Why are so many companies formed with more than one founder? Why share the success?
When a company is founded by co-founders, it has the added benefit of having two highly invested entrepreneurs that can bring together different outlooks, methodologies, interests, skills, and talents.
The company also gets double the input in terms of time and energy, and even more when there are several founders. Founders can share the workload, for example, one founder can focus on sourcing new investment and deal making, while the other can focus on hiring the right team and forming marketing strategy. The workload can also be divided with the founders’ skillsets in mind, meaning all founding partners are put to best use. It also allows the founders to combine their energy and come up with ideas and solutions that one founder alone may not have been able to.
Keep reading to learn about four highly successful companies with excellent co-founder stories.
William Procter and James Gamble co-founded the consumer goods giant P&G all the way back in 1837. Contrary to what you might think, this fruitful collaboration wasn’t their own idea.
Procter was a candle maker and Gamble produced soap. They were both content with their own entrepreneurial projects. Their only connection was through their wives, Olivia and Elizabeth Norris, who were sisters. One day Procter and Gamble’s shared father-in-law pointed out to them that they were competing for local resources in the making of their products – animal fat and oil. He suggested they combine forces and merge the business.
They took up his advice and combined their businesses, as well as their initials, giving us P&G. Today, with headquarters in Cincinnati, Ohio, the company operates in 180 countries and over 5 billion people use their products. That’s over 60% of the world’s population using the products of this one company that came about almost by accident.
The company specialises in consumer goods from health and beauty products to fabric and home care. In 2021 P&G saw global net earnings of roughly 14.31 billion U.S. dollars.
Another example of how successful co-founded companies can be is Indiabulls. The company was founded in 2000 in India by IIT Delhi classmates Sameer Gehlaut, Saurabh Mittal and Rajiv Rattan. The trio worked together to help mortgages be more accessible to Indian people, as getting mortgages had long been a complex and time-consuming process.
To achieve this, they provided India’s first ever mortgages which were based around online applications. From their small beginnings in Delhi, working in a small tin roof office with only two computers, Indiabulls grew to be the biggest mortgage broker in India.
The diversity of skills which came with having three founders became particularly useful as the business began to scale. In 2014, they split their responsibilities across the several divisions that they had established, designating their power and energy-related branches to Mittal and Rattan whilst designating the home loans and financial services sectors to Gehlaut.
Everyone has heard of Microsoft and Bill Gates, but few people are aware that the company was co-founded by Bill Gates and his business partner Paul Allen in April 1975.
Today, Microsoft is valued at over $1 trillion. But the beginnings of this company are much humbler. Gates and Allen were childhood friends and one day decided to create a business using their shared computer programming skills. They founded Traf-O-Data, which sold a basic computer that could track and analyse automobile traffic data. They later produced a basic interpreter for Micro Instrumentation and Telemetry System’s (MITS) newest microcomputer and MITS loved what they had to offer. From here they founded Microsoft, quickly moving into the operating system business and before long they were a huge success.
But with success, can come controversy and conflict, especially in a co-founder relationship. Allen later developed Hodgkin’s disease, and he resigned from Microsoft shortly after. He claimed, through his book Idea Man: A Memoir by the Co-founder of Microsoft, that Gates had wanted to dilute his share in the company when he was diagnosed as claimed he wasn’t working hard enough.
Def Jam recordings
Lastly, let’s look at a co-founded company in the business of music – Def Jam Recordings. This company has an unlikely co-founder relationship at its heart. Def Jam was founded by Rick Rubin and Russell Simmons. It is unusual because Rubin was in a punk rock band and Simmons was the manager of the well-famed hip-hop group Run-D.M.C.
While they created music in two very different genres, they made for a great team and Def Jam came to be one of the world’s most successful record labels. The two first met at a party and instantly became good friends, starting up a record label together out of Rubin’s dorm room.
They founded the label in 1984 and just two years later they released Beastie Boy’s debut album, Licensed to Ill, which went on to become the top-selling hip-hop album in that decade.