Clans and teams

Startups are usually the product of teams. Sometimes a single founder is clearly the driver and other people might call a startup “his startup” and they would only mean one person.

Usually, it’s a team.

Where does this team come from?

Usually some or all of the team has already worked together. They know each other. They trust each other. They have a lot of context outside of the startup.

Sometimes these teams are years or decades in the making. Even if different participants haven’t always been working together, they somehow stay part of the same group all along.

If this team, or a part of it, starts to find success, they might also find a following. People come to respect these people, want to be part of their group, etc. The team becomes the core part of a clan.

I’ve been reading some articles about teams and then had a conversation with Tony Frey of Spiceworks. He mentioned the term ‘clan’ several times. That conversation and my casual readings have led to this post.

Startups need teams. I don’t think a team made of people who didn’t know each other before their startup is nearly as good as a previously established team. This is especially true if the team has achieved clan status. A team that enjoys clan status has a much easier time recruiting, raising money, evangelizing, getting “lucky breaks,” and having great Christmas parties!

Teams don’t form over night. So if you think a startup is in your career, whether a year or ten years from now, spend time interacting with people with this in mind. Figure out if you can make a team out of people you meet or know. Or figure out if you can be part of one that’s already taking shape. The social proof alone of being a part of a talent-filled team is a career must-have.

I’ll finish with a little levity that contains a lot of truth. John Doerr, the famous Kleiner Perkins VC, once commented a good startup team is one you “wouldn’t mind getting into trouble with for five or ten years.”


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