GUEST MENTOR Marc H. Meyer, founder of the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Group at Northeastern University D’Amore-McKim School of Business: One-person shows rarely achieve success in new venture creation – and for good reason. Think about the teams behind some of today’s most successful and notable ventures – Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer at Microsoft, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak at Apple, or Dick Egan and Roger Marino at EMC. What they all have in common is a founding team of at least two individuals, where there is a clear balance of skills and some deep industry experience. Even the most brilliant, charismatic entrepreneurs need to be complemented with skill sets other than their own. A venture needs a synthesis of technological, marketing, and business model acumen.
The right balance of skills is more important than the right number of founders. If a venture is run by all technical founders, it often lacks the aggressive type of go-to-market launch and expansion needed for a venture to scale. On the other hand, if a venture lacks a founder with financial sophistication, it can easily wander through the years without a solid, scalable business model or, give away the store to first and second round investors. In practice, finding complementary founders is not always so easy to achieve.
For example, let’s say we have a software company founded by a brilliant programmer. In the very earliest days of the venture, that founder is going to feel a lot more comfortable talking to other programmers – people like him or herself – and probably a lot less comfortable having lunch with a tough salesperson or a CFO-type who sees all decisions from a financial, versus an innovation lens. Yet it is precisely these types of people that our technologist needs to join his or her company in order to attract customers and secure investment.