Startups · Venture capital

A Great team-average product or mediocre team-great product?

Bernard Ang

August 5th, 2016

I've been handling the business development side of two startups (travel and NFP) and have gone through a few co-founders changes.

In March, I found a team whom I was happy to work with and they seem committed and passionate.

Fast forward to August, I find a couple of things that are starting to set off my alarm bells again:

1) We pivoted on the first bigger platform but it's gotten shelved by dying quietly. I've tried to hint about progress but found out the project's just been put on the back burner.

2) the main co-founder is technically sound but interested in many things. She posts many great ideas on Slack, talks we can attend but I find myself questioning why not the project if there is time on hand.

I'm not sure if it's my personality where I find I do not have time, there's just no rewind on life.

My question is, does it seem to be a personality clash or I need to give the team more time to develop the technical side of the platform.
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Martin Omansky Independent Venture Capital & Private Equity Professional

August 5th, 2016

It is an old story. Focus on one thing and prove that you can do it well. We see lots of entrepreneurs here (Boston Area) who have a million ideas. We angel investors hate that. Ideas atr not businesses. Prove to us that you can execute, and we will back your next idea, but not before you show us some initial success. Sent from my iPhone

Sushil Shirke Founder, CEO @ Conexstra

August 6th, 2016

I quite agree with Martin & Vinod - it's "execution" all the way down. Based on my own experience & into my 3rd startup as a tech-founder, there are clearly two gears for any startup. 

The first being that of "product / service evolution through innovation" and second that being of "customer / market adoption, acceptance & feedback loop". You need a fairly balanced team to get these two gears working in harmony. The moment any of these turn slow or fast and get out of sync, you will notice kind of pivots or situations that you just mentioned. 

If there are no real customers to support the product/service feedback loop, the idea gear keeps on spinning faster and you see too many projects / features / modules etc being piled up. I guess its time to find out where the real problem is and get it sorted out before the gears have overrun and burnt out. 

Maxine Pierson INTERIM CEO, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR/ VP Investor

August 6th, 2016

Remember Sully who saved the plane;  the best yacht will sink with a marginal captain- a great captain can bring in a raft..

Bernard Ang

August 12th, 2016

Great thanks, everyone. I'm very appreciative of the line words of wisdom.

I'm of the view of right people, right seats, right bus. I've had meaningful conversations with key members of the team and unfortunately, they have laid off the project due to the daily grind of life. Others feedback because the usp was not really what they are super passionate about but went on board due due to the vision sold to them.

With these honest, open conversations, I decided to move on in search of others who are of a better fit. I'm not giving up just yet.

Matthew Owen Chief Information Officer, MeetBall

August 8th, 2016

Only be a part of great teams, no matter what the situation and/or idea.  Their execution track record trumps almost every other attribute of a team.

Vinod Keni

August 6th, 2016

This is common!  Focus on one thing and execution is very hard for a lot of the entrepreneurs.  Give them deadlines and keep them focused.  Have them break down the entire idea/product into well defined mile-stone based  projects with deadlines and do not let the team veer off into la-la land!  Ideas are dime a dozen, but taking the idea  and executing it, selling and making money is the ultimate goal!  Good Luck.

Larry Zolob Marketing & Consulting, business development, careers blogger, entrepreneur, advisor, org hacker

August 9th, 2016

I don't know if it's 'great' team but the founders have to work well together. Be self aware and have same philosophies about things. Think of a couple who gets married and then they find out they manage money differently.  One will run up credit cards and buy stuff and the other wants to save for retirement. Can undo the greatest of promise for the marriage.
I currently have an opportunity to become a founder and both myself and the other guy are pressing pause. We're a great match but we're going to 'founder date' for two months and go deeply into skillsets, philosophies, our thoughts on company culture, weaknesses, everything....and will only agree to get started until we have stress tested each other.

People first, but I would reframe "great" with "fit"

Seen too many other founders tell me in person they will audit the other founders much better before they commit next time.

Shrutin Shetty Design Strategy Consultant. Helping bold & innovative companies grow faster.

August 9th, 2016

Hi Bernard,

With the limited info to go on, here's my view on this.
Personally, I'd always pick 'great team-average product'; reason being, the great team can fix an average product and perhaps create a dozen more. However, an average team with a great product could just be a stroke of luck, but doesn't promise consistency.

That said, we need to understand what 'great team' means. People that just gel well, or enjoy spending time with each other is not a great team. If that were true, we could've just called on our buddies to run the show whenever we took off. A great team needn't like spending time with each other initially.

However, a great team must be one where each member feels as strongly about the objective or purpose of the company/ product as you do, because that is why all of you have come together; to accomplish something.
If that's not working as planned, take them outside of your work environment, and discuss frankly about the objective, the current status, and why things are shaping up as planned? Hope this helps. Good luck!

Andrew Corn CEO at E5A Integrated Marketing

August 9th, 2016

Simply stated: look at each part of your marketing funnel - where is the drop off? It should be telling or your analytics are not strong.
Basically if you bring in lots of people, they try it and don't stick - its the product. If you are not bringing in enough people, its your marketing. 
I know this sounds simple, because it should be basic arithmetic.

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August 6th, 2016

Your selected team is not focused on getting done what you need done. Don't waste time with this team. I don't see any real correlation between what you formed up to do and what your team members want to do or will actually take on as a project to do.

Try this solution:

Clearly define what your objective is, why, what the end result will look like, the markets, what you will offer that can and will be  used, its advantages, how the end user will need to easily use what you design or offer without being technical themselves, precisely what each team "title" must actually and with conviction focus on and do.

Have you done that on paper? If not do it.

Then, when looking for a team, you will know what types of skills are needed and interview for finding not only the skills, but the drive, desire and ability to use them focused on your project.

BTW, you may want to talk with local universities and colleges and the appropriate departments to find that team since they have many qualified students and graduates that can fit.