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AI is Enabling Billion-Dollar Companies with No Employees

I’ve been enamored by the concept of a solopreneur since I first spoke with Paul Jarvis six or seven years ago. Prior to meeting Paul, I was a digital apprentice of his – a shortlist that included Ryan Hoover of ProductHunt, Beeple of EVERYDAYS, and Ben Thompson of Stratechery.

Paul’s ability to design, launch, and market software products entirely on his own fascinated me. Add that to the fact that he did it many times over with Chimp Essentials (sold to Intuit), Creative Class, and Fathom Analytics. That’s why it was such a big deal when Paul condensed his playbook for being a solopreneur into his book Company of One: Why Staying Small is the Next Big Thing in Business.

Paul was ahead of the game. He saw the writing on the wall of how software enabled entrepreneurs to build successful businesses alone, keeping overhead minimal.

Paul popularized the term solopreneur, and now we’re seeing the first wave of these innovators take off, as shown in this Twitter thread from Aleksandr Volodarsky:

The 10 solopreneurs Aleksander lists include:

  1. Stardew Valley → video game → Eric Barone → $300M revenue in 6 years
  2. BuiltWith → software database → Gary Brewer → $14M ARR
  3. Viral Nova → content curation site → Scott Delong → $5-10M ARR
  4. Photopea → visual editing software → Ivan Kutskir → $1.5M ARR
  5. Digital Inspiration → Google plugins → Amit Agarwal → $10M ARR
  6. Rego Apps → police scanner apps → Allen Wong → $100M+ total revenue
  7. Justin Welsh → portfolio of businesses → Justin Welsh → $3M+ total revenue
  8. BruMate → insulated beverage cups → Dylan Jacob → $20M+ total revenue
  9. Levels.io → portfolio of businesses → Peter Levels → $2.7M ARR
  10. Carrd → one-page website builder → AJ → $1M ARR

If you factor in company valuation multiples, Eric Barone’s Stardew Valley video game is the first solopreneur to create a unicorn. Furthermore, the fact that we’re not far from seeing a zero-employee company cross $1B in revenue is insane to think about.

Solopreneurship is still an uncommon way of thinking, especially if you’re trying to build something big. But this way of thinking will only become more common with AI tools.

AI Will Change Solopreneurship

The tools and infrastructure to become a successful solopreneur and operate enterprises without staff are here. All you have to do is Google “solopreneur tools” and you’ll find pages and pages of listicles with software suggestions like Canva, Zapier, Stripe, Unbounce, etc.

Many of these tools are still essential to solopreneurship. But in the same way that Shopify was the right choice for an entrepreneur starting an eCommerce venture in 2014 (and to this day), AI platforms will be the right tools to lean into in 2022 and beyond.

It’s never been easier to build most of the necessary parts of an online business, thanks to AI.

  • Use LEX to generate business ideas and a formal business plan
  • Use Midjourney to generate app UI mockups
  • Use Mixo to generate an entire website from a one-sentence description
  • Use Photoroom to generate infinite product photography content
  • Use any generative AI to generate a content marketing funnel
  • Use Robin to automate sales outreach
  • Use any AI chatbots to automate customer service

This is just a small sample of how a solopreneur can be augmented with the existing AI platforms. With a bit of creativity and engineering, you can fine-tune most of the models to work on several business operations.

Peter Levels (listed above) is an excellent example of leaning into AI as a solopreneur. He’s productized multiple AI models – creating AI-powered tools for others – such as AvatarAI, PhotoAI, and InteriorAI.

AI is making solopreneurship possible (and even preferable) for so many new people.