Reflections From a Solo Founder

Paul Graham from YCombinator famously wrote in his blog post “The 18 Mistakes That Kill Startups”, that the number 1 mistake is being a ‘single founder’. He explains that “the low points in a startup are so low that few could bear them alone.”

I started Focal 3 years ago as a solo founder, and I can attest to the validity of this passage. As a startup founder with wild ideas about change you would like to see in the world – you often wonder if you’re a genius or if you’re just crazy.

Lachlan Shum, the Founder and CEO of Focal Photography. Photo credit: Marlboro Wang for Focal Photography

In the early days of Focal, before we had employees, investors and customers to bounce ideas off of, I would often come to the UVIC Coast Capital Innovation Centre. Sometimes to discuss an important decision and get feedback, but also sometimes just to sit, work and be surrounded by people I knew supported me. I think that’s what makes the Centre so special. It’s a place where entrepreneurs can feel safe, supported and not alone! Especially in the early days that are filled with uncertainty.

I don’t think that being a single founder is a mistake. I think you just need to make sure you have a support system to share some of that burden. For me, a lot of that burden has been shared by the team at the Coast Capital Innovation Centre. I can’t thank them enough. It’s pretty crazy to think that 3 years ago all I had was an idea, and today we’re a company with 6 employees who support photographers all over the world.

Focal makes booking a photoshoot easy through its online marketplace – browse, filter and find the perfect photographer all-in-one place.

The Coast Capital Innovation Centre has been made possible through a partnership between the University of Victoria and the Coast Capital Federal Credit Union. Since 2016, Coast Capital has committed over $1.5 million to support entrepreneurs and innovators at UVic.

Written by Lachlan Shum and Edited by Tyler West


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *