Your team is one of the most important factors in your startup success, more important than even previous experience, startup funding, or the idea itself. Our teaming process has been carefully designed to best set our Launchies up for success in building their startup companies, based on our years of experience plus the best practices in teaming research. It’s one of the reasons our application and pre-work asks students to complete skills and personality assessments and share detailed information about their industry interests, though there’s so much more than just skills and interests that factor into a team dynamic.
What makes a great team?
Vision and Values
The most important factor for a great team alignment is having a shared vision. This will come together as a shared mission for the company, but the team members also need to align on the strategic direction and core reason for the company’s existence, its “why”. While this might be the most difficult factor to assess, having aligned values or motivations for starting a company will lead to more aligned decision making. Motivational compatibility does not guarantee success, but incompatibility is asking for trouble, since it can lead to teammates dismissing one another’s ideas or otherwise mistrusting one another. You do want there to be constructive debate within the company, but not on the fundamental values – this is where you should have alignment.
Experience and Skills
While previous experience and skills can be important, it is much less important than a shared vision. Greater team experience only leads to better performance if the team members share a strategic vision for the company. From there, it is about having complementary skills, so that the team members will be able to have accountability for their domain and trust one another to work on their area of expertise. Entrepreneurial types come into play here, and while these are not intended to be entirely prescriptive or limiting within a team, it’s important to ensure team members are able to have clear responsibilities and full accountability for those tasks. With too much overlap some of the people end up being implementers and this can become frustrating and disengaging, which can be challenging for the morale of the startup overall.
Your business interests are the least important thing to be aligned on, which may be a surprise. Many people find their co-founders similar interests like an industry passion or love of product prototyping, then realize they have some complementary skills, and think its destiny, only to find that they did things backward and aren’t aligned on strategic vision. Instead, once you’ve aligned with potential co-founders around common values and with complementary skills, it becomes surprisingly easier to find common ground to find business ideas. Whether you already have an idea that you are trying to find co-founders to join, or want to start something new, you will be able to get a potential co-founder to engage on a deeper level if you have them connect with what is motivating them to be a part of a startup in the first place, which will benefit you, them, and your startup greatly in the long run.
How do we create teams at LaunchX?
We’ve analyzed the success of LaunchX teams throughout the years, plus done extensive research on what influences the success of startup teams. With all of these different factors in mind, plus the new input of going to a virtual program, we get information throughout the application and pre-work process relevant to student values, skills, and interests. Let’s take a look at some of those factors.
From the Application
Here are some of the application inputs we take into consideration when matching summer program startup co-founders.
Values: questions pertaining to why you want to start a company, what you want to get out of your experience, and the type of startup growth allow us to assess your company vision, and ensure you are matched with students who would share a similar vision.
Skills: team members should bring a skill set that compliments that of the other members. Entrepreneurial type, previous experience, and the skills assessment all factor into this.
Personality: as we’ve assessed important factors to teaming success, we’ve also seen that there are some additional things like learning style, work style, and personality type that can support team dynamics, so we leverage learning style and personality assessments when matching teams.
Interests: the application also asks for some initial information about industry interests and business type interest such as a physical product, service, software, or phone app.
There are also practical considerations, such as time zone and geography, that we consider for a virtual program.
Before the program begins, students go through a pre-work process on their own, where they explore opportunities more in depth about their business interests. They complete several exercises, then submit their top 5 business opportunities including industry and business type. This allows us to assess and validate their interests and drivers that we began learning about in their application.
When students start getting to know their cohort before the program begins, they may start doing some of this opportunity identification with some of their session mates. We hope that students are beginning to collaborate to make their ideas even better! To take this into consideration, we allow Launchies to submit one session mate with whom they have been collaborating for us to consider in the teaming process.
However, we don't allow students to entirely choose their own teams, and that’s for several reasons. When students try to make their own teams based on who they’ve become friends with during the pre-work, we find that they rely too much on friendship to measure compatibility as business partners. Our founder even knows first-hand the challenge of founding a company with friends, so our teaming process attempts to mitigate that challenge by piecing together the other awesome attributes we know our students possess.
As one of our teams from last year put it,
“Be resilient and open-minded. Don’t just pick your friends as co-founders but instead, pick people with complementary skills and compatible personalities. Picking the right team and the right market are the most important to success.” - Packmat Team
You can read more about the Packmat team and their startup here.
We want teams to productively challenge each other in the ways that are needed to make real progress and start real companies, and have fun while doing it! That’s why we look across all of the facets that we know about students to ensure enough diversity of perspective and complementary skills for each startup team.