Open Thread: Hard-earned Lessons Learned Building One-person Startups


Aaron Stannard has written an interesting and very candid post about his recent experience of doing what many developers dream of: taking an unpaid, month-long leave of absence from his regular job to try and create his own web-based startup company. Unfortunately, it didn’t go so well — Stannard had a grueling month, filled with 16-hour days and sleepless nights, lots of code writing and re-writing, and ultimately failed to launch his company. But it wasn’t due a lack of planning or focus; rather, Stannard believes that it’s because he took the idea of “going it alone” too literally. He tried doing everything himself, keeping himself locked up in his house, not getting any input from friends and colleagues.

Stannard’s tip that “being independent is not the same as being alone,” to not isolate yourself from valuable connections and contacts while trying to establish your company — whether a web app startup or any other business — is a very valuable one, gained through hard-earned experience. While it’s probably true that the only way to really learn how to become a successful entrepreneur is to actually do it yourself, sharing experiences like this can help others to avoid making expensive mistakes. So, as many of our readers have also gone down this road, I thought it would be useful to have an open thread on the topic. Please share your hard-earned lessons from starting your own businesses below.

Photo courtesy Flickr user TheTruthAbout…, licensed under CC 2.0



70% of my ventures are one man startups, anything you can’t do from a lack of skills or time you can outsource (

Once you hit a point where you need staff, take them on. of course, it depends on what your business is, but dot com’s IMO dont need more than one person, if you outsource some areas.

At least that way you retain full ownership, decision making and profits.

In the context of branson and other huge players, of course they dont take on a project 100% on their own, most of their ventures are high cost, high risk, so they spread the cost & risk. additionally, there’s time constraints, branson has 50+ companies on the go in dozens of countries. his involvement is minimal at best.

In a small business, dot com or what not, leverage your time to outsource-able staff, concentrate your own time into what you do best & allocate a small amount of time every day /week to strategy, business needs & goals (the mid – long term, urgent running items).


I was a one man startup for just about 3 months and that was just during the vetting phase (so doesn’t really count).

But one man startups can be successful…just look at Peidl has a team now but he started out as a one man show doing everything.

Mike Kypros

I definitely agree with Simon and T Partner that being an entrepreneur does not mean going it alone. Everyone has weaknesses it’s just the nature of humanity. Good leaders surround themselves with people who fill in their gaps and are committed to their cause. Kings have courts and Presidents have cabinets. Also, the great thing about failing is the learning experience you receive from it. Someone once told me the most successful people are usually the people who have been knocked down the most. One of the keys to their success is they got back up.

T Partner

I started, built and successfully sold one business in the last 7 years and am now just getting started on number two. In both instances I have chosen to work with a partner. Despite many, many challenges in working alongside the partner for business 1, I can honestly still say I believe it to be a better option than going solo. You need to focus only on what you are good at, and leave the rest of it to someone else who has strengths in those areas. It is simply impossible for one person to be good at (and most importantly of all, enjoy) everything.

Take a look at Richard Branson’s autobiography – he never works alone on anything, despite a public image to the contrary. Take a look at the website I’ve provided a link to – my new, and extremely talented, business partner and I are working hard to launch an online business over the next few months and are keeping a blog of our experiences, ups, downs, triumphs and challenges.

Simon Mackie

I’d agree with that. All of the successful entrepreneurs I know don’t do it all themselves — they concentrate on what they’re good at, and then build teams that fill out the other ares they need.


I understand the need of being independent. But there is a difference between independence and suicide :)

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