The Holy Trinity of Every Startup Team

by Alex Mann @manna

Dubstarts takes place on April 23rd at The Button Factory

Register to attend at Dubstarts.com

Every startup team needs the following:

  1. A tech person. Get an iPhone guy or girl for app development (ignore Android for time being) or whatever sort of web developer you can get your hands on!
  2. A design person. You don’t need to be a ‘da Vinci’, but an understanding of both Photoshop and Illustrator is ridiculously handy, especially when it comes to early prototypes and logos. There’s a difference between being a painter and being able to paint.
  3. A hustler! You need someone (yourself?) who can make things happen, from those soul-destroying cold calls to those amazing partnerships that put you on the map.

This is the holy trinity of startups. Each position is equally vital so it’s really important from day one to establish roles and stick to them. At an early stage in a startup’s life, I believe deviation away from roles is a recipe for disaster. Remember, the initial goal is just to get the product out there. By working as a team you can do this. One person who does everything will get pissed off and eventually not care. One person not pulling their weight is very clear to see in a young company and can destroy morale.

I don’t think funding is really necessary for lots of startups, at least in the short-term. Most of the tech products you see can easily be made from your garage after work. The really important thing to remember is that this is a lifestyle choice. If you want it that bad you’ll do what you can to get it. I believe there are better alternatives than ceding a portion of control of your company away to an early investor.

There are a litany of accelerators and incubators in Ireland and abroad, and I don’t care what anyone says, they are hands down one of the best things you can do. It’s the cheapest MBA you’ll ever do. The people you meet, in particular your fellow entrepreneurs, can become your expert support network, your alpha or beta testers and your friends for life . Accelerator programmes are usually 10 weeks in length and by that stage your idea will either be validated or discredited. One incubator is enough too. Shopping around for more than one can be counter-intuitive for one idea. Many investors in the U.S. don’t look kindly on this. They want to see the accelerator as a ‘sink or swim’ facility, not a paid holiday for you to take your time with the product.

I can’t say any louder, but it is absolutely critical you get someone on your team that will actually build your product. That means either you persuade some coder to join (hustle!) or you learn how to build it yourself and get it done. The experience without a developer would be an unimaginable pain in the ass, with you having to go looking for someone to code while trying to get your company off the ground. The problem is these guys and girls are very few and far between. It’s why they get paid so much. This makes it even harder because when you find them, they may turn your idea down immediately because in essence, what’s equity in an idea to them when they, on average, get paid over $60K per annum?!

To help persuade a developer to join your team you need to sell your dream to him/her. Because that is what it is. Only a dream. One thing you can do before this process is wifreframe your product, either with Balsamiq orOmnigraffle. These platforms help you prototype your app and aid your thinking of where the future for the product lies. The end result will look completely different, but at least you have somewhere to start, and most developers appreciate this.

You can find coders easily on college campuses around Ireland, and at jobs fairs, such as Dubstarts. In Trinity College, for example, there is the Dublin University Computer Science Society (DUCCS), there’s the Internet Club and there’s the engineering building where all these guys hang out. The Entrepreneurial Society in Trinity is great too, and they can put you in touch with these groups.

At the end of the day, forming your team around your idea is the first step towards achieving your dream for your startup. And it’s essential to get it right. I persuaded (bent an arm/dangled a carrot, whatever you may call it!) Tiernan Kennedy, an engineer with minimal development experience, to join my team. It was a marriage made in heaven. We dovetailed perfectly. We both knew our roles and executed accordingly. We were accepted into the GE/OMD Incubator in New York, and it was, without doubt, the best experience of my life.

The ability to build full time is such a gift and it’s the people with whom you share your dream that offer the most inspiration and support. Get your team right and you will maximise the potential of your product. Accelerator programmes will be just around the corner!

Dubstarts takes place on April 23rd at The Button Factory

Register to attend at Dubstarts.com