I attended a session of MaRS Entreprenuership101 this week titled an Introduction to Entrepreneurial Management. It was presented by Nathan Monk, Senior Strategist, ICE Practice, MaRS, which in plain language means he is involved with MaRs as a key advisor to Tech startups. You can follow Nathan on Twitter @CowboyTweets.
The session focused on current thought leadership, as well as data from the Startup Genome reports, to discuss why a large number of startups fail (75% of VC backed startups) and what the successful companies do to navigate these challenges. During the session, I heard at least 5-10 different ideas that will be great fodder for future posts research.
For this this week’s post I thought I’d touch on 2 points that were raised and attempt to add some value to how to combine and leverage the two. These points are:
The majority of successful startups have 2 or more Founders. More specifically, successful startups tend to have at least 2 Co-founders, where 1 of them has strengths in Business and 1 has strengths in Technology.
Startups that fail do so because of weaknesses in one of these 5 key areas: Customers, Product, Team, Business Model and Financials. Successful companies achieve a balance in these areas with the ability to scale.
What Nathan added as a comment, both in the session and the Q&A, was that a company with a single Founder won’t necessarily always fail, though it usually will be harder and take longer for that Founder to succeed. It takes the double negative.
What this translates into is that the single Founder (and I count myself as one of these at the present) needs to understand their strengths and weaknesses and build a team around them that supports or supplements these. This is the Team part of the 5 key foundations of a startup. For me, whether this Team is actually a concrete team of Co-founders, or a team that a leader has built is a matter of implementation. However, at this point in my career, I have a wealth of experience leading teams and know that I need them to achieve what I want to accomplish and to scale. Most Founders haven’t learnt this lesson on first attempt at a startup. They are by nature go-getters, self-starters and self-achievers, which are often contrary to someone who seeks out help or shares power.
I believe the second point mentioned can be a key success factor for a Founder that wants to go it alone. A founder needs to take an honest and hard look at their business and leadership skills in these 5 areas, to access areas for growth and improvement. If there is a weakness, how can it be resolved? Are there time, money and resources available for self-development in this area? Is this something to delegate or outsource? Is the weak function so core that you do need to seek out a partner that has these strengths and skills.
I’m reminded of the Product Management principles of Buy, Build or Partner, and feel in some ways this is doing that type of evaluation on the product of you as Founder. I believe stepping outside of yourself and doing this type of assessment is key to a Founder’s success and a great learning experience.