Founder’s Insights: Manuel Dietrich, Nexoya
With the new event series LikeMinded, Bluelion wants to foster the matching of startup founders and potential co-founders. To kick off the series, we asked several founders about their experiences building a team.
Manuel, you are an entrepreneur yourself and have already worked in many different teams. What do you look out for when you join or are building a new team?
First of all, a very good match on a personal level is the key to success. Along with dedication, success and good times, every early-stage startup will face challenging or stressful situations and moments of disappointment. Having a strong relationship with a high level of trust definitely is one of the most important ingredients to master hard times.
Secondly, but no less important, the members of an early team should complement each other. This does not only apply to technical or business skills, but also to soft factors, such as temper or risk disposition.
Thirdly, all team members shall be fully committed to the journey. I do not believe in part-time founders for early phases – a young startup needs all the dedication it can get and cannot afford distractions.
In your opinion, what does an ideal startup team look like?
Two or three co-founders are ideal: Many studies showed that teams of co-founders are more likely to be successful than if you try it on your own. On the other hand, if your co-founding team is too big, decisions get hard and alignment is way more complicated, resulting in energy and time loss.
Adding the first few co-workers to the team is always a balancing act in the triangle of personality, skills, and financial resources: As you will work very closely with each other, a strong match on a personal level is crucial. But you also need talents extending your skillset and offloading work from the founding team, typically without having the financial means to hire the most experienced or best matching person. So you need to optimize towards all three angles.
Many entrepreneurs struggle to find the right co-founders for their company. What is your advice to identify and convince the right people to join your start-up?
In general, you should not force anybody to like your idea. Instead, talk to everyone about your plans and observe if you were able to light a fire.
How can newly formed teams find out if they really have a match?
You need to spend time together. And talk a lot, very bluntly. Especially about strengths and weaknesses, about fears and aims, about why you are in for this adventure. Talk about financial topics, such as ability & willingness to invest or waive salary and of course about your expectations for the future. Also, include exit or separation topics in your discussions. And then, be true to yourself and listen to your gut feeling. If the combination does not feel right, don’t go for it.
But be aware, that in the end, you will only find out if you are a good match by working together for a certain period, especially when going through difficult times where things seem to go south.
What is the most important skill if I want to be an entrepreneur?
I would say flexibility and endurance: One of your biggest competitive advantages as a startup is the ability to change and adapt very fast, a quarter in a startup often feels like a year in a traditional company. Nevertheless, you usually don’t have quick wins and you will face many dry periods and rocky roads – you need the stamina to succeed.
In addition, you should be comfortable with the idea of taking bigger risks rather than having things secured and safe.
Manuel has been an entrepreneur for more than 20 years, he’s a firm Cloud & SaaS believer and a Lean Leadership fan. He is inspired by the potential of a connected and digitalized world and seamless user experience. He has a background in Computer Science & Business Administration and is CEO and Co-founder of the startup nexoya, a Marketing Intelligence platform that empowers users to make data-driven decisions.