Get All Access for $5/mo

7 Attributes of An Entrepreneur's Startup Dream Team Dream team startups are the work of a diligent entrepreneur who understands strengths and weaknesses.

By Martin Zwilling

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Shutterstock

There is a common belief in the angel and venture capital community that you put your money on the best team, rather than the best idea. Thus the top priority of every entrepreneur who wants funding should be to build and highlight their "dream team" of co-founders, executives and advisers, to attract the biggest and best investors. Solo entrepreneurs rarely find an investor.

In my angel investor mode, I often find myself flipping to the "management" section of a business plan, even before I read the solution description and opportunity. Imagine my lack of excitement if that section is missing, or it's basically a list of names and titles that I don't recognize. To win, you need to tell your best story and highlight how the team hits any and all of the following points:

1. Prior entrepreneurial wins and losses.

Building a startup business is not the same as corporate executive experience, so prior titles in a big business may actually be seen as a negative. On the other hand, having failed in an earlier startup may be an advantage, if positioned properly, and some learning is evident. Focus on prior results, not titles.

Related: These 4 Personalities Make Up Your Startup 'Dream Team'

2. Business credentials and functional coverage.

If your team has a depth of expertise in software, that won't help you get funding for a new hardware solution. Even if your product is a technological marvel, I look for balanced strength on the team in finance, marketing and operations. Fill in gaps with expert advisors to make it whole.

3. Team members have investor relationships.

Investors talk to each other and they love warm introductions to up-and-coming entrepreneurs. Investors are usually smart business people who love to be asked for guidance and direction, before they are asked for money. Do your networking with investors well before the funding pitch.

4. Executives exude confidence and energy.

Investors all know that the startup road is long and hard, so they look for people who have put and will continue to put "skin in the game" -- time, sweat equity, and money. They look for passion and optimism and more importantly, the willingness to listen, learn and get things done.

Related: 3 Steps for Assembling a Startup Dream Team

5. Able to communicate on every level.

It starts with having a vision and an ability to get the message across in your elevator pitch, in a written business plan and one-on-one with potential investors. Fundable entrepreneurs have to feel comfortable talking and listening to engineers, financial people, marketing and especially customers.

6. Relish the challenges of problem solving.

Startup leaders have to be relentlessly resourceful in overcoming obstacles and competition. Investors look for "street smarts," or examples that didn't come from a school book or a corporate process. When pitching to investors, weave in real-life stories of your best past creative solutions.

7. Not afraid to make a decision.

Investors are wary of "equal partners," who may jeopardize a timely decision. They want to see decisions based on logic and backed up by emotion, rather than the other way around. They want to hear what you learned from the last economic downturn and the last funding shortfall.

Ironically, investors see funding opportunities correlated to past successes, rather than future success dependent on funding. Thus, it's more important to highlight what you have done that demonstrates your team's potential, rather than talking about how great it will be in the future. Investor focus is on facilitating the scaling of a startup, after you have proven the business model.

Related: 5 Reasons Your Startup Should Add a 'Shark' to the Dream Team

If you are new to the entrepreneur funding game, like Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin were back in 2001, it pays to bring in a CEO such as Eric Schmidt to find investors, who was well-known to the investment community for his accomplishments at Sun Microsystems and Novell. Now, of course, Page and Brin have that same credibility with their successes at Google.

Dream team startups rarely just happen -- they are the work of a diligent entrepreneur, who understands personal strengths and weaknesses and are not too proud to ask for help and offer a chunk of their startup equity in return. Even if you are not looking for external funding, the same team principles apply, since you are your own biggest investor. Build your dream team early.

Martin Zwilling

Veteran startup mentor, executive, blogger, author, tech professional, and Angel investor.

Martin Zwilling is the founder and CEO of Startup Professionals, a company that provides products and services to startup founders and small business owners. The author of Do You Have What It Takes to Be an Entrepreneur? and Attracting an Angel, he writes a daily blog for entrepreneurs and dispenses advice on the subject of startups.

Want to be an Entrepreneur Leadership Network contributor? Apply now to join.

Editor's Pick

Business Solutions

Increase Productivity with This Microsoft 365 Subscription, Now $25 Off

It can make the entrepreneur life a lot easier.

Business News

Apple Pay Later Is Ending. Here's What's Taking Its Place.

The program was available for less than a year.

Leadership

This Artist Answered a Businessman's 'Powerful' Question — Then His Work Became 'the Poster Child for Juneteenth': 'Your Network Really Becomes Your Net Worth'

Reginald Adams was the executive director of a Houston-based art museum for more than a decade before he decided to launch his own public art and design firm.

Leadership

Harvard Business School Professor Says 65% of Startups Fail for One Reason. Here's How to Avoid It.

Team alignment isn't nice to have -- it's critical for running a successful business.

Business News

Here's What Companies Are Open and Closed on Juneteenth 2024

Since it became a holiday in 2021, Juneteenth has been recognized by some major corporations as a paid day off.

Growing a Business

I Hit $100 Million in Annual Revenue by Being More Transparent — Here Are the 3 Strategies That Helped Me Succeed

Three road-tested ways to be more transparent and build relationships that can transform your business — without leaving you feeling nightmarishly over-exposed.