Startups don't form, grow and change the course of an industry with the sole efforts of one individual. A strong, effective founding team is critical to every businesses success, especially when that business is in its infancy.
I often hear aspiring entrepreneurs looking for another leader to fill out their founding team--they just don't know what to look for. The right founding team doesn't only consist of typical, Type-A "self-starters" that believe in teamwork and collaboration. So what makes a good founding team?
There are four characteristics that every founding team needs to succeed. At Techstars, we specifically look for these attributes to be spread across the founding team--if your founding team doesn't have all of these characteristics, you're going to need some more co-founders to round out your team.
1. You're hungry for knowledge, even when plans change.
If you've ever started a business, then you know that there is a very high likelihood that your original plan will completely change at least once. Oftentimes your company will go through multiple pivots.
So, having people on your team that are nimble and motivated by rapid change, rather than staggered by it, are key to long term growth. And with change comes the unknown, and if your co-founders aren't willing to learn something new, either from their peers or their own research, they won't make it through the long haul.
Look for team members who are receptive to new ideas (not just their own ideas) and are willing to safely challenge the rest of the team (and even the founder) in an effort to identify the best, most creative solutions. Encourage your teams to ask questions of each other and to ask questions of you, the value of a learning mindset increases exponentially when applied across a whole team.
2. You can admit when you're wrong.
Vulnerability is one of the most difficult traits in any relations, but especially so in the founder team dynamic. In many office settings, being wrong is often seen as failing when it should really be accepted and celebrated so that the team operates from a position of positivity rather than a position of fear.
Vulnerability starts from the top. If the founding team can't admit their mistakes, the employees will follow that example--crippling the growth of the company. Teams that understand and accept that their leaders are not perfect will be more open and honest and also feel a more genuine connection to the company mission.
When people do fail, encourage teams to see failures are team failures as opposed to individual ones. Organizations that can establish a group ownership mentality will ultimately work more collaboratively as they know that they won't be singled out as the person who failed if projects don't turn out as originally planned.
3. When you're wrong, you won't accept defeat.
"Grit" seems to be the latest buzzword in the small business world; however, it really does most accurately reflect the kind of determination founders should look for in the people they surround themselves with. While being able to admit failure is vital to building strong startup teams, having the wherewithal to continue pressing forward even after you've failed several times is what separates the good from the great within a team.
You will inevitably run into roadblocks as you build your business, but the ability to press forward in the face of unexpected obstacles is essential for the marathon of building a company.
4. You look for other people as obsessed as you are.
As a founder you have to do a lot more than love to do what you do, you have to be borderline manic. Healthy obsession with solving a problem is what drives founders to take the giant leap of faith into starting their own business.
Finding people that share in that obsession is critical to building a strong founding team. There may be people who look great on paper, or say all the right things in an interview, but you will benefit more from the people who feel compelled to go with you on this journey, people that are willing to get in the trenches and put their blood, sweat and tears into building your business.
Having a shared obsession towards the same corporate mission is the glue that binds diverse, successful teams together, and it critical to weathering the storms that are bound to come your way as you build.
We're constantly on the hunt for transformative ideas that will change our world for the better. More important than the ideas, though, are the people behind those ideas. Always.