Over the years as an investor, I have come to realize just how much a start-ups’s DNA is driven by the original founders. The personalities, strengths, and focus of those first founders shape a business long after the individuals have moved on.
In the early days, it is incredibly hard for a founding team to fill any holes by bringing someone aboard from the outside. That’s because few start-ups are in the position to pay a top executive’s salary or deliver the upside they are looking for. This makes it all the more critical to have a well-rounded founding team that covers most of the bases.
As an example, sales is key to most start-up’s success, so the founding team needs to include someone who loves to hustle for the sale – whether or not he or she has been formally trained or has any experience in sales. Once you have millions in revenue, you can hire a VP of Sales to take things to the next level. But until then, your founding team needs to take matters into its own hands.
When we are evaluating start-ups, we look for several key ingredients in the founding team. This includes both innate sensibilities and the ability to execute on them…
- Technical chops (for highly technical products)
When you are putting the band together, think about everyone’s skills and expertise. Do the skill sets complement one another? Are there any major weaknesses? A team of three marketing/business-oriented people is just as bad as three techies who don’t know how to sell or position their product.
The founding team represents the people who will carry the start-up at the beginning. In the first few years, you need to play the cards you are dealt, so be sure to stack the deck as much as possible from the start.