1. Prioritize passion for the problem you’re solving
Putting your passion into solving a real problem will get you through your toughest days. Taking this approach with your co-founders will strengthen your team and build the foundations of a solid company culture. Any startup has a high chance of failure, and
without passion as a uniting force, your chances of failing are even higher
without passion as a uniting force, your chances of failing are even higher.
The passion your founding team exudes will also inspire other people to believe in your mission and invest in your growth. Passion is powerful — for your team, as well as for prospective hires, customers and investors. For example, years ago I discovered an interest in improving the customer service industry, which led me to start a series of companies to solve this problem. I continue to fund entrepreneurs looking to do the same, because I believe in the problem — and in people who are obsessed with solving it.
2. Going it alone is hard, so invest in an aligned team
Finding at least one co-founder helps tremendously. Not only is it nearly impossible for one person to possess the skill sets needed to get a company off the ground, but also the camaraderie is irreplaceable. Take the time you need to ensure the chemistry is there, then communicate relentlessly. Make sure your founding team is aligned on vision and on what you’re willing to sacrifice.
Entrepreneurship is emotionally (and sometimes physically) exhausting and it helps to have someone on your side who understands the obstacles you’re encountering and who can help you troubleshoot. I’ve found that an optimal team is two to three people. Beyond that, it can be difficult to manage too many competing personalities. Once you have the right team in place, look to your network to find advisors that will help fill any gaps.
3. Look for complementary skill sets
The skill sets required for a new venture depend on the opportunity at hand. Have the confidence and self-awareness to analyze your strengths and weaknesses, and build the rest of your team to complement what you bring to the table. In an ideal world, your founding team will resemble a Venn diagram —
some skills will overlap, while each person will have his or her own specialties
some skills will overlap, while each person will have his or her own specialties.
For instance, a visionary business leader can be invaluable, but the combination of a strong technical leader increases your chances of success. It’s a huge asset to be able to build a successful prototype and garner feedback from one’s network, but technical chops aren’t enough. If your team can’t combine that prototype with a go-to-market strategy, selling your product and communicating your company’s value will be difficult.
As an entrepreneur, you’re in for a bumpy ride, so buckle up. While you’re sure to encounter challenges whenever you start a company, the support of the right founding team can make all the difference. By choosing people with compatible skill sets, personalities and passions, you’ll position your company to fulfill its mission — and create a partnership that will help you navigate the ups and downs of starting up.