Thinking about putting together a team for your tech startup idea? Or are you already in a team and struggling to understand why things might be moving slow?
What I have found building and advising startups, is that it requires two different but complementing types of people to successfully get a new venture off the ground: the Builder and the Go-Getter.
The Builder (aka geek, tech wiz, code ninja)
If you have hopes of getting any sort of tech startup going you need someone with experience within the specific technical field that you want to enter. Whether it is app/web development, enterprise software, hardware devices or any other area where technical skills are needed to understand the core product, it is essential to have someone who can maneuver their way around the tools, technology and experts involved.
Today there are multiple platforms where you can hire technical freelancers for a small price, but doing this often only leads to frustration and wasted time, the Builder therefore needs to be a permanent member of the team. I am not saying that outsourcing is bad, but in order to ensure that you get what you pay for, you need someone on your side of the table that can have the technical discussions with the freelancers, quality insure the work, trouble shoot if necessary and generally have the bigger technical picture in mind. I have on multiple occasions outsourced work, but I have always made sure that I have set in place the technical corner stones for them to build upon. This ensures that the work will fit into the overall system and I can change and expand upon it later. Furthermore, outsourcing the core of any business (with the technological aspect usually being the core in a tech startup) is usually a very bad idea as you lose agility in reacting to market changes, have no understanding of the key processes essential for the business, have no control over your product and it is generally just very expensive.
The Builder does not necessarily need to be the best tech guy around, but just good enough to build an MVP, know where to go to get help and a good understanding of the direction of the development of the product. Furthermore, especially if you have a very young team, it is hard to expect anyone to be an expert within a field, and being strapped for cash (as most startups are), it is hard to hire the true tech wiz needed. In the end, do not worry too much, as even a mediocre Builder can become good through the many resources and tools available online. Also, experience and expertise will quickly start to accumulate once he or her starts spending hours upon hours working on the product.
The Go-Getter (aka mr. popular, the business consultant)
When I was just starting out building my very first company I had this strong belief that a superior product will sell itself, but as I quickly found out, even with a great idea, the ultimate product and a compelling story, getting a startup off the ground and into profitability requires much more. More specifically, a great connection to a larger number of people, to build partnerships, receive advising, ensure investments, get the first customers, etc. Unless you have this network already established within the exact field, these connections are often something that is needed to be build up while building the product and the company, and that is exactly the job of the Go-getter.
Being the Go-Getter is a full time job. Making sure that you get the money you need from investments while tending to potential customers and curating & building partnerships is a balance act that requires time, social skills and energy. This is not something that is easily done, but takes a person with a lot of dedication and the ability to become a jack-of-all-trades, as the job will involve all aspects from marketing & administrative tasks to sales & support.
Again, as with the Builder, the Go-Getter does not need to be an expert in all areas. The main traits that are important are high energy levels, ability to study hard to acquire new skills, willingness to work long hours and relentlessness in taking on every challenge, success and especially defeat without breaking the neck and loosing motivation. It will get tough!
What is the problem with not having both on my team?
Having these two types of people in your startup does not automatically ensure success, but without, it can be very difficult to get off the ground. The reason for this is that people have a tendency to do the tasks that they are best at while postponing difficult or uncomfortable tasks, even though these task might actually be the ones that will move the company forward the fastest. For example, with two Builders alone, tendencies will be to focus on the product, which might mean a great product, but without having any customers to test it on both money and feedback for further product iterations will be non-existent. On the other hand, two Go-Getters might get customers and partnerships but will lack a good product and not truly have ownership or an understanding of the product. Both of these teams will struggle to move with the speed that a well balanced team would.
Therefore when building your startup team, spend some time thinking about what type you are and who you need so that you create a team Builders and Go-Getters. Tell me if you agree in the comments below.
PS: There is one more type that is not mentioned in this blog, which is the Unicorn. The unicorn is a combination of the Go-Getter and the Builder, with strong skills in both areas. Having one of these on your team is like striking gold. Even though they will mostly have to focus their time on one of the tasks, having the ability to excel in both, will have a profound effect on the performance of the team. Hold on to them!