How many founders do successful tech companies have?

There is an argument going on at Hacker News about whether you should found companies as a single founder or not, spurred by Ryan Carson.

I don’t think there is enough data yet to answer that, and what’s out in public is mostly anecdotal. I wanted to come up with something that is a fair representation of successful tech companies and how many founders they each have.

Deloitte publishes an annual list of the top 500 fastest growing technology companies, sorted by their growth rate. Tesla tops that list this year. While the list is made up of clean tech, bio tech, and software, it’s reasonable to assume that it’s a list of high-achieving, growth companies. Not all of them are startups, but they all most certainly can be characterized as successful. It certainly would not be biased towards any particular founder count.

I went through the list, parsed out the top 100 companies from the list in the areas of Software/Internet/Communications/Networking by Deloitte’s labeling conventions, and then scoured the internet for hours looking for accurate data about how many founders each one had (not as easy as you would think).

Here is a spreadsheet with the raw data: Top 100 Software/Internet companies from Fast 50 with founder/co-founder counts

Here are my insights:

Average number of founders


Max number of founders:

10 (Softlayer)

Breakdown by founder count:

The next thing to know to be able to make any reasonable hypothesis is to find out how many tech companies are started by each cohort. Any ideas on how to get this data?

One lead I have is that 72% of all businesses are sole proprietorships, e.g. they have a single founder/employee. That does not take into account how many were founded by one person and grew. If it is true that greater than 70% of all companies are started or owned by one person, you would be able to make the conclusion that more single founders fail than should on average.


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