone been successful? There are so many young, talented, hungry people out there looking for opportunities - so, where are they?
A team is usually better than you as an individual. The hardest time for entrepreneur is not when your business fails but when the constant hardship "attack" you in the journey. Solo founder will get exhausted very quickly. Having cofounders is the best thing when it comes to offload risks, payloads, hard decisions, and so on.
(I said Facebook, but was educated otherwise. Answer deleted.)