Choose Your Team Well

The most important decision you need to make when starting up a company is who is on the team.

The idea that your company is based upon is completely irrelevant without the ability to implement it. Your team is what gives your company the ability to do what they want to do.

What makes a good startup team member? A laser-like focus on the product, the end user, and the problems that the company is trying to solve. An appreciation of the elegance of your solution. What are the red flags? A focus on the exit. A focus on job titles and perks. Big talk with no tangible results.

Ideas are incredibly overrated. If it's a good idea, someone else is working on it too (how many companies are doing podcasting over the voice channel now?). Your company's value is found in the ability of the team to execute on the basics, to totally nail the details, and in its ability to adjust to misassumptions, the unknown, and the unpredicted.

You cannot afford to carry what one of our advisors once called a "dud founder." A dud founder is someone who, for any number of reasons, cannot execute on their responsibilities. Big companies can afford weak team members; startups cannot. Identifying startup team members can be difficult because big company success is not a reliable indicator for startup team suitability. The political office skills that are useful for getting ahead in a large organization are a destructive force in a startup. A sales or a biz dev person whose experience is solely at well known "hot" companies, may well have just been an order taker. Their impressive track records may not have been based on their skills, but merely on the company having a great brand. Your startup doesn't yet have a brand.