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.


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