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Founder’s INSIGHTS: Penny Schiffer, – Building a Team

With the new event series of the Acceleration Program, 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.

Penny, 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?

I think it is important to find a good balance between diversity and being like-minded, e.g. a team of 5 engineers may work very efficiently in their area of expertise but might struggle as a founder team of a startup because they have little interdisciplinary capabilities and complimentary skills. On the other hand, a team with very different professions (e.g. a computer scientist and a business graduate) will most likely experience its tensions much stronger but probably come to better solutions.

In your opinion, what does an ideal startup team look like?

Look for people that are complimentary and not just more of the same, e.g. engage with a tech co-founder when you are coming from a business background yourself. In many cases this might involve leaving your professional community and also comfort zone.

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?

Create a sense of urgency and vision about what you are planning to achieve with your startup. Be optimistic, yet honest about the status of your startup regarding financial situation, customer success, technical solution. Evaluate carefully if a person will actually add enough value in addition to what you already bring and be ready to be a partner in crime and be more comfortable in an employee function than a co-founder role.

How can newly formed teams find out if they really have a match?

The best way to find out it going through a rough batch or otherwise difficult situation. However, this might be too late to find out. This is one of the reasons why investors tend to favor teams with professionals that have worked together in the past and already gone through some ups and downs together.

What is the most important skill if I want to be an entrepreneur?

Motivate yourself and other people. Embrace the impact you can have. Enjoy the intensity and even appreciate the learning experience you can have when you struggle or have to live with rejection or losing of a customer / key person / investor.

About Penny

Penny Schiffer is an entrepreneur, business angel and Venture Capitalist focussing on deep tech and research based innovation. She is co-founder and CEO of, building a data-driven insights platform for VCs and innovators. Penny has been with Swisscom for a decade in corporate venturing, she is an accredited startup coach with Innosuisse and advises the Swiss government as a member of the Federal Commission for Space Affairs (CFAS).