Thoughts on startups by investors that
fund them & entrepreneurs that run them

Start With a Strong Team. (Or Not at All)

Picture a meeting room with a lot of windows, early evening, early Spring, the Oregon landscape darkening outside. Twenty or so angel investors (me included)  sit on tables arranged like a big U, with a table in the middle for a projector, and a screen in front.

An entrepreneur has just finished his pitch. He’s a man about 50, clearly smart, articulate, and knowledgeable. He’s proposing something he’s done before, but with a new angle. He did a good job on the pitch and the business looks like it has potential. But that was before the question and answer period after the pitch. As he answers questions, he’s been cheated before, twice; people have stolen his ideas. He’s a man who’s been right repeatedly, and wronged repeatedly. He’s a loner.

Now, as he leaves the room, carrying his laptop and props awkwardly, when the door closes behind him, the room sits in silence.

One voice breaks the silence:

“Okay, is there anybody here who wants to join him. Raise your hand.”

There’s laughter, some remarks, some chuckling … but no hands are raised. We go on to the next pitch.

Startups are a team sport. Investors want teams. I liked this from Steve Blank: The Startup Team, explaining why the team is so important:

“In a perfect world you build your vision and your customers would run to buy your first product exactly as you spec’d and built it. We now know that this ‘build it and they will come” is a prayer rather than a business strategy. In reality, a startup is a temporary organization designed to search for a repeatable and scalable business model. This means the brilliant idea you started with will change as you iterate and pivot your business model until you find product/market fit.”

He concludes that with the obvious: so that’s why you need the team, not just the idea, not just the market, not just the plan. You need a combination of skills.

What skills? Well it depends on the industry you’re in, but generally great technology skills (hacking/hardware/science) great hustling skills (to search for the business model, customers and market,) great user facing design (if you’re a web/mobile app,) and by having long term vision and product sense. Most people are good at one or maybe two of these, but it’s extremely rare to find someone who can wear all the hats.

It’s this combination of skills is why most startups are founded by a team, not just one person.

Obviously my story above – a true story – is just one example. And of course there are exceptions to this like there are for every rule. But still, questionable teams don’t attract investors. Exceptional teams do.



All opinions expressed are those of the author,  and do not necessarily represent those of Gust.

Written by Tim Berry

user Tim Berry

Tim is the founder of Palo Alto Software and, the co-founder of Borland International, and the official business planning coach at He has been called the "Obi-wan Kenobe of business planning" and "The Father of Business Planning." He is a serial author of books and software on business planning.

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One thought on “Start With a Strong Team. (Or Not at All)”

  1. Tomkeeley says:

    Thank you for reading my comment, my name is  Tom Keeley
     E-mail is tomkeeley@hughes. net  CONTACT ME .  Me, male age 59 good health  back ground sales and sales  marketing management as well as Real Estate.  Quite by accident about 4 1/2 years ago I discovered a idea that since then I have perfected and have Proto types on hand. I have met with five different lawyers, and they do not know about each other. All of which think I have a fantastic idea and all say yes it is a winner.  With out going on and on , my friends there is nothing like it on Earth anywhere.  If there were ever a sure thing this is it,,,,  oh yea right !!  ??  Stop  yes this is something if you were to see it your jaw would drop.  I have done hours and hours of research and there is nothing like this , not even close any where on earth. Taking and comparing to other products in the same category and what they have and are currently doing. I with all respect project  this to do in excess of  $ 100 MILLION   DOLLARS   FIRST YEAR.  My back ground also consists of Financial planning with Insurance and Security products , I have recieved many, many awards for same.  I know if I could just get in front of someone that is a Angel investor , if offered a fair deal we would be on our way to making money and a lot of it.  Help , some one  please break the failure  to get someone to even take a look at it.  I have not been able to get in front of a qualified investor in 4 1/2 years.   Guess what  I am still here and not if but when I do get a break to show my invention that is the time a deal will be made. This invention is that good, yes I know you hear that all the time. My friends I am not your everyday Joe Lunch Bucket, in fact I Double Dog Dare You , to give me a moment in your daily haste to show you how we can change the world as we know it today.  Be the one , open minded, to take a look with no promise to me.  There are many who talk , but few that do what they portray. The best thing yet is right here beating on your door, now do you have enough intestinal fortitude to turn the knob and open the door.  The look is free and the reward is great.   Enthusiastically Yours  TOM KEELEY   CENTRALIA IL 62801  USA      CONTACT ME   PLEASE       E-MAIL