The fame. The money. You can see it all when you close your eyes – pitching your startup on a big stage is a dream come true.
Well, I hate to break it to you, but that’s not the reality. What comes first is hard work, sweat and definitely tears. Building a startup is an insanely hard job. And building a startup with other people is like… having a baby together. You have to be prepared to see A LOT of each other, so it’s important you have the right people with the right mindset by your side.
In our work with startups through our accelerator ELEVATE we meet a lot of founding teams. And it sure feels like we’ve seen it all: the dream teams, the ones who made their way through struggles, even a team who ended up suing each other (hint: not the ideal scenario). We want you to learn from our experiences, so here’s our list of key attributes entrepreneurial founding teams should have.
1. You have a no-bullshit mindset and are aware of your own biases 🙅♀️
We all have biases. But as a founding team, you need to try hard to steer clear of them for the better of your business. What you’re looking for is real feedback from potential customers – and honesty towards yourself and others. Whenever we interview founding teams, there is a special bunch who pretend like they have it all figured out and are dodging the questions they actually don’t have an answer to with charming nonsense. Let us be clear: we can see right through you. And we’d rather have you be honest to us – because it shows us you know what you’re talking about, what you don’t know yet and what you need to be working on in the future.
2. You’re heterogeneous in skills and background, but homogenous in your values & vision 🚀
When we look at a team, we look for a good mixture of backgrounds and skills. Domain expertise is a big one for us, meaning that one person in the team has either worked in the field for a long time or clearly experienced the pain they’re trying to solve themselves. Not to forget tech and business expertise. But be aware: keep your founding team small! We have seen team slides before that looked more like a high school yearbook than an actual team slide. A small but committed team will go a lot further than a big team of advisors and experts who agreed to help out every now and again.
Moving on from your diverse team, what you should be agreeing on is your values and your vision. Values are a big one for us as a company, too – and they always have been. They are how we hire our team, how we select our clients and they shine through in how we work. If we disagree on things, our values help us to find common ground again. As well as our vision.
Being aligned on your vision but flexible on getting there will help you figure things out along the way, but to have a bigger goal to work towards. It will also keep you grounded and remind you why you are doing what you’re doing when the doing gets tough – see our next point.
3. You can have tough conversations too 🤝
As you get deeper into your startup journey, problems and discussion points will come up. Discussing potential issues and how to deal with them right, in the beginning, is necessary. Pouring these things into a contract even more so. Talking about what happens in case one of you leaves or when you can’t see eye to eye anymore is incredibly uncomfortable – but oh-so-important. We’re not saying that every team will split up in the end, but having these conversations will also give you a glimpse of how your co-founders behave in difficult and stressful situations. Which will make things much easier in the long run.
4. You know how to focus on the right things, not the easiest things 🏃♀️
When you’re founding a startup, there is nobody to tell you what to do. Nobody to set deadlines for you, no consequences if you don’t deliver. Progress is solely in your own hands. So one key attribute of founding teams is definitely self-discipline and organization. When the to-do list is long, we tend to start tackling the easier things first – but often these are not the topics you should focus on. The right things might be the ones that require you to make tough decisions, take longer to solve, you get the gist. But as a founder, you have to know what to focus on to get to your ultimate goal.
So, to sum it all up: make sure your team is set up with a good mix of honest people with diverse backgrounds and skills who have the same values and vision, can talk about the tough things too and get the right stuff done. Things won’t always be easy, but with the right team, they will be worth it. Does your team check all the boxes? Make sure to check out our accelerator!