Friday, November 16, 2012

unConference Session: Bringing Your Team Through The Startup Storm

If real estate’s catchphrase is “location, location, location,” the mandate for startup success might be: “team, Team, TEAM”

This session featured a super panel comprised of four people who know a lot about starting, running, staffing successful tech startups:

Katie Rae, Managing Director, Project 11 Ventures and TechStars/Boston (@ktrae) who invests in and coaches early stage startups.
Sean Lindsay, VP Engineering, Tapjoy 
(@seanlindsay): also a board advisor companies including Boundless Learning, StartStreet, HelpScout and Nimbit.

Mentor at several startup accelerator programs including TechStars, MassChallenge, and Founder Institute.
Bouzha Cookman, Managing, Partner, Catlin & Cookman Group), whom I think runs the #support group for CEOs in Mass: http://www.ceoexchange.com
Eric Paley, Managing Founding Partner, Founder Collective (@epaley)


Founders Panel (L to R): Rae, Lindsay, Cookman Paley
The panel responding to questions from the crowd (of circa 50 attendees), and many members of the audience (entrepreneurs themselves) also shared their own lessons learned (in the trenches).



Advice and recommendations for new entrepreneurs on team management from the session included:
  • We all make mistakes 
  • Require flexibility and growth 
  • Celebrate small successes 
  • Extreme transparency 
  • Include team in problem resolution 
  • Clear mechanism to address problems 
  • Know who does what and make sure they know they own their role. 
  • Anticipate leadership scaling issues 
  • Consensus on milestones: did we get there, where do we go from here? 
  • Don’t just seek consensus on values, but also how to implement values. 
  • Vision is great but break it down into daily activities and priorities
  •  “No Roses” --- no holds barred brainstorming session 1x/quarter. 
  • Seek insights from other founders and entrepreneurs to get their input on things you can’t talk about with your team and/or your investors (e.g. how do I get my CTO to get along with my VP, Engineering, or how do I get rid of the Pain-in –the A** on my board?) 
Feedback from some of the grizzled “been there, done that” serial entrepreneurs in the audience:

“While much of the dialog included “no brainer” advice, nice to be reminded of these it’s nice to hear some collective validation that startups face lots of common challenges.”

There was also a rookie team in the audience: A sizable contingent of younger entrepreneurs -- students from Tufts, some MBA candidates and some who’re incubating the next new thing right now. It was to witness the enthusiasm of the next generation of serial entrepreneurs!


Patrick Rafter
Chief ValueCaster, Valuecasters
http://www.linkedin.com/companies/valuecasters
Twitter: @prafter

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