NEF 2 Day Workshop – Customer & Team Development (Pt. 2)


The second day of the workshop was devoted to “The Founder & the Entrepreneurial Team”.

Awesome, I’d been wanting to explore and cover-off this topic for some time. I think reaching out, partnering with a first co-founder and building the founding team around a new startup is something that most budding entrepreneurs find quite concerning and a challenge. Though it should be exciting and fun too hopefully!

This session was delivered to us by Itxaso del-Palacio, Teaching Fellow of Entrepreneurship, UCL, London. Itxaso is also an Investment Analyst for EC1 Capital. She also likes riding bikes, which scores her extra brownie-points. Amongst other highlights to date, Itxaso previously founded “Founders Fit” – a company with the aim/service of matching business founders with co-founders. (Now closed).

We started out by asking the question “What is a co-founder?”. One definition is that a co-founder is somebody who:

1)      Shares your vision, values and goals

2)      Thinks differently and can challenge you

3)      “Puts in years of money, blood, sweat and tears”

Ok, so what’s the “ideal” co-founder?

This was followed by a quick brainstorm around the room where we all shouted out key desirable skills and/or characteristics we thought made for an “ideal” co-founder…

–          Complimentary skill set; open to communication; aligned vision; drive; motivation/incentive; lack of (or manageable) dependencies; honesty; pro-active; committed; reasonable; competent; challenges your opinion; power balance; cultural fit; passionate; trust; leadership; technical skills; positivity.

Then we hit the pinch point – how many people actually exist who exhibit ALL of these skills/attributes?” – Yep, none pretty much. You’d be hard-pushed to find someone demonstrating all of those things at once. Thus the need for a TEAM!

To answer for yourself: “Do I need a co-founder?”. It was argued that without a co-founder, the following hurdles can (and have historically) been experienced:

–          Almost impossible to raise formal equity without a team.

–          Alone, you won’t have enough time!

–          Mix/depth of functional skills (required for success)

–          (Founding Teams need) Diversity of perspectives for decision making

–          (Founders need) Social and psychological support

“65% of startups fail due to problems within the management team team” – (taken from) The Founder’s Dilemmas, Noam Wasserman.

Need a mix of Thinking Styles in the team.

My responsibility:

1)      Be clear about roles & responsibilities

2)      Understand team-dynamics to increase team performance

3)      Be also an INTEGRATOR!

We then watched a short (6min) video of Vinod Khosla discussing the ‘strength of the team’ (Just search ‘Vinod Koshler’; ‘Stanford eCorner’; and you’ll find it).

“Engineering the Gene Pool”…

This is the approach of identifying the skillset for the position you want to fill (recruit for), then finding the people who can match and fulfill that criteria. For example, for a new business idea I may need people with the following skillsets and knowledge…

–          Tech. know-how; accounting/tax and cashflow experience; partner/business relations (in industry already?); IP & Law (outsource as and when required?).

What am I looking for?

–          Skills: Developer; Designer; Marketing; Sales; Financials.

–          Personality: Analyser; Implementer; Idea Generator; Problem Solver.

–          Values: Passion; Beliefs; Love.

“Work with someone who shares your values (and vision) – skills can always be developed.”

“Skills can always be paid for, whereas a mindset (personality and values) is difficult to pay for or change…”

(For info: Seedcamp have a standard founder’s agreement template available online).