There is a bias against solo founders in Startup Land. The conventional wisdom is that being an entrepreneur is so difficult that you shouldn't embark on it alone. Many of the top accelerators, like Techstars and Y Combinator, won't accept founding teams that have solo founders. Jessica Livingston, the lesser-known co-founder of Y Combinator, put it well in a Wall Street Journal article a few years ago:
“We believe being a single founder is one factor that makes it more difficult to succeed… [because] there is just so much to do at a startup. Also, the moral weight of starting a company can be very hard to bear alone.”
I was at an entrepreneur event the other night talking with a friend (Mark Lurie of Lofty) who is a solo founder. He coined a phrase that I love, and so will repeat here (with his permission), which is that having a co-founder to help get stuff done (the first part of Jessica's statement) is less important than her second point: having, in effect, an emotional co-founder.
The emotional co-founder may or may not be in the company – in fact it can be better if they're not – but they are the sounding board, therapist and support system that the founder needs to get through all the painful ups and downs.
The emotional co-founder can be a spouse, a classmate, a best friend, even an investor if there is a high degree of trust (usually established with one of the earliest investor – i.e., one of the leads behind the seed round or the Series A). One of my portfolio company founders lives with his co-founder and the two serve as very strong emotional co-founders for each other. Admittedly, that's a little extreme.
But if you find yourself a solo founder, don't despair. Just make sure you find an emotional co-founder to help you get through the roller coaster ride.
Our immigration reform system is broken. That isn't new news.
There is now a fix for high-skilled, immigration entrepreneurs that can be implemented TODAY with no legislation required. That is new news. And it has the potential to break through the political logjam.
Only 85,000 H1-B visas are normally issued each year to immigration entrepreneurs and high-skilled technology workers. This year, there were 233,000 applicants. Countless others don't bother applying and simply leave the country after collecting their MBAs and PhDs because the odds are so stacked against them.
With the Global EIR program, pioneered by Massachusetts and Colorado, a model has been developed for companies to partner with universities to allow entrepreneurs to become exempt from the stifling H1-B visa cap. Yesterday, the Massachusetts state legislature reaffirmed their support for the program, which was originally proposed by former Governor Deval Patrick and now has been endorsed by Governor Charlie Baker.
Today, my friend Brad Feld and I are announcing the Global EIR Coalition, a scrappy startup non-profit that will work across the country to help other states implement the program as well. We are going to "open source" our learnings from Massachusetts and Colorado in the coming months. Our hope is that by publishing the program's playbook, we can encourage other states to implement the program as well. Massachusetts and Colorado have been pioneers in such areas as health care reform, gay marriage and the legalization of marijuana. It is natural that these two states would lead the way in this important area as well. You can read Brad's post here.
If you're interested in joining the cause, let us know. We know of many states that are working on this. The formula is simple: pull together leaders from the business sector, a university and (ideally but not necessarily required) the local government. Add a good immigration lawyer into the mix and contact us. We'll help show you the way.