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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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.
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.
Many founders are naturally talented at building product and building the user base. But building the company comes harder to them. I once discussed this with Roelof Bothaand he made a fantastic suggestion. Founders should think of the business as yet another product they are building. It is the ultimate product they are building because from the company can come any number of additional products and any number of additional initiatives. The company, if built correctly, will be more important than any single product it can create.
So you've built and launched your product. It is well received. You've acheived "product market fit" and it is time to get more users or customers. You've graduated from the "building product" stage and have entered the "building usage" phase. What does this mean for your team?
Building product is not about having a large team to manage. It is about having a small team with the right people on it. You need product, design, and software engineering skills on the team. And you need to be focused, committed, and driven. Management at this point is all about small team dynamics; everyone on board, working together, and getting stuff done. Strong individual contributors are key in this stage. Management skills are not a requirement. In fact they may even be a hindrance.