Building an effective startup team
Keywords:startup, enterpreneurship, team composition, characteristics, effective team
Startups operate in an environment marked by high uncertainty and have very few established norms and procedures to guide their actions. Therefore, to succeed they need not just a strong and visionary entrepreneur/leader, but also an effective supporting team. Members of these startup teams must be able to multitask, learn quickly, make strategic decisions, manage operations, look for customers, fix problems, and pivot when necessary. Choosing the right people to join the team is essential, but what should leaders look for, apart from what is mentioned on their resumes? This study examines the structure of startup teams to: (1) determine which roles are necessary to build a startup team; (2) find the essential knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) needed in team members to ensure a higher probability of the startup’s survival; and (3) identify team-related competencies essential to ensure team effectiveness in its early stages. This qualitative study presents the findings collated from interviews with members of startups in Thailand to obtain a better understanding about selecting an effective team. The findings indicate that: (1) to establish a startup, the only crucial roles in the team are the founder and developer; (2) the team members do not necessarily require extensive knowledge about, or expertise in, the field of business they have entered; however, they need to have adequate skills and abilities to complete the tasks at hand on time, collaborate persistently, and show enough resilience, when facing challenges or blockades, to move forward or change strategy; and (3) for the team to function effectively, the team (especially the founder and developer) must collectively have all of the team-related competencies – collaborative problem solving, conflict resolution, communication, goal setting and performance management, and planning and task coordination; and if the team lacks a particular competency, another member or cofounder with this competency strength should be invited to join the team to fill in the gap, and thus, creating an effective startup team.
Andrews, K. R. (1971). The concept of corporate strategy. Homewood, IL: Irwin
Baron, R. A. (1998). Cognitive mechanisms in entrepreneurship: Why and when entrepreneurs think differently than other people. Journal of Business Venturing, 13, 275-294.
Baron, R. A. (2004). The cognitive perspective: A valuable tool for answering entrepreneurships basic “why” questions. Journal of Business Venturing, 19(2), 221-239.
Baron, R. A. (2007). Behavioral and cognitive factors in entrepreneurship: Entrepreneurs as the active element in new venture creation. Strategic Entrepreneurship Journal, 1:167-182.
Begley, T. M., & Boyd, D. P. (1987). Psychological characteristics associated with performance in entrepreneurial firms and smaller businesses. Journal of Business Venturing, 2(1), 79-93.
Cardon, M. S., Stevens, C., & Potter, D. R. (2010). Misfortunes or mistakes? Cultural sensemaking of entrepreneurial failure. Journal of Business Venturing, 26 (1): 79-92.
Cooper, A. C., Woo, C. Y., & Dunkelberg, W. C. (1989). Entrepreneurship and the initial size of firms. Journal of Business Venturing, 4: 317-332.
Creswell, J.W. (2013). Qualitative Inquiry & Research Design: Choosing Among the Five Approaches. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc., 77-83.
Eisenhardt, K. M. & Schoonhoven, C. B. (1990). Organizational growth: linking founding team, strategy, environment, and growth among U.S. semiconductor ventures, 1978-1988. Administrative Science Quarterly, 35, 504-529.
Gaskill L. R., Van Auken H. E., Manning R. A. (1993). A factor analytic study of the perceived causes of small business failure. Journal of Small Business Management, 31:18-31.
Glick, W. H., Miller, C. C., & Huber, G. P. (1993). The impact of upper-echelon diversity on organizational performance. In G. P. Huber & W. H. Glick: Organizational Change and Redesign: Ideas for Insights for Improving Performance. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
Hambrick, D. C., & Mason, P. A. (1984). Upper echelons: The organization as a reflection of its top managers. Academy of Management Review, 9(1984): 193-206.
Huovinen, J., & Tihula, S. (2008). Entrepreneurial learning in the context of portfolio entrepreneurship. International Journal of Entrepreneurial Behaviour & Research, 14(3): 155-171.
Kamm, J. B., Shuman, J. C., Seeger, J. A., & Nurick, A. J. (1990). Entrepreneurial teams in new venture creation: A research agenda. Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, 14:7-17.
Kimberly, J. R. 1979. Issues in the creation of organizations. Academy of Management Journal, 22: 437- 457.
Klotz, A. C., Hmieleski, K. M., Bradley, B. H., & Busenitz, L. W. (2014). New venture teams: A review of the literature and roadmap for future research. Journal of Management, 40(1):226-255.
Lechler, T. (2001). Social interaction: A determinant of entrepreneurial team venture success. Small Business Economics, 16:263-278.
Liao J, Welsch H, & Moutray C. (2008). Start-up resources and entrepreneurial discontinuance: The case of nascent entrepreneurs. Journal of Small Business Strategy, 19 (2):1.
Marmer, M., Herrmann, B. L., Dogrultan, E., Berman, R., Eesley, C., & Blank, S. (2012). The startup ecosystem report 2012. Technical Report, Startup Genome.
McGrath, R. G. (1999). Falling Forward: Real Options Reasoning and Entrepreneurial Failure. The Academy of Management Review, 24(1), 13-30.
Miller, D., De Vries, M. F. R. K., & Toulouse, J. M. (1982). Top executive locus of control and its relationship to strategy-making, structure, and environment. Academy of Management Journal, 25: 237-253.
Miller, D., & Dröge, C. (1986). Psychological and traditional determinants of structure. Administrative Science Quarterly, 31: 539-560.
Minniti, M., & Bygrave, W. (2001). A Dynamic Model of Entrepreneurial Learning. Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, 25(3), 5-16.
Moustakas, C. E. (1994). Phenomenological research methods. Thousand Oaks, CA, US: Sage Publications, Inc.
Nelson, T. (2003). The persistence of founder influence: Management, ownership, and performance effects at initial public offering. Strategic Management Journal, 24: 707-724.
O’Reilly III, C. A., Snyder, R. C., & Boothe, J. N. (1993). Effects of executive team demography on organizational change. In G. P. Huber & W. H. Glick: Organizational Change and Redesign: Ideas for Insights for Improving Performance. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
Reynolds, P. D., & White, S. B. (1997). The entrepreneurial process: Economic growth, men, women and minorities. Westport, CT: Quorum Books.
Sarasvathy, S. D. (2004). The questions we ask and the questions we care about: Reformulating some problems in entrepreneurship research. Journal of Business Venturing, 19(5), 707-717.
Scherr, A. L. (1989). Managing for breakthroughs in productivity. Human Resource Management, 28(3), 403-424.
Sitkin, S. B. (1992). Learning Through Failure: The Strategy of Small Losses. In Research in Organizational Behavior, eds. B.M. Staw, & L.L. Cummings, 231-266. Greenwich, CT: JAI Press.
Stevens, M. J., & Campion, M. F. (1994). The knowledge, skill, and ability requirements for teamwork: Implications for human resource management. Journal of Management, 20, 503-530.
West, G. P. (2007). Collective cognition: When entrepreneurial teams, not individuals, make decisions. Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, 3, 77-102.
Zaccaro, S. J., Rittman, A. L. & Marsk, M. A. (2001). Team Leadership. The Leadership Quarterly, 12(4), 451-483.
Zacharakis, A.L., Meyer, G. & DeCastro, J. (1999). Differing perceptions of new venture failure: A matched exploratory study of venture capitalists and entrepreneurs. Journal of Small Business Management, 37(3): 1-14.