Can a one-man company be called a startup?


Does a company, starting a business, need to have a real more-than-one-man team to be called a startup? Maybe this question is more about words than startups, but, nevertheless, I think the answer can somehow reflect the real-world situation.

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asked Sep 29 '10 at 03:11
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6 Answers


Of course it can. The term startup merely indicates that it is a newly formed company with "limited operating history". The number of people involved in the business isn't a factor. See

answered Sep 29 '10 at 03:56
Zuly Gonzalez
9,194 points


It depends on both your endgame and the people you're describing your venture to. Part of being a startup is that you're aiming to grow into something much more substantial down the road. If you're intending to take outside funding, hire on employees down the road, have some sort of liquidity event (IPO, acquisition), then, yeah, I'd say you're a startup. If you aren't ... that is, if you're intending to stay small, developing a small business ... then you aren't really in a "startup" ... but that doesn't mean you can't nestle in with startup founders, contribute to / learn from startup message boards, read books aimed at startups, and so on. The lessons learned and skills developed are almost all the same. And, many would argue, you're freed from the less-important ones, like raising capital.

That being said, although I'm not in a startup (as I've defined it above) — not looking for funding, doubtful that my small business(es) will be acquired, and so on — when I'm describing my work to non-tech-savvy middle-aged people in Virginia, I say "internet startup" because it's a lot easier than boring them with all the details of my business. If I were in Silicon Valley, I'd say "indie web developer".

answered Sep 29 '10 at 12:40
194 points
  • I disagree that a startup need be targeted or even willing to accept more than a single employee... but I won't down-vote you for it because I also consider my take on this highly subjective ^^. – Hardryv 14 years ago
  • +1 I think it depends more on the nature of the business than on the number of people in it. – Andrew Vit 14 years ago


A one-man shop most definitely counts as a startup in my book.

answered Sep 29 '10 at 03:42
Oleg Barshay
2,091 points
  • Why? ....................... – Joe Philllips 14 years ago
  • Many businesses start out with just one or two people (mine did). As long as it's a business and not a hobby, it's a startup. – Oleg Barshay 14 years ago


Yes! Definitely. There are a lot of single founder startups. You should probably follow this guy ( ) on twitter - excellent insights. In fact, a single person startup is called a solopreneur venture

answered Sep 29 '10 at 04:41
482 points


Eric Sink calls one person startups Micro ISV's.

answered Sep 29 '10 at 06:13
131 points
  • True, but that term only applies to software startups. ISV = Independent Software Vendor – Ricardo 14 years ago
  • @Ricardo, yup. But it is still a one-man startup. – Jjnguy 14 years ago
  • I like Rob Walling's term "Micropreneur" better since it applies to any one person running any type of startup, not only software. – Ricardo 14 years ago


Yes of course, there are many successful companies that started with one person, some of them are not longer startups because they were bought or became large companies. Some examples:

  • One person, was sold to Intuit.
  • Balsamiq: Started with one person, now it has a handful of employees.
  • SmartBear: Started with one person, was sold to a large company.

The point is, all of the above companies were considered startups, even with only one person and they actually turned out to be very successful too.

Examples such as the above are countless, those are only some of my favorite examples since I know the story of those companies very well.

answered Oct 9 '10 at 07:14
4,815 points

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