HR & Management
10 examples of why co-founding and partnerships work
10 min read
29 December 2015
Since 2011 annual startup rates have increased from 440,600 in 2011 to a record-breaking 581,173 last year, according to the think tank Centre for Entrepreneurs. Next year it is anticipated this number will exceed 600,000! However, when people talk about successful entrepreneurs, the picture of a single person is the image which comes into most people’s minds, with Virgin, Topshop and others taking the lion’s share of references.
According to Bloomberg PR, many of the businesses which make it are actually founded by more than one person and support the adage that two heads are often better than one! After all, with some of the biggest companies in the world (Google, Microsoft and Apple) starting up with more than one founder, more and more entrepreneurs have seen first hand what could be gained from joining forces with another like-minded entrepreneur and are choosing to use this to their advantage.
Here we list ten successful business partnerships that prove it true.
NotOnTheHighStreet was founded by two award-winning entrepreneurs, Holly Tucker and Sophie Cornish. The duo wanted to find the most original items from the best creative small businesses and bring them together in one place, making it easy for people to browse and buy. Founded in 2006 on a kitchen table, NotOnTheHighStreet has since become one the fastest growing e-commerce businesses in the UK.
Nearly ten years later, the company is a huge success with thousands of small businesses on board, a team of over 200 people and sales of over £100m.
Not only have they helped themselves, but the two women have also helped many other entrepreneurs, by providing them with a platform to sell their products, many who have gone on to generate millions in turnover themselves. With a shared love of craft, a great friendship and the same morals, these two women are clearly a great business partnership.
2. Social Chain
The two founders of Social Chain, Steve Bartlett and Dom McGregor, both started out working with different online student communities. Bartlett had created the online community Wallpark and McGregor ran the popular Student Problems page on Twitter. When the two met they became fast friends and then later business partners.
They are now described as a leading a “group of twenty-somethings in Manchester taking over Twitter in Britain” all whilst making hundreds of thousands of pounds in the process.
With similar backgrounds, and laid back personalities (they came up with their business idea under a palm tree in Thailand!), it was obvious from back then that these two would succeed in making a great business partnership. The duo founded Social Chain in 2014 and proved us right as Social Chain has now become the UK’s largest Influencer Marketing Agency.
3. Pret A Manger
Sinclair Beecham and Julian Metcalfe, the two founders of Pret A Manger, worked together on the business for over two decades and recently made themselves at least £50m each after selling the business. The revolutionary business changed the eating habits of millions of office workers across the country after the two stumbled on the idea when they attempted to find a decent place to grab lunch on their break. They spent five years working on the formula together and aren’t the lovers of crayfish and rocket sandwiches just glad that they did!
With the same industry background, once the duo found this gap in the market, they were a force to be reckoned with.
Co-founder Metcalfe has since taken the Pret A Manger formula to start up a new chain of restaurants, Itsu which has also become a huge success.
Former colleagues and friends, Brian Acton and Jan Koum left Yahoo! to travel around South America. The WhatsApp idea, initiated by Kokum, gained inspiration from the old iPhone App Store. With many teething problems in the beginning, Kokum was close to giving up, but Acton was always there to encourage him to continue. Acton also used his strengths to persuade five former colleagues to invest in the business.
WhatsApp now has a user base of over 900m. Obviously, the duo has different personal strengths, but playing to these is a winning combination. WhatsApp was acquired by Facebook in 2014 for a whopping $16bn.
Internet phenomenon Mumsnet was founded by two friends, Carrie Longton and Justine Roberts. With humble beginnings, the website started from a back bedroom over ten years ago and has since become one of the most influential forums in the world.
In fact, Mumsnet is the UK’s biggest network for parents, generating over 70m page views per month.
Many wouldn’t mix business with friendship, but these two took the risk and it has definitely paid off. Both women have stressed the importance of having the right work life balance and clearly this is a key part of their success.
6. Carphone Warehouse
Old school friends Sir Charles Dunstone and David Ross founded Carphone Warehouse back in 1989. Dunstone, invested £6,000 of his own savings and began selling mobile phones from his flat in London.
Now the company has more than 2,400 stores across Europe, is listed on the London Stock Exchange and both founders have become billionaires.
Back in 1989, both men shared a vision of expanding the mobile phone from its current niche market to the mass market. Thanks to this forward thinking from Dunstone and Ross, mobile phones have become an essential part of our lives whereas, previously mobile phones were only for rich businessmen.
The strongest business partnerships are sometimes those not of blood, but the bond of marriage, as is the case with husband and wife team Daniel and Amanda Gestetner. These two stumbled on their business idea on a trip to the US in 2009. The couple saw for themselves how popular frozen yogurt was across the pond and decided to bring the idea back home with them.
Harrods clearly thought the couple were on to something and allowed them to open the first Yoomoo bar in their store. Yoomoo has since become the number one frozen yogurt brand in the UK.
With a shared desire to succeed, their business partnership has no doubt been strengthened by their great personal relationship.
8. Marketing Runners
The fast growing startup Marketing Runners was founded by two passionate people who have a range of successful business interests and by combining their skills, the two founders wanted to work together to see what they could achieve.
Derin Cag, founder of successful business platform Richtopia and Tim Campbell MBE, first ever winner of BBC The Apprentice hosted by Lord Sugar and founder of Bright Ideas Trust must be pretty pleased with their joint venture, as in a relatively short space of time, Marketing Runners has become a player in the digital marketing, public relations and creative space assisting brands and personalities with the easiest way to generate leads and raise their profile.
Most family members couldn’t think of anything worse than working with each other, but these siblings have a great business partnership. Bremont founders brothers Nick and Giles were spurred on to sell watches after the death of their father. The two inherited some practical mechanical experience from their father and we’re sure he is incredibly proud of the success they have achieved and who wouldn’t be?
The duo have recently won many awards including, Breakthrough Brand and Watch Brand of the Year.
10. Rocket Internet
Our last company has to be Rocket Internet. Founded in 2007 by three brothers: Marc, Oliver and Alexander Samwer, who all were infatuated with American tech firms, the company has gone from strength to strength and now employs over 30,000 people.
Oliver Samwer is considered the driving force behind the company, with full support from both of his brothers. With their productive working relationship, it is no surprise that these brothers have become successful members of the exclusive billionaires club.
Starting and growing a business could be an incredibly arduous and lonely task, as most people are doing the exact opposite by working hard for others and following someone else’s direction. The ten great examples of successful business partnerships above show how, through those difficult periods of start-up and growth, having someone who can support, compliment and challenge you goes a big way to creating that formula for business success.