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How does the perfect startup team out of the gate look like?

Let's say we are looking at building a SaaS product. What would be the rockstar lineup of people pushing the venture right out the gate. Thanks for the thoughts!


7 Replies

Joseph Wang
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Joseph Wang Entrepreneur
Chief Science Officer at Bitquant Research Laboratories
There are two aspects of putting together a team. One is the skills element (i.e. we need someone that do technology, we need someone that can do finance, we need someone to do marketing, and someone that can do management). The other element is the social element. Put simply, you just need to figure out how to get a group of people that can work productively with each other.

The social part is harder to get right, but more important. I've found that it doesn't work to have a team of rock stars, because if you have five rock stars in a room, the interpersonal dynamics often just doesn't work.


Sam McAfee
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Sam McAfee Advisor
Building Popup Incubators for Corporate Innovation Programs
I think this is the wrong framing entirely for setting up a startup team for success.

Rockstars have no place in product development, especially in the early stages. Yes, you need solid, skilled, dependable, smart people. But more than that you need humility and a growth mindset.

There is way more you don't know than what you know in a startup. Learning is critical. Rockstars have egos that get in the way of learning.

Product development is a team sport. A competent team with an awesome system will produce better outcomes than an awesome team with a crappy or nonexistent system.


Jason Gibb
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Jason Gibb Entrepreneur
Real Estate, Director & Business Development, MBA, CMA
You don't need a team of rockstars. You do need a vision and the ability to build a MVP and people that can align together in making that happen. What gets overlooked a lot in building SaaS is the customer and problem that it solves. It is good to have people who understand the problem, customer and industry that you are building products for. Make sure they develop killer apps and a USP.
David Austin
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David Austin Entrepreneur
Entrepreneur
Agree with all the comments, but I think we need to define rockstar. To me a rockstar is someone who wields influence and a reputation for getting stuff done ... not necessarily someone who has wicked skills or actually was the one who got stuff done. Those are the people you are being warned about. Instead get those with wicked skills (which some people call rockstars).

That said, there is a place for rockstars (the influencers, not the doers) in some ventures. For example if your target customer is at the enterprise level, or something decided by another influencer (like a CEO, or board of directors) then you're going to need some clout, and it's helpful to have some strategic influence right out of the gate.

If however your target customer is the consumer, or maybe an IT manager then staffing your startup with such rockstars merely constitutes costly wasted window dressing.

If you do bring on rockstars because it fits your need, then as others said: be careful of the "too many chefs, not enough cooks" scenario. If you're paying them what such rockstars expect, then expect from them commensurate results (even if it is merely from influencing deals, which can be invaluable). When used, they're good for filling spots on an advisory board or as a board member with no specific title other than "Finance" for example. There are rockstars who are worth their egos and pay ... but few startups have the resources for them.
Rob Gropper
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Rob Gropper Entrepreneur
Director at PetHero, SPC - Member at Eastside Incubator - Principal at Tuxedo Technologies Group
So much of early stage success hinges on traction (sales/users) that you really should qualify your question with the market(s) you intend to address - are you selling to consumers or b2b? If b2b, enterprise or SMB? Early on you need to define/ID your market and ideal prospects, go talk to them and build what they need (what relieves their pain). This means at the earliest stages you need sales and product dev. Forget marketing for now, forget finance for now, forget legal, forget operations (for now). without customers and a product there is no marketing do be done or beans to count, etc. Just sales and product development. These 2 need to be able to work through really hard issues and not kill each other so the 'getting along' part is more important than 'rockstar' status. they need to be very competent, but I would steer clear of rockstars for now. 1 rockstar is OK, but make sure s/he is a leader - someone people want to follow... someone who can check his/her ego at the door and can actually get stuff done. Too many 'rockstars' can only perform when someone else writes the songs, negotiates the venue, sells the tickets, organizes transportation and sets up all the gear. you need doers.
Derek Banner
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Derek Banner Entrepreneur
Founder at BANNER UNIVERSAL MOTION PICTURES LLC, BUMP USA, BUMP UK. Creator of Minute Winner - Minute to win it, Luxury trap
The key in most successful startups lies in one person / one brain (in some cases two) that has the entire vision, (ex.Facebook (Mark Z.), Google (Larry P.), Microsoft (Bill G.), Apple (Steve J.), and the "perfect" startup team is often the one that understands the founder's vision and knows how to move that vision forward.
In my view, the central focus in setting up the "perfect" startup team should begin with understanding or laying out the vision of the founder or CEO. (We should first note that there is no such thing as a "perfect team", as all members of a team often must go through a growth process over time to develop a common culture, common habits, mutual corporate experience, etc).
The following questions must be answered first in order to find ideal members of a future team:
- The vision: What is the true and clear vision of the founder, or person wanting to set up the team?
- The mission: How does the person define the startup mission? What is there to be accomplished and how it should be accomplished?
- The product: What is the product and who is the target audience?
- The budget: Can the set budget afford the skilled labor?
etc.
Only when the above are clearly explained and answered, then one would have a clear idea and start to explore on - Who is better qualified, suited, or better skilled to implement or carry on the vision and mission of the startup, etc.


Zubair Ansari
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Zubair Ansari Entrepreneur
Founder and CTO, CionSystems Inc.
It really depends. In any business there are two aspects business (sales) and product that are equally critical. The common mistake is one or other is overlooked because of many reasons. It is important to have both covered and have one rock star for sales and perhaps for 'product' who can lead in their area of expertise.
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