The Strain of the Solo Entrepreneur

After launching my first serious web application (Roster Brain) without the help from any cofounders, I now understand why investors shy away from one man teams. Even on a simple project, it’s an impossibly difficult undertaking.

Even beyond the sheer amount of work that is required, a solo entrepreneur must be capable in so many different aspects of the business. For a simple web project, you have to understand the overall strategy, programming, design, and marketing just to get to launch. This doesn’t even count the ongoing tasks like finance, promotion, or inventory management.

Then, even if you can manage to figure out how to do all of these things yourself, you have to find the time to do them. I think this is the ultimate problem for any project of size. Unless you hire out a lot of the different aspects, it’s just too difficult to complete everything within a reasonable time frame.

When building Roster Brain, I didn’t want to spend a lot of money (mostly because I’m a cheapskate). This meant doing everything on my own. While I have great strengths in strategy and problem solving, I’m not quite as talented at marketing and design.

Everything has turned out decently well anyway, but I believe the project may have launched much more strongly if I had a cofounder or two to compensate for my weaknesses. The trouble is that I haven’t found someone that matches the profile yet and is interested in the same type of projects.

For my next project (which is inevitable and already fairly well defined), I’m not going to be so skimpy on the third party tools I use. There are a lot of cheap or free tools that can help launch a project. If you know the ins and outs of the project before you get too far down the road, I imagine using a few more tools can save some headaches and a ton of time. And if you believe your idea is good enough to make money, why not spend $100 to get it to market sooner?

Some examples of what I’ve been contemplating using for my next project:

  • LaunchRock – free tool that allows you to create and host a simple splash page. It gathers email addresses from interested site visitors so you can notify them of launch and encourage them to share on social media. If implemented well, I bet this would be a great tool to find beta testers. Mostly, it lets the search engines get your domain in the index and start the ever important domain age clock.
  • Interface themes/templates – You can buy customizable themes and interfaces from several places online. I have been impressed by the choices at ThemeForest. They’re not free, but most are extremely reasonable for what you get.
  • Stock photography – It wasn’t necessary for Roster Brain, but imagery is important for most websites. You can struggle to search through thousands of crappy images available for free commercial use or pay a few dollars at a place like iStock and move on to other aspects of the project.

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