When it comes to starting and launching a new venture, your team is everything. Not only who is on your payroll and active in the day-to-day operations of your company but also your advisors and mentors are critical to your success. The importance of team is so great, in fact, that most investors would instead invest in a great team with a good technology rather than a good team with great technology.
There’s a good reason, then, why venture capitalist investors spend a lot of time during the due diligence process checking out your full team — and not just the founders who are the face of that team. These potential investors would like to get a complete sense of who is standing behind your company and helping it grow. That’s especially true, for example, if your startup company was launched out of an incubator, accelerator or university lab that has a strong track record of producing successful startup companies.
It’s not a coincidence, in other words, that so many great startups seem to come out of the same tech ecosystems. Stanford University, for example, is a hotbed of startup activity precisely because there is so much talent floating around the campus that can be used to guide, advise, and mentor new startups. University alumni can play a pivotal role in opening new doors for your venture, as well as providing access to potential funding sources or recommendations for people to serve on your future board of directors.
And, conversely, startup founders should take a long, hard look at the type of mentoring and advice that VC firms can provide. It’s true, typically you look for investors with a lot of money to invest in your venture, but it’s also true that advice, relationships, and shared experiences can take you farther, faster than if you didn’t have that type of support. Within the VC industry, many firms are known for providing a very hands-on, supportive environment for their portfolio companies. Often, these firms have serial entrepreneurs in their ranks within precisely the same industry or niche as your company. If you’re trying to transform your fledgling startup into a billion-dollar unicorn, wouldn’t you want someone on your team who has already been there, done that?
When it comes to making future hiring decisions at your startup, it is often these informal relationships that can lead to finding the right people for your team. VC investors have a very vested stake in making sure that you succeed, and that you have access to the very best resources to make that happen. So, when it comes time to reach out to VC firms for raising money, don’t be afraid to ask them what role they will play in the future growth of your company.
Putting it all together, your team really is everything. The most valuable asset of any company is its people, and that’s especially true in the startup world. The founders, mentors and other informal advisors to your startup might only merit a passing reference in your business plan or pitch deck, but the actual role they play in guiding you to success is much greater than that.