When you're looking to get the attention of an investor, building the right team around you is crucial, even if you're going it alone. Robyn McGirl is the CEO of Nudj, a startup she founded herself, and knows the importance of building up that team of supporters and advocates in order to impress investors. Here are her tips for getting the best team around you.
Building the best team you can possibly assemble is without doubt one of the most important things any early stage start-up needs to do. Your core team is the lifeblood of your business. Ideas are easy; it’s the implementation that's hard.
Investors place a huge weight on the quality of the management team. If they don’t believe in the team then no matter how good your idea is, the chances of getting them to part with their cash is almost zero.
Do I need a co-founder?
So much start-up chat demonises solo founders. Y Combinator founder, Paul Graham puts being a solo founder as the number one factor that will kill a start-up. Most accelerators and incubators only accept teams with 2 or more co-founders and many VCs list it as a prerequisite. Whilst the benefits are clear, don’t feel you have to start scrabbling around for a partner. I know a bunch of entrepreneurs who have raised off the back of flying solo (myself included). Some funds such as Forward Partners actively welcome it.
If you can’t find a co-founder don’t panic, but be prepared to focus on building a really great team around you.
Who should I be hiring?
Before jumping into bed with the first person who expresses even the slightest interest in what you are doing you need to do two things.
1. Clearly articulate your vision
Jumping ship and joining an early-stage business is a risk. If you are going to convince someone to come and join you then you have to be able to sell them the dream. This isn’t a rambling soliloquy of how you are going to take over the world, but a concise and clearly articulated statement of what the big picture is. If you can’t do this, maybe you aren’t sure yourself of what you are working towards and you should focus on this first.
2. Outline what you are looking for
You want to make sure that any early hires add real value, plug any gaps in your knowledge, and complement your skill set. Now is not the time for duplication, so don’t go hiring ‘mini-mes’. Investors will look closely at who is in your team and what they bring to the table. For example, if you’re a tech-led business but your core team are ‘business guys’, then this will raise questions.
Outlining the key duties and responsibilities this person will have will help define your search. You could even go as far as creating a specific persona of the ideal profile to help you stay focused on your hunt.
Where to find them
The dream team isn’t just going to fall into your lap, so be prepared to be proactive. With early hires, referrals and introductions are the best place to start. Formulate a hit list of potential referrers and start asking. Be systematic and target ex-colleagues, friends, university pals and any advisors you have met along the way. If you need to widen the search, target specific sub-groups and meetups. If you don’t get a response the first time, make sure you follow up and be persistent. And if you want more help on how to hire, give this a try.
I’ve found someone, now what?
Once you’ve been introduced to someone, it is important you move quickly. First impressions are everything. Try and meet them as soon as possible and give prompt feedback. If you are hiring someone outside of your own remit, try and find someone who can sit in on interviews so you can assess technically whether they will be a good fit for your team.
When building your team don’t just try and build a team that looks good on paper. Whilst this might pique the interest of potential investors, they aren’t the ones spending 50+ hours a week with them. Hire people you like and get on with. Investors will pick up on the team dynamic, if there isn’t any chemistry then it probably won’t work in the long-term.
How to incentivise your new team
Hiring can be a huge drain on time and money. You want to make sure you are hiring people who are going to stick around for the long-haul. Investors will also want some comfort that they core team won’t all jump ship when the going gets tough. Creating an options pool will ensure the team is rewarded, should you eventually sell the business. You can offer options upfront, but make sure there is a vesting period. If a hire doesn’t work out, you might want those options back.
The team isn’t the only thing you need to work on to be investment ready but it is often the tipping point for investors, so it’s worth spending the time to get it right.
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