How to Build a Rockstar Startup Team

SXSW Prince

Every Thursday is an opportunity for me to meet budding entrepreneurs and startups at 1871 during my office hours. After having met several teams and heard lots of pitches, there are three key behaviors that I find are common amidst rockstar teams.

Align talent with roles

This might sound easy but, in reality, the biggest organizations fail at channeling their employees' skills in the right direction. Often, the extroverts end up in a cubicle and the introverts are pushed to managerial positions. If you are good at something, make sure that your team is aware of your strengths and weaknesses.

Embrace the fact that as a startup, your strength lies in your team and your team cannot function unless the right people are executing in each role.

When I met with Sparkreel, its co-founder was open to me about his business development skills. He let me know that he wasn’t the "technical" guy but would love to learn how Microsoft can help them. Having these open and honest conversations with your team and partners upfront can save a lot of overhead in the long term.

Have a close knit team with a few members

The number of people on your team can help expedite or slow down decisions. Especially when you’re an early-stage startup and exploring ideas, too many opinions may simply stall progress. The goal is to fail fast and be iterative. Vision, product management, technical mindset, people management, business and process development are important skills. This could mean having two or three people with the right combination of these diverse skills.

A homogeneous team, no control on product development and too many big guns may be the perfect trap for failure as a team.

The folks over at seem to have the perfect balance of a serial entrepreneur combined with a technical mindset, helping them build fast and target their market effectively.

Mentors and advisors

The best way to learn is through experiences and mistakes that others have made. This saves times and energy especially when you’re early to the game and inexperienced. I won’t get too much into this one. Suffice to say that with any new venture in life, having a mentor to guide you through is always helpful.

Chicago based startup, Adyapper has a great set of advisors giving the team constant feedback and helping it grow.

Enjoy the process of team-building and meeting wonderful people. It’s all about connecting and finding those sparks that will ignite the next big idea.

Sonal Mane is a Chicago-based startup technologist. She writes at Windows of Words and you can connect with her on Twitter. Her team creates a platform for startups to gain visibility and technology support and is also looking for the next high potential startup to nurture longer term. A variety of events form the backbone of Microsoft’s program for entrepreneurs, Windows Startup challenge, Accelerator for Windows Azure, supporting the 500 Startups Demo day, Startup Weekend and DevCamps. The program is also engaged in financial funding and providing great mentors all over the country.

Thirty-seven thousand fans on Facebook and 27,000 followers on Twitter are a testament to the growing support entrepreneurs and stellar startups are receiving from Microsoft.

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