The world of entrepreneurship is changing rapidly, mainly driven by advancements in AI and automation. One of the most significant shifts we are witnessing is the rise of the solo entrepreneur: individuals who build successful businesses on their own, harnessing the power of AI to achieve what once required a team of experts. This post will explore how AI enables solo entrepreneurs to 1) disrupt traditional entrepreneurship 2) change company culture, and 3) challenge how VCs traditionally assess teams and team composition.
The difference between a single founder and a solo entrepreneur
Before diving into the impact of AI on entrepreneurship, it's essential to understand the difference between a single founder and a solo entrepreneur. A single founder is an individual who starts a business to build a team around it. In contrast, a solo entrepreneur, or solopreneur, starts and runs a business alone, managing all aspects of the venture without additional team members or partners (or at least much fewer team members than traditional entrepreneurs).
How AI is enabling solo entrepreneurs to build massive companies
AI has enabled solo entrepreneurs to achieve what was once unimaginable – building successful, scalable companies with minimal staff. Is this possible? Yes, of course, and we’re just at the beginning of solo entrepreneurship. We will undoubtedly see huge companies being built with only a few employees. Facebook acquired Whatsapp for $19bn with only 55 employees. AI was not the primary enabler for Whatsapp; still, AI will be an enabler for more companies like this to be built. The unheard-of will become a reality thanks to AI.
AI-powered tools like Auto-GPT help automate repetitive tasks like data entry, bookkeeping, and customer support. Auto-GPT gives you directions on what to do and solves it for you. It frees up time for solo entrepreneurs to focus on strategic activities like product development and marketing. And even here, AI can help solo entrepreneurs create personalized marketing campaigns by analyzing customer data and preferences. It allows for more effective targeting and communication, leading to better customer engagement and higher conversion rates. At Peak, we’re seeing several founders we have partnered with enhancing their customer service through AI and needing smaller customer support teams. AI-powered chatbots (such as Intercom’s Fin) can handle customer inquiries and provide support 24/7, without human intervention. It enables solo entrepreneurs to offer high customer service without needing a dedicated support team.
AI will also help entrepreneurs to improve their decision-making. AI-driven analytics can help solo entrepreneurs make better-informed decisions by identifying trends and patterns from large data sets. It can be particularly useful for market research, competitor analysis, and customer segmentation, increasing the understanding of their business.
The rise of the solo entrepreneur also changes how companies function and communicate. With fewer employees, company culture shifts away from traditional office dynamics, with less emphasis on meetings and more on streamlined communication and decision-making. Employee growth will be lower, reducing the pain of adding many new team members to scale and potentially diluting company values. Companies led by solo entrepreneurs will need fewer employees, and they will probably know each other well. It will help with well-kept company culture, lesser politics and bureaucracy, and transparent and faster decision-making.
AI-powered tools further enhance this shift, enabling solo entrepreneurs to work effectively and maintain strong relationships with contractors, freelancers, and occasional team members.
Rethinking how we think
As solo entrepreneurs continue to challenge traditional startup models, VCs must shift their mindset when assessing a team and a business. Instead of falling into learnings focusing on a “complete team,” VCs need to focus on the solo entrepreneur's ability to leverage AI and automation effectively. By assessing how well an entrepreneur utilizes AI-driven tools and processes, VCs can better identify promising investment opportunities capable of achieving rapid growth with minimal resources.
VCs should also raise their expectations and the bar regarding the speed of execution. It will no longer be possible to lack co-founders and use that as an excuse for not executing fast enough. AI allows all entrepreneurs to run by themselves, and the ones who master it will move more quickly than the rest. There is one question that I’m unsure if AI can solve from an investment perspective, and it’s the risk of investing in one key individual who might disappear due to circumstances that can’t be controlled. Unfortunately, it could be an accident, health issues, or other things that happen sometimes. How does it impact the business if the visionary solo entrepreneur is absent? It’s a risk. On the other hand, it might be a risk worth taking due to the enormous upside and benefits that solo entrepreneurship represents.
The rise of the solo entrepreneur, driven by advancements in AI, is disrupting entrepreneurship and challenging traditional business models. As AI continues to evolve, we can expect to see even more solo entrepreneurs leveraging these technologies to build successful, scalable companies with minimal resources. This new era of entrepreneurship demands a shift in how we think about the speed of execution, communication, and what we look for in a team, opening up new opportunities for those willing to adapt and embrace the power of AI.