For founders, building a strong startup team is the most important task they face in launching their startups and securing investor funding. Investors don’t invest in ideas, they invest in startup teams—even if that “team” is just one or two persons. An inept founder or team can ensure that even the greatest idea the world has ever seen crashes and burns while a strong startup team can make even mediocre ideas a global success.
In our world today, researchers are devoting themselves to studying everything to find out how to improve founders and startup teams, helping them more agile and productive versions of themselves. For instance, similar to other companies that are gradually giving importance to startup team performance, Google conducted a study of their teams so that they could gain a better understanding of the traits of the most successful ones.
The study collected huge amounts of data, to better understand its people. Google wanted to know why some teams excelled over others, so they conducted, Project Aristotle, which gathered several of Google’s best and brightest to help in classifying the essentials for team effectiveness. Although the Google analysis looked at teams within organizations, the lessons learned can be translated to startup teams as well.
Initially, Google Executives believed that creating the greatest teams meant gathering the best people. In the study, led by Abeer Dubey, which also included Rozovsky, found out that this was not necessarily true. This result, prompted on finding the perfect combination of skills, backgrounds, and personalities to create super-teams, and professionals for various fields were invited to help. After two years, the project was able to study 180 Google teams, and analyze over 250 different team attributes. Unfortunately, there was still no clear pattern of features that can form the perfect team. But when Google started seeing some intangibles, things began to move into place. They came across research that focused on “group norms” which are said to be the unwritten rules, traditions, and, morals that govern how groups function when they are together.
With this new perspective, and the help of a research study on collective intelligence by a team of psychologists from MIT, Carnegie Mellon, and Union College, Project Aristotle’s researchers worked on the data. The results uncovered some interesting data about group dynamics that are common in strong teams.
- Psychological safety is a person’s mindfulness or confidence that a team is harmless for risk-taking in the event of being perceived as ignorant, incompetent, disruptive, or negative. Meaning, everyone feels confident that none in the group will punish or embarrass anyone else for admitting a mistake, asking a question, or introducing a new idea.
- Dependability is where members reliably complete quality work on time.
- Structure and clarity is the understanding of job expectations and have specific roles within the group that will contribute to team effectiveness.
- Meaning is finding a sense of purpose in either the work itself or the output is important for team effectiveness.
- Impact is the results of one’s work, the subjective decision that your work is important for teams.
But from an investor’s perspective, it takes more than great group dynamics to land an investment. Investors also look for the following key traits in a strong startup team:
- Prior startup experience: While there are many investors who rely on gut instinct in assessing startup teams, many more are risk-averse and want to see at least some prior experience in launching a startup.
- Industry-specific experience: Before investing in a startup, investors must feel confident that the startup team includes someone with industry-specific experience. This is particularly true of startups in fields where industry-specific experience is critical, such as healthcare, education, cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, blockchain and other similar fields.
- Willing to learn: I have yet to meet an investor who will invest in a startup team that is not willing to take constructive criticism, accept advice and learn from past mistakes.
At the end of the day, launching a new venture entails working with or creating a strong startup team. If you know what makes a startup team great, you most certainly will have higher chances of success. This idea might be subjective, but considering these components increases the possibility of creating a powerful startup team. Interested in learning more strategies for building a strong startup team? Contact me today and let’s talk.