Building a Startup Team

There are tons of important elements to crafting the best startup team. You might have heard of the perfect startup team that includes the Hipster, Hacker, and Hustler. They confront potential customers and understand consumer trends, develop a product or perform a service, and market/hunt down investors like crazy, respectively. Another popular tool is the customer persona, which is essentially an example of a potential customer your startup might attract so that you can understand him/her. There are typically multiple personas to create if you do end up using that technique. One final popular place to begin in a startup is a business model canvas. When you first have an idea you may not be able to come up with a complete business plan, but that is where the business model canvas comes in. The canvas is essentially a summary of a business plan that is one page long. It’s just something to look at to remind you of the purpose of your startup and lets you plan without the hassle and intimidation of making an entire business plan packet. These are just some popular examples of tools people can take advantage of when building a startup, but of course there are many more. I will go into further detail about the three concepts I just mentioned and then share some insight I gained from Stephen Shedletzky, someone who has worked with Simon Sinek on the Start With Why team.

The very first step in building a startup is forming a team. As I mentioned earlier there is a startup team formula of a Hipster, Hacker, and Hustler. The hipster represents someone who tries to make or keep a product or service modern and trendy. In a restaurant this could be the person who knows what attractive decor looks like and helps customers fell welcome. The Hacker is the team member that makes the product or does the service that the startup offers. Think of this as the person who manifests that cool new idea into reality, whether he/she knows only knows where to start or has the entire blueprint ready. The final member, the hustler, has to get busy and seek out investors and/or customers. The hustler might also take on the marketing role, but the hipster can usually take on the marketing. This general idea of a team does not imply that you need three members, but a team that balances out the three aforementioned positions. This combo is usually something to look back too when you feel like your team isn’t taking on the roles necessary. You don’t want your all of the team members sitting in a room ignoring the fact that you need capital and customers because everyone is creating the startup product/service.

With startups, you want to consider who would actually pay for your product or service. Customer personas help a lot with determining who you’re selling to. They are humanized examples of potential customers that have a good amount of detail. For example, if your startup sells healthy organic food options that would appeal to even the pickiest of kids, you might be selling to Pam, a single mother who works multiple part-time jobs, but doesn’t have much time to make her favorite salad for dinner that she knows her kids won’t eat anyways. You could also appeal to Sam, a stay-at-home father that has plenty of time to cook, but the kids barely so much as glance at their plates before they ask for mac & cheese. This not only helps you figure out who you need to market too, but can also show investors that you pitch your idea to the value of your idea, and that people would actually use it.

When you really only have the basic idea of your startup, making a business plan seems nearly impossible. That’s where business model canvases shine: They can help you get a general summary of your business plan and assist you with making the best business decisions from the get-go. The canvas is a one page diagram that includes what your idea solves, who you’d sell it to(you can use personas), key partners, revenue streams, and more. The benefits over a regular business plan are accessibility and less time consumption. Eventually you’ll want a business plan, but beginning with a business model canvas gives you something you can hang on a wall that reminds you of every way the business will operate or currently operates.

Another tip for a successful startup is starting with why. If you haven’t heard of Simon Sinek, he is someone who came up with the idea that most successful business start with why they exist rather than what they do. The shortened version of his idea is that emphasizing your brand’s story then offering your product or service as more of a secondary thing is the key to success. This is important for entrepreneurs to consider when building their company and also something to consider when marketing. In one of my classes at Case Western Reserve University, Stephen Shedletszky, someone on Simon Sinek’s team spoke with us about starting with why. He generally told us that the most innovative startups are born from purpose, which is never, “I want to be rich.” It doesn’t always work that way, but it is a concept that can start you off in a better, more innovative place. If you use some or all of the ideas in this article, it can really make the beginning of your startup experience less painful. Good luck out there and don’t forget to start with why.