I have been thinking a lot what a team actually need to succeed, and this came out on a personal story. I failed a couple of start-ups before, as a founder. In both cases coming up with the idea and bring that idea to life with very little or no resources and in both cases fail to scale, learned a lot and only few years later realising why.
I like to think I am creative and developed a network to be able to get things done, but I clearly miss “being relentless”… Meaning focusing on getting that project done because of a sense of boredom, of “not challenging enough” or simply because another idea, twist of the project itself or opportunity came up and my brain was instinctively attracted to that, with no other option than de-focus on the previous one (my dear friend Mariela thinks I should have an Impresario).
Despite that, I have – always – a very clear vision where the “thing” should go.
Does a start-up team need somebody like me ? Possibly.
But what else ?
Agility and Creativity are essential in a start-up team. So is the Vision.
But there are 2 other assets you cannot miss for the perfect recipe : financial control and project management.
As boring as these 2 assets might sound, in a small team these are essential. And the more the company grow, these are the ones who will ensure stability (and reinsure the investors).
Financial Control will also evolve and overstep into the Marketing function and a project management will closely beef up the sales (typically something that the “visionary” can or should do).
We actually had this discussion at a round table las week in London and many of the start-ups CEO and co-founders seemed to be mindful of this quest for balance.
Why is this discussion so important ?
Being an investor means finding yourself on the good side of the money, as I always say. The job seems relatively easy, especially if you don’t have to do much effort to build a deal flow (no later than yesterday I received the email about the Innotribe Challenge judging task, there are 180 companies eligible to be screened, great job BTW).
There are several moments in the life of a portfolio, when one or more start-ups become a “problem” for a number of reasons :
– strategy re-thinking,
– our of cash and pressure to raise,
– resources issue,
– management frictions.
And the list goes on….
Now : in this moment, the founders start calling you every 4 hours, send you tonnes of information because they feel they have to show they do stuff, and you get involved in the smallest possible management decisions of the company (including of course the tough ones).
In these moments, your ability to bond with the team is essential, because you all of a sudden become part of it for real (not only on paper because you are a shareholder).
The challenge is to find the emotional energy to have the same commitment, focus, brainpower to help all portfolio companies at the same time and the “problem” companies with a redoubled effort.
When the relationship gets that intense, is where the balance (or the absence of) of the assets I mentioned previously becomes crucial.