Startup Weekend Kansas City has come to an end, capping off 54 hours of intensive innovation and education. Congratulations to the winners and to all who participated! I have no doubt that many interesting ideas were discovered and explored over the course of the weekend, and many new connections were made between local entrepreneurs. Events like Startup Weekend refresh and re-energize our startup community and help make Kansas City such an exciting place to be an innovator.
But what happens after the weekend is over? You've got a great team, but now what? How can your team keep their momentum going and turn their experience into a viable startup business? Our experience in the startup accelerator space has taught us a lot about taking an idea from its earliest stages and bringing it to fruition. Over the next three weeks, we'll be sharing our tips for the teams emerging from Startup Weekend KC on our blog.
It Starts With A Great Team
In the initial stages of a start up, surrounding yourself with the right people is one of the key steps in building your product. Nick Stevens is a startup coach and consultant in the Netherlands, and I recently came across a blog post he wrote about Startup Weekend that expresses my thoughts perfectly. He writes,
What I hope you’ve realized by now is that an idea is meaningless without a team. Preferably a team which can execute the actions to bring meaning to the idea.
That brings us to what we refer to as “The Talk”. It starts by getting your team together, all of you, and agreeing to have an open and brutally honest conversation. Talk about the experience of the weekend. Talk about what you each got from the weekend. Talk about the idea. Talk about each other.
This can be a difficult conversation to have, but it's vital to your success that you build the right team to make your idea a reality. You need to take an inventory of the experience you've been through and discover what it will mean to move forward. Who is on board? Who has the time and the energy to devote to the project? Who has the necessary skills to make a valuable contribution?
It's important to have an honest conversation — Startup Weekend is an educational experience, but now you're talking business. You need a team with the passion, skills, and resources to bring your idea to the market. It's a hard truth, but anything less is dead weight. "The Talk" that Stevens mentions should end with a small core group who are ready to commit to building the company.
Three Vital Roles
As you lock down this core group, consider who will fulfill each of these three major functions: building, selling, and delivering, or as Andy Ellwood phrases it in Forbes — Hipster, Hacker, and Hustler. Obviously, you need someone with the skills to build your product, whether it's a technology, a physical product, or a service. While this person doesn't strictly need to be a founder, they should be a very early hire. Otherwise, you're selling empty promises, or worse, spinning your wheels on an idea that never becomes a reality.
Stephanie Vozza recently wrote an interesting piece for FastCompany about the people you need on a startup team. In regard to selling, she quotes Bernd Schoner:
Startups with brilliant ideas often forget that someone needs to sell them, says Schoner. Having a strong salesperson on the founding team helps minimize the risk.
"The combination of technical insight, founder authority, and sales experience is a hard-to-beat advantage in the competitive marketplace," he says.
I agree. While sales may seem like a function that can be addressed later in an early-stage company's growth, incorporating a sales perspective from the start is the fastest way to get a product to market. Someone with strong skills in sales can help to validate the product's usefulness, contribute to branding strategy, and create and implement an effective sales model. In addition, a sales-oriented team member can leverage their relationships early in the product's development to get targeted feedback from alpha and beta customers.
The final aspect of your team is delivering value. Depending on your idea, this function can take many different forms. This may be the "creative genius" responsible for innovation and product development, or the person who actually does the leg work of providing your product or service to the customer. Regardless of the form this position takes, you need a dedicated team member to consistently deliver value to the end user.
Final Pieces of the Puzzle
In addition to filling these three vital roles, an ideal initial team will include a few more important qualities.To create a successful startup team, it's always a good idea to include the following: an industry veteran, an organizational guru, and a leader. These perspectives are really important for keeping your day-to-day business on track. They add a bit more to the practical, structured side of your team, which can help you avoid the classic start up pitfall of being overly caught up in dreaming up the next big thing. Fulfilling these functions will make a substantial contribution to your development as a group.
Odds are good that after taking all of this into account, your team looks different than it did over Startup Weekend, and that's OK. While it can be tough to say goodbye to friends you made in the heat of the competition, the "lean" approach will serve you better as you tackle the next challenges on your journey to a successful launch. Stay tuned for more tips on what comes next after Startup Weekend, and best of luck to those beginning the start up journey!
What was your experience at Startup Weekend like? Share your story by tweeting @SparkLabKC!