Team

The Team section covers everything related to the people that go into building a startup. From finding a co-founder, hiring the first few employees, establishing a company culture, to determining compensation, you'll find everything here that you need to know about getting arguably the most important part of any startup—it's people—right. 


Founders »

This section covers issues that surround the people that start a company. Deciding to start a company by yourself or with co-founders can have a great influence on your company and your personal financial interests. Those you choose to partner with is also a decision that should not be taken lightly. This section covers these matters, while personal and broader team issues are covered elsewhere on startup{ery.

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Founders

Babak Nivi

Is it fair for founders to own about 100% of a startup while employee #1 only owns a few percent? Are founders 10-1000x more valuable than employees?

 

Mark Suster 

Your company of 10 people doesn’t need 5 that are like you.  You don’t necessarily have to have a ying and yang co-founder.  But if not in your co-founder make sure that you think through all of the functional roles in your company: sales, marketing, finance, product management, customer support, technology and think about which ones match your strengths and where you need to plug holes.

 


Team Structure & Roles »

This section covers the makeup and general functions of the optimal startup team: what are the key positions in a startup and what do these people do? The section also covers viewpoints on the right size of a team at various stages in a startup's lifecycle, and on the way that the team organization should be structured. 

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Team Structure & Roles

Brad Feld

My experience with all of this is that it’s incredibly hard, breaks regularly at different points in the life of a company, and requires a great CEO to continually grow and learn from mistakes, adjust course based on new information, and work diligently at being honest with himself, his team, and his board about what is going on. But, if you get it right, it’s magical.

 

Fred Wilson 

The number of people you have in your company at any time is a very important part of getting the company building process right. Too many and you will slow things down, burn through too much cash, and increase management overhead for no real benefit. Too few and you will be resource constrained and unable to grow as fast as you'd like.

 


Recruiting »

Recruiting is widely considered one of the most important functions of any startup. Finding and on-boarding qualified talent is a major challenge, yet it is the key to expanding the team and its ability to drive the company forward. This section covers all maters related to recruiting.

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Recruiting

Babak Nivi

The organizations with the greatest entrepreneurial capability will collect the most customers and greatest profit. They will also attract the best talent, who will continue to build the best products, with the greatest distribution and highest profits, which will attract the best talent and so on.

 

David Lee

If you’re investing in people, you need to understand not only their skill, aptitude and potential but also their insight, drive, motivation and toughness - the immeasurables. And that’s where listening comes in.

 


Hiring »

From determining your hiring needs, to interviewing, to extending offers, the process of hiring new employees is riddled with complexities. This section breaks down these issues and shares hiring best practices. 

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Hiring

Brad Feld

I’ve always thought this was a great interview question. I’ve used it with founders of companies I’m looking at investing in, TechStars founders, and execs for early stage companies. Basically, anyone who I’m trying to understand what they are thinking about long term. The variety of answers is fascinating, often deeply personal, and occasionally very confusing to me. But they are always enlightening.

 

Brad Feld

I don’t care where you went to school (I never have). I don’t care what your first job was. I don’t care what happened 15 years ago. I care what you did yesterday, and last month, and last quarter, and last year. That’s probably as deep as I want to go in the first five minutes of our interview.

 


Employee Compensation »

Determining an employee's salary and equity stake is a decision that can be crucial to the employee's retention and to the company's financial condition. An employee's equity vesting schedule is also a sensitive matter as it can effectively bind an employee to a company for several years. This section covers these matters, and related topics such as raises and the broader purpose of compensation. 

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Employee Compensation

Babak Nivi

Every team member of AngelList is on a 6-year vesting schedule. Including the founders. Why? Because it takes a long time to build something important. And we want everyone to stick around for a long time. Because we want people who are here for the mission, not a payday. Because it sells prospective hires: the team you’re joining isn’t going anywhere.

 

Fred Wilson 

The startup world is full of companies where the cash compensation levels are lower than market. This results from the view that the big equity grants people get when they join more than makes up for it. There are a few problems with this point of view. First, the big option grants are usually limited to the first five or ten employees and the big management positions. And second, people can't use options to pay their rent/mortgage, send their kids to school, and go on a summer vacation with the family. Figure out what "market salaries" are for all the positions in your company and always be sure you are paying "market" or ideally above market for your employees. And review your team's compensation regularly and give out raises regularly. This stuff matters a lot. Most everyone is financially motivated at some level and if you don't show an interest in your team's compensation, they won't share an interest in yours (which is tied to the success of your company).

 


Firing & Quitting »

Employee termination and high turnover rates are a fact of startup life. With company direction changing frequently and rapidly, management often finds that it's in the best interest of the company to adjust their team accordingly. Employees might also feel that their company or startup life in general is just not a right fit for them. However, when dealing with potentially very sensitive matters, it's important to observe some best-practices. 

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Firing & Quitting

Fred Wilson 

When an employee is asked to leave the company there are two constituencies you need to think about. The first is the departing employee. The second are the remaining employees. How you deal with the departing employee will be noticed by the remaining employees. Even if the departing employee was not liked, a bad cultural fit, or worse incompetent, the remaining employees will have some empathy for them on the way out and if you handle it well, that will send an important message to the team.

 

Simeon Simeonov

One of the most common early-stage startup mistakes is building a weak founding teams. Since a good team is often the closest you can get to a good business plan, this one anti-pattern is the cause of many company failures.

 


Team Productivity & Communication »

This sections covers the tools and methods your team can use to mobilize, communicate, innovate and ultimately operate to achieve your objectives. Management theories differ quite a bit here, so you'll find resources that encourage strong collaboration among team members, and resources that urge founders to provide employees with autonomy and independence.

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Team Productivity & Communication

Fred Wilson 

The power of focusing should be at the top of that list. When you focus, you can rid yourslef of extraneous expenses (Jobs laid off over 3,000 people in his turnaround of Apple), you can get your best people focused on the important projects, and you can bring clarity to your marketing and what you want the consumer/customer to think of you for. Many entrepreneurs and CEOs misjudge how many things they and their team can do well. It is always less than you think. Focus is critical when you are three people, when you are twenty-five people, five hundred people, and ten thousand people. You can always get farther faster by saying no to too many projects and too many priorities. Pick your shots carefully and hit them. 

 

Babak Nivi

We use very little email at AngelList. Most of our communication happens on Yammer, HipChat, Tracker and face-to-face. This probably gets us a 90% reduction in email. If you’re running your company via email, you’re missing out on newer, more effective communications technologies.

 


Team Feedback »

Despite it's ability to stir emotions, giving and receiving feedback among team members is a crucial part of bettering team performance and fostering personal development. From new hires to the top tiers of management, all levels of an organization can benefit from feedback.

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Team Feedback

Fred Wilson 

Assess yourself, your team, and your company. We have discussed various feedback approaches here before. There is a lot of discomfort with annual 360 feedback processes out there. There is a growing movement toward continuous feedback systems. Whatever the process you use, you must give your team the ability to deliver feedback in a safe way and get feedback that they can internalize and act upon. You must tie feedback to development goals. Feedback alone will not be enough. Build a culture where people are allowed to make mistakes, get feedback, and grow from them. I have seen this approach work many times. It helps build companies where churn rates are extremely low.

 

Fred Wilson 

I think companies as small as 10 employees can benefit from 360 reviews and I strongly recommend them to our portfolio companies. When I see a CEO or a management team resist the idea of 360 reviews, it can be a red flag to me. I like to think that everyone can and should get feedback on their performance, be open to it, and that they will certainly benefit from it.

 


Company Advisors & Advice »

Bringing on formal or informal advisors can be very beneficial as you grow your business. The benefits of receiving good advice are obvious, but knowing how to obtain and utilize good advice is less obvious, especially when you receive conflicting advice from multiple sources. This section will help you recruit, on-board and work with advisors, and help you apply advice on your business.

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Company Advisors & Advice

Hunter Walk 

Seek advisors who could “teach, not just tell.” Teaching, not telling means people who can share frameworks, formulas and programs that can be modified and reused. It means having an advisor sit down with a team member and perhaps provide training wheels through a real world scenario. It doesn’t mean having the advisor become part of your org chart or solve your problems for you. If you want that, create a separate consulting agreement.

 

Fred Wilson 

Most of the time the entrepreneur will have a better feel for their product vision than the VC will. But there are times when what the entrepreneur is doing is not working and the VC will have to figure out how to get the entrepreneur to see that. I have learned to trust the entrepreneurs instincts until it is very clear I should not. Finding that line is art and not science and takes a lot of experience. And I still get it wrong from time to time.