INSIGHTS with Nina Reinhart: Co-Founding Teams
Tips from SICTIC Board Member Nina Reinhart
At the beginning of 2020, Bluelion started its Acceleration Program. The aim was to bring professionals with the same entrepreneurial ambitions but different co-founding capacity together. This meant arranging a match-making space where people with ideas and skilled individuals could meet, exchange and potentially build something together.
We have been hosting events between January and July, and have also opened the call for the Acceleration program, which will close on July 15th.
For the Acceleration Program events series, we have had the pleasure to invite local experts who shared their perspective around co-founding.
Among them, we have been lucky to have Nina Reinhart: business angel and SICTIC Board Member, who shared valuable input for co-founders to become more attractive during investing conversations.
Her insights played around one simple question: what makes co-founding teams interesting in the eyes of investors?
Here are some takeaways:
1. Startups are groups of ambitious de-riskers.
Because startups are long and demanding journeys, ambition is what will fuel founders energy and justify the effort they give to the company. Founders will spend a lot of time trying to prove that their idea is valuable and has room in the market. So your goal as a startup team is to drive with ambition towards the goal, while generating value for your company and for investors. To use a metaphor, ambitious de-riskers should look like sequoias: reaching for the sky, built to last.
2. Investors look for the bamboo profile: flexible and resilient.
Soft-skills are a crucial component to investors when approaching startup teams. Co-founding members will need to stick together and collaborate for the business to function. If you are not aware of your skills, you won’t know who or what to look for, or even how to cooperate with stakeholders. Are you a flexible and coachable type? Investors will want to see that you are committed to grow together with your startup and that they can be supporting you in the journey. You can be a lone wolf, but you cannot be a superhero. So, be aware where your strengths are – both hard and soft – before you enter such a life-changing experience.
3. Co-founding teams: go beyond the comfort zone
Once the founder profile has been defined, let’s take a look at what teams should look like. For a pool of ambitious de-riskers to deliver together, big dreams are just not enough. Investors will look at aspects like size, culture, skills and formal agreements to make sure survival of the team is not at stake. Let’s look at these aspects in details:
o Size: ideal co-founding teams are made up of a maximum of three people who take care of, respectively: selling, building, writing the business plan. Usually a larger group has more difficulty delivering or might have less agility with decision making.
o Culture: the team should agree on a mission, vision, exit strategy, funding, and culture. Try to carefully and deeply discuss what kind of company you want to build together. Co-founding teams should take this conversation seriously, especially before you decide titles and roles. Expectations and working style should be made explicit from day one since it will be harder to change things once agreements are done.
o Funding: discuss funding before giving titles away. For a practical way to measure shares check out www.slicingpie.com
o Agreements: eventually, you will have to write things down:
- Shareholders agreement – where you define shares and good/bad leaver clauses.
- Working contracts: are you on part time/full time/contractor contracts somewhere else? Investors will expect founders to commit 100% to the venture.
o Skills: Get comfortable with networking in pools outside of your skills. If you work in business, search in the tech pool and vice versa. Complementarity and common vision are the most important things for unity in teams.
4. Teams are not just about co-founders
Reinhart concludes with final remarks regarding teams as wider nucleus, specifically:
- teams are living entities. Like children, it’s tough to see them grow, but as an investor you want to see that happen. That’s why investors should work alongside teams while looking at the interest of the company instead of individuals.
- Teams will naturally change over time. It’s important to accept it and eventually learn to manage it. For a creative way to assess team cooperation levels there are tools available like www.teemew.com
- Finally, stakeholders should be considered as part of the team. If you start thinking in terms of them versus us, that’s a bad sign that will only lead to mistrust. Remember, everyone is working towards a common goal.
If you are looking for investment opportunities, SICTIC is a not-for-profit organization that puts investors in touch with deep tech startups to help them scale. If your idea has a strong ICT component, your core team resides in Switzerland, and you are open to equity sharing, get in contact with SICTIC for more information.
If you are working at an earlier stage and you are looking for an acceleration program that will support you with the setup of your idea, apply to the Acceleration program by July 15th: You will get coaching, mentorship and professional training on how to bring your idea from 0 to 1 in only 10 weeks.
Acceleration Program events will continue in the next months. Don’t miss an event and stay connected on LinkedIn.