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"Founder Soloing" Why the ascent to successful entrepreneurship requires a safety rope

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Written by: Duncan Custerson

Climbing without a safety rope might be a way to push your limits and achieve the ultimate adrenaline rush for a free solo mountaineer, but going it alone as a founder may sometimes feel like an impossible challenge. But start-ups with potential deserve a support network to cradle the founder and their concept when inevitable slips occur.

Indulge me and the metaphor for a moment... Does the definition of Soloing resonate with your founder journey?

‘’Solo climbing, or soloing, is a style of climbing in which the climber climbs alone, without the assistance of another person belaying. It is generally done on higher walls than bouldering. There are several ways to climb solo: Roped solo climbing is climbing alone with a rope backup in case of fall.’’

The sense of achievement of reaching the summit alone, knowing the ultimate sacrifice could have been fatal must be an undeniable personal high (pun intended).

However, generally for courageous founders, the ultimate mission is creating something of value to a community, creating positive impact or solving a problem. Scaling to a profitable and sizable business is a prerequisite to achieving the mission.

So, when a solo climber scales to more and more sweaty palm-inducing heights, the consequences of a fall become more catastrophic. Gaining traction for a start-up is not dissimilar to scaling the mountain in this sense. A smart founder gathers a support network as they scale, not least to validate the importance of reaching the peak! Organically or intentionally, the solo mission becomes a shared one and with that there is a sense of responsibility. The reality of a fall has far more consequences than your own demise. By now the mission is perhaps paying someone’s mortgage or supporting families. With every calculated move the daredevil in you recognises that a safety rope might not actually be a bad idea!


A start-up that not only solves the end users problem but offers fulfilling paid employment to 100’s of awesome individuals who you now call the team, has to be the ultimate achievement and ultimately one you can share.

Founders that decide on a tactical move to collaborate with a specialist agency during the early stages are investing in an insurance policy. A well appointed agency (like Hex) with years of experience can de-risk and de-stress the entrepreneur’s climb and increase the chances of scaling to the summit. Specialist and experienced strategising means there will be less miss-judged footing and, as inevitable unseen threats occur, you have an entire team taking the strain. Once at your pre-agreed summit (MVP for example), the full scope of the potential heights can be seen. Sadly some budding climbers never get to see that view.

Yep, I'm still going with this analogy, hang in there... At Hex we assess the situation before committing to a climb with any founder and only fully immerse ourselves in a project when we share the vision. This way we can collaborate passionately as meticulous, strategic, technical and creative ‘’Co-founders’’ (just without the equity share in most cases). Hex is a founder's best ascent buddy; an experienced team to lean on through the early stage. Once safely completing the climb we can pass over the ropes, carabinas and crampons with a set of well documented instructions and training. As investors marvel at your progress to date and additional funding is secured it’s time for an in-house CTO to take over… by this point they have less risk on their shoulders and therefore less or no equity to reasonably request.

Here’s our start up survival kit in the form of reading material:

  1. The Cold Start Problem - Andrew Chen
  2. Zero to One - Peter Theil
  3. The Lean Start-up - Eric Ries
  4. Hacking Growth - Sean Ellis & Morgan Brown
  5. The Start-up Owners Manual - Steve Blank & Bob Dorf
  6. Platform Revolution - Geoffrey G Parker, Marshall W. Van Alstyne, Sangeet Paul Choudary
  7. Scaling Up - Verne Harnish
  8. Thinking Fast & Slow - Daniel Kahneman
  9. Write to Sell - Andy Maslen
  10. One + One = Three - Dave Trott
  11. The art of thinking Clearly - Rolf Dobelli
  12. Time to think - Nancy Klien
  13. Break Through - David CM Carter
  14. Checklist Manifesto - Atul Gawande
  15. Growing Happy Clients - Daphne Tideman and Ward van Gasteren
  16. Drive - Daniel H Pink
  17. Superbosses - Sidney Finkelstein
  18. Alone on the wall - Alex Honnold
  19. The Resilient Founder - Mahendra Ramsinghani
  20. Anti-Fragile - Nassim Nicholas Taleb
  21. Connected by Design - Barry Wacksman & Chris Stutzman
  22. Think Small - Owain Service & Rory Gallagher
  23. Angel: How to invest in technology start-ups - Jason Calacanis

To find out more about how Hex Digital collaborates with founders and helps them scale, book an appointment for a chat.


Photos courtesy of Photo by Jeff Ochoa on Unsplash and Patrick Hendry on Unsplash