personalities need for startup

The 6 Personalities You Need On Your Startup Founding Team

Founding a tech startup is a humbling, at times even humiliating, undertaking. There is so much that you need from others in order to make your dreams a reality and no start-up founder is able to do it all herself. Even if she has the capability to wear all the important hats, she wouldn’t have the time and bandwidth to give the different roles justice. As you select your co-founders, try to make sure you have the following roles and skills represented among the team. The right team will get you going quickly and it is a great insurance policy should you hit rough times later.

The (Prima Donna) Genius

We need at least one genius among us to call ourselves a tech start-up.

The genius on the team has the in-depth knowledge of your technology and product; she commands respect in your industry; she leads the developers through technical challenges; she tells you when the engineers are pulling your leg; and she knows the fine line between difficult and impossible. Geniuses are rare and they often come with personality quirks. Some are more Prima Donna than Genius. Either way, you have to put up with your technical leader and keep her happy. The tech genius is a tech start-up’s most important and irreplaceable asset.

Geniuses are rare and they often come with personality quirks. Some are more Prima Donna than Genius. Either way, you have to put up with your technical leader and keep her happy.

The Leader

It would be nice if we could reach consensus on every decision, but is it realistic?

It would be nice indeed, but difficult decisions have to be made, whether or not there is consensus among the founders. When the company has to take a controversial action, such as diluting ownership in an equity round, it helps if everybody can look up to a Leader. The leader doesn’t have to be the CEO or be compensated differently from anybody else, but she should be the person that everybody looks to for a good judgment call.

The Superstar

Who is the weirdest, geekiest, most charismatic among us all?

Tech entrepreneurs are the superstars of the 21st century. They are admired for creating not only life changing technology, but also lasting institutions. The general public and the media like stories of fabulous wealth accumulated in the shortest amount of time by creative minds who can’t even be bothered to finish college. If you have a superstar on your team, she can help you attract great employees, can be the backbone of your PR strategies, and can get the attention of the VCs.

 When the company has to take a controversial action, such as diluting ownership in an equity round, it helps if everybody can look up to a Leader.

The Sales Animal

Why would we need a sales person, if we don’t have anything to sell yet?

The Sales Animal on the team may not be selling quite yet, but she brings a perspective to process and strategy that is valuable and essential from day one. The Sales Animal on the team should address the overwhelmingly important and existential commercial questions: Is what we are going to develop salable when it’s ready? How will we sell it? How much can we charge?  Tech founders like to develop products because they are cool, or technically challenging, or because they just want to proof that it can be done. That attitude alone is not a viable commercial strategy.

The Industry Veteran

Can someone please tell us how this is usually done?

Young start-up teams tackle challenges, problems and day-to-day business with innocent enthusiasm. They believe they can create a business, develop something completely new, and convince others that they are the greatest company in town, despite of or even because of their lack of experience. Yet, when the team overlooks a simple and obvious solution to a common problem, the approach becomes inefficient. That’s when you want to be able to turn to the Industry Veteran for guidance on best practices in your market place. 

The Financial Suit

Really, how hard can it be to add and subtract expenses from revenue?

It shouldn’t be hard, but financial affairs get complicated quickly when you try to develop great technology without much money in the bank. Situations grow hairy when you want to avoid ownership dilution as much as possible, when you need to get your employees their regular paycheck, and/or when you have to constantly raise money to keep the lights on. Managing finances in a small venture requires creativity and diligence so if none of the co-founders has the patience to fill this job, hire a trust-worthy part-time CFO before you get your first serious transactions going.


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Bernd Schoner holds a degree in Electrical Engineering from the Rheinisch-Westphaelische Technische Hochschule Aachen, Germany, where he was valedictorian of his class, and a degree in Industrial Engineering from Ecole Centrale de Paris, France. In the fall of 2000, at the beginning of the dot-com bust, Bernd and four of his MIT colleagues cofounded ThingMagic, LCC, in a garage not far from MIT. In 2005, after five years of bootstrapping, ThingMagic converted itself into a C-Corporation, hired a full-time CEO, attracted more than $20 million in venture capital investments, and completed its transformation into an RFID product company. As ThingMagic’s president, Bernd managed product development, then manufacturing, and finally business development. In 2010, ThingMagic sold itself to Trimble Navigation, a multibillion-dollar, multinational, public technology company. Since then, Bernd has held the role of VP of Business Development of the ThingMagic Division, focusing his efforts on applying RFID within key industry verticals, such as construction, transportation, and mobile computing. Bernd currently resides with his wife and son in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and New York City.

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