There’s no magic bullet for startup success, but your team can often make-or-break it, says entrepreneur Bernd Schoner.
Schoner, who has a Ph.D. from MIT and was co-founder of RFID technologies startup ThingMagic, sold his company to Trimble Navigation in 2010 for an undisclosed sum.
ThingMagic had an original team of five co-founders. But by the time the company was acquired, Schoner says only two were remaining – leading him to think more closely about team dynamics.
“There are certain roles that people assume in a typical tech company or startup that make sense and I think if you are careful about that, then your odds of success go up,” says Schoner. He is author of the upcoming book: ‘The Tech Entrepreneur’s Survival Guide."
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While some companies start out with just one or two employees, Schoner says there are six key personality types he believes make for a great team. Here is the recipe for his dream lineup:
No. 1: The prima donna genius
“I think it’s commonly accepted in a tech startup that you better have someone with technical knowledge,” says Schoner. “You want to have someone be able to lead the technical agenda of the team.”
No. 2: The leader
Typically the CEO, Schoner says it’s important to have one person calling the shots.
“For larger founder teams … It can get very tricky if there are five opinions and all have equal weight. Democracy is great, but not in a startup,” says Choner. “The leader or CEO doesn’t always need to be right, but if [he or she] is a leader figure that others can look up to, then that’s a good thing.”
No. 3: Industry veteran
Schoner says this person is often missing in younger startup teams, but he stresses the importance of having someone on staff who has been around the block.
“Someone who really knows the industry can be of extreme value. They’re not just going for what’s cool or new. They really have the experience to understand what’s needed in a particular industry,” says Schoner.
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No. 4: The sales animal
“The sales animal is the person who knows not just the technology, but also knows how to sell it to a customer,” says Schoner, who says young technologists often miss the value of having a sales expert on-board. “When we are trying to have someone pay money, it’s not about the technology – it’s about the value we can provide to the customer.”
No. 5: The superstar
The superstar may also be the tech genius or the CEO, says Schoner, but he or she is the person who can rally people around the company.
“That’s the guy to build your marketing strategy around. He’s the guy you want to send to conferences and industry meetings,” says Schoner.
No. 6: The financial guru
Especially when you haven’t yet brought a product to market, it’s important to keep track of costs.
“Having the financial personality is important. You want someone who has enough ability to handle numbers,” says Schoner. However, if you’re not yet at the stage where you can support a staff of six, Schoner says you can leave this person off the list – as long as someone else on the team has a good sense of money management.
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