A Startup Team

An entrepreneur wrote to me: “Two years ago, I started a company, but it failed because I did not have customers. Last years, I started another company, I had customers and made money but not enough to cover all expenses, so I had to close it. Last month, I found your blog and learn many things because it clearly explained the mistakes that I made. I wished that I had known it earlier. Now I am planning to start another company, do you have any advice for me?

Answer: I am glad that you have learned from your mistakes and I am happy that you do not give up but continue to pursue your dream. Since you already learned about customers and revenue, my advice now is about finding the right people with the right skills to help you on your third startup. A good team is a critical factor for any startup success. Most startup either focuses on technical or business but rarely pay attention to a balanced team. A good balancing team consists of three key components: A visionary leader, a good technical team, and a smart business team. The visionary leader is the person who has the idea or the solution to a problem. He or she is the leader of the team with a strong commitment to making thing happen. The technical team is people who implement the vision, write code, build the product, and they should have experience in software development. The business team is people who sell the product. The business team members must understand customers’ needs, establish the relationships with customers, know the market and the competitors but focus on selling the product. The relationship among these three components, how they work, how they solve problems, how they support others will determine the success of the startup.

In a startup business, many things do not go well as planned. There are many different opinions and arguments, but as long as all members understand that they all have common goals, they can still work together. If people do not get along well, if team members do not agree on certain things, it will be a sign of trouble. If the founders or leaders do not have strong management skills, the startup may fail. Startup business is risky, and it requires special people with special skills to work with a lot of ambiguity and unknown things. The leaders must be strong enough to deal with severe problems but flexible enough to change when necessary. The teams must be lifelong learners, willing to learn new things or set new approach based on their experience. The leaders must have the passion for making thing happen and share that enthusiasm with their teams and inspire them to follow their vision to create the best company.


  • Blogs of Prof. John Vu, Carnegie Mellon University

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