Whether a startup makes or breaks depends on if you have the right people on the team. How can you know? During my start-up journey as an early employee of an online education startup, co-founder of a social enterprise, and sole founder of my health technology company, ClickMedix, I've been through and witnessed the birth, growth, decline, and eventual end of startups.

The biggest issue for any company tends to be around the team. It is no wonder VCs invest in the team and the team is the most important predictor of success. But how do you know you have the right team?

Below are 3 ways to quickly know who is or is not right for your team, based on my experience in the business of healthcare technology.

1. Your team members have complementary expertise.

Let's face it, start-up people tend to be alphas, with type A personalities. And most of the time, throughout their career, they have outshined others in previous organizations. Without careful selection, if you gathered all the alphas in one room, you would have numerous, time-consuming, and sometimes over-the-top aggressive discussions, as each member tried to outshine the other. That is, unless, everyone on the team has distinct strengths and accountabilities. Luckily, I have that balance at ClickMedix where each of us have unique, yet different strengths.Sometimes I feel as if I am a member of the Avengers--together, we can do incredible things, and change an industry.

Some questions to ask yourself:

  • Do meetings take a long time mostly around the same points?
  • When working together, if I did NOT have this team member, could I have moved as quickly or smoothly towards your objective

2. Your team members share the same vision and values.

In the healthcare technologies sector, with so many stakeholders ranging from doctors, pharmaceuticals, medical devices, to insurers, it may be easy to lose track of the vision and mission of the company. At ClickMedix, our vision is to improve the health of more than a billion patients. Even though our customers are health organizations with varying business priorities, at the end of the day we always go back to the fundamental question, "Does working with this customer to enable mobile, integrated disease management maximize the benefit to the end-patient?" Having everyone on the team marching towards the same vision accelerates our growth in the right direction to improve healthcare for patients.

Some questions to ask yourself:

  • Is working toward the mission of my company, equally, if not more, important to the team member than the associated profit?
  • Will my team member be willing to stop engaging a customer if the customer does not share your values? E.g. if our customer would increase costs and/or provide lower quality care?

3. You trust your team members with your life.

Having done business in more than 15 countries, there's nothing more important than trust. And at first, it's nearly impossible to know who to trust. After many failures, one's sense of "trust" almost evolves into a "gut feeling". Sometimes it's like meeting the right partner in life--you know, when you know. On the startup roller coaster ride, at times it feels like I am just hanging off of a ledge, but I can always "see" the helping hands of my team members, pulling me back to safety and saying, "We got you." We are bonded by our joint mission to improve healthcare, and we help each other so the whole team's vision can be realized.

Some questions to ask yourself:

  • If I were in a bad situation, will my team member drop everything and come to my rescue?
  • Can I count on him/her to have my back?
  • Is there any information hiding or untruthful behavior?

Rounding up the right team can be difficult but is crucial for running a successful company. Complementary skills, a shared vision, and trust are three key ingredients to ensure you have the best group possible behind you as you take on the challenge of disrupting an industry and change the world.


Ting Shih founded ClickMedix, an award-winning healthcare technology enterprise born out of MIT Media Lab to enable health organizations to serve more patients through its eHealth platform. Her areas of expertise include mHealth solution design, competitive strategy, lean/Six Sigma process improvement and operations management. She spent five years implementing mobile health programs across 15 countries in North America, South America, Africa, and Asia to develop financially sustainable health programs through ClickMedix. The programs equipped health workers, nurses, pharmacists, and physicians with smartphones to capture patient symptoms information, images, and other related health data to be transmitted to remote specialists who can provide diagnosis and treatment advice. Ting is the Cartier Women's Initiative Laureate 2012 for North America. She holds an MBA and MS in Systems Engineering from MIT. In addition, she holds a BS in Computer Science and MS in Software Design and Management from Carnegie Mellon University.

Published on: Dec 22, 2014