Y-Combinator backs a Single Founder (no, not me)

On a recent podcast, Rob Walling and I chatted about a new online magazine called Hacker Monthly. Today I dropped over and checked it out and found an article that really rang true with what I’ve been doing over the past several years. It was called “The Royal We: Single Founder Startups” by Ray Grieselhuber. Here’s the part that really rang true to me.

Think about all of the successful companies we know. Isn’t it true in many cases (though not all, of course) that even in companies that were started by co-founders, there is usually The One?

The One is that person who really makes the company work. The other founders no doubt contribute a great deal, but if it really came down to it, the company would survive and flourish in much the same way as long as The One was running it. In some cases, this actually happens.

Way to put it Ray. I tried several years ago to put this down in my own words in my article called “The Single Founder Myth” and I don’t think that many people fully understood what I was getting at. My point was that it’s entirely possible to make it work as a Single Founder and that Paul Graham was wrong in his assessment that a single founder company can’t make it work. Having a company with a single founder is not necessarily indicative of a mistake. It is indicative of someone who simply hasn’t found another whom he feels is his equal in terms of drive, ambition, ideas, talent, dedication, or some combination thereof. Over the last several years, as Ray pointed out, several notable examples have risen to the surface, such as the founders of Mint.com and Blogger.

In fact, after reviewing the Ginzametrics site a bit more, I realized something. The company is backed by Y-Combinator, which I can only assume means that: a) Paul was outvoted, b) Paul has discovered somehow that he was simply wrong, c) is testing his theory in on a live startup.

Had I thought this would be the case several years ago, I would have certainly gone down this path. Now, I’m not so sure.

But I will point out one other thing. It’s quite possible that this isn’t the first Single Founder startup that Y-Combinator has funded. I’ve just never noticed until now.

In other news, the summer is over so I really don’t have any excuses to delay my writings. You’ll start seeing new articles posted in the next week or two as I get them out the door. Feels good to be back.


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  2. Amber Shah on September 14, 2010 at 1:06 pm

    YC has backed a few single founder startups:

    I heard someone else quote PG that he would do it so long as the single founder was a “genius”, although that was a secondary source. Although, the fact that YC funds them doesn’t necessary negate PG’s opinion since YC is a seed fund, so the plan could include finding a good co-founder.

  3. Mike Taber on September 14, 2010 at 8:32 pm

    I’m sure there have been a few more, but I just haven’t really been paying that much attention to their “classes” the last few years. I think that Justin.tv was one of them. From the link you provided, apparently Dropbox and Xobni are others. But I guess I just noticed today that there have been others. The ratios are pretty low though, so it makes me wonder if it’s either just an experiment, if competent people aren’t getting through the selection process, or if qualified people aren’t bothering to apply because of Paul Graham’s stance in the past.

    It’s an interesting data point, nonetheless.

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