Team – Why people matter for startups

Ben Nunez – Team – What matters from day 1 in a startup.

This is all team.

Which a lot of people say, but it is so critical to have the right people around your table at day one. If you make a bad hire early, it could be devastating to your company. You just don’t have the luxury, the time on your side. Oh, you’re recording? Hahaha!

When I start companies, obviously, it starts with a vision, it starts with an idea, it starts with a concept that I think has merit in the market place. But it obviously can’t stop there. There’s so many people that have ideas that they don’t really know what to do with them. What you have to do is validate whatever hypothesis you have. You believe that there’s a business opportunity. How do you go validate that? That may mean talking to lots of consumers, if it’s a consumer product, it may mean talking to potential clients who you think would ultimately use your product. If it’s a business product or service. And understanding and not asking them whether they think your idea is a good one or not, because nine times out of ten, people are going to tell you “Oh yeah! That’s a great idea!” because people are afraid to tell you that your idea sucks. So you really have to ask them non leading questions. Instead, ask questions about how they currently solve the problem you’re setting out to solve. Asking them the same ten questions to as many companies or as many individuals as you possibly can to get a structured data response. And you can look at those responses and determine whether or not you have a viable business out of it, or at least viable enough for you to take the next step.

Once you’ve done that, and perhaps you’ve already sought a co-founder, or one or two other co-founders to help you through this process. Doing this in your spare time while you still have a full time job, while everybody still has a full time job is perfectly doable. You don’t need to quit your job and go do this. You can validate all these things in your spare time. And once you’ve gotten far enough along, and everybody’s on board with the idea, ultimately, as the CEO, you have to be the chief salesman for your product or your service. And by salesman, I don’t mean the guy that’s going and getting the contract signed; although you would probably have to do that too. I mean the person that can sell the vision. The person who can rally people around an idea, because that’s all it is right now. You have to be excited and clearly passionate about what you’re doing and the problems you’re going out to solve, and why you want to do it. You can’t be so passionate that you’re bull headed and stubborn and unmoving when it comes to other people’s ideas. Because when its team, you ultimately have to, depending on the type of company that you want to run, when you’re bringing down your co-founders, these are all people that need to have invested interest in the company and success. And you can’t be the guy who is just telling people what to do and be a dictator.

Selling people on your vision, getting them excited about it as much as you are, such that everybody wants to join and do this is a critical first step in the process.

And that translates also into when you go talk to investors and you want to raise money. You have to be able to express that excitement over what you’re doing and the problem that you’re trying to solve, while at the same time listening to their ideas and taking them and being constructive with them. Because ultimately, you’re building a team both with your internal people and with your investors.