Susanna Camp is the Editor-in-Chief of SmartUp.life. A journalist specializing in emerging technology, she was an early team leader at Wired magazine, and has also been on the staff of Macworld, PCWorld and Outside magazines.
Together, they are co-authors of "The Entrepreneur's Faces."
Latest posts by Jonathan Littman and Susanna Camp
- The 5 Types of Entrepreneurs You Need on Your Startup’s Team - December 15, 2020
- This is the Secret to Building a Successful Startup Team - October 15, 2020
When you’re just getting started in a new business, what types of people do you need to attract to work alongside you? We studied that very challenge while researching our new book, “The Entrepreneur’s Faces.” We found that new ventures require radically different talents and skills. Yes, you need a great leader, but you also need to surround yourself with the right people and strategically build out your team in the crazy, early days.
Ideas are the critical spark in the first stages of a startup: Ideas for a new product, for a disruptive service or engaging customer experience. You need lots of ideas and you will rarely find them in the usual places.
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Below, we profile five of the 10 different types of entrepreneurs we discuss in our book, and why these are the key people you want on your side from the start.
The idea people
Passion is the superpower of what we call the Accidental. They’re inspired by a pain or a hobby that they push to an extreme.
Kara Goldin is a classic Accidental. Frustrated by weight gain, adult acne and low energy, she quit her addiction to diet soda. But she soon got bored of drinking plain water, and started slicing up fruit and mixing it into pitchers of water. Family and friends loved her concoctions, and soon the fruit-flavored water brand, Hint, was born. Today the company boasts $52 million in funding.
Outsiders bear similarities to Accidentals, but there is nothing arbitrary about their process. They actively seek out businesses in markets they know nothing about, because they sense a huge opportunity for innovation or improvement.
Take Airbnb and Uber, for example. Two giant firms created by Outsiders who had no experience in hospitality and transportation, but brought design, logistics, dispatch, and mega platforms to disrupt the hotel and taxi industries.
Why do you want some Accidentals and Outsiders on your team?
They get obsessed and go deep to find market niches and opportunities you never imagined existed. They consider their ignorance of a new product category or market an advantage, a blank canvas of opportunity. They bring curiosity and the forward lean of what we call a “beginner’s mind.”
What’s interesting about these types is that they often come up with surprising cross-pollinations after their first innovation.
Remember Kara Goldin? A dozen years after stumbling into turning fruity tasting water into a mega-brand, she had some precancerous cells on her nose, and created Hint fruit-scented sunscreen in 2018. The Accidental water mogul morphed into a sunscreen queen through a novel product that brought a fresh Outsider perspective.
Ideas are just the start.
You also need Makers (prodigious talents like Jony Ive of Apple and now Airbnb), who prototype software, all manner of products and processes, even sales models.
Since successful startups often must pivot to find customers and traction, having Makers in your stable increases the likelihood you’ll boast the wherewithal to iterate when you really need to.
And, speaking of doers, what’s the one type you can’t have enough of? Athletes, who jump to the task, love deadlines and embrace challenges. The ambiguity and uncertainty of the startup world fuels their ambition.
Finally, what’s the value of the Collaborator archetype?
Well, these are the people who drive companies and teams to greater heights. Look to some of the world’s biggest success stories to see great Collaborators in action, like Jobs and Woz, Hewlett and Packard, Procter and Gamble, Page and Brin.
More recently, there’s been a flood of co-founded companies that illustrate the melding of complementary personalities and talent, the well-established startup concept that two heads are better than one.
Collaborators are more likely to go from the idea state to taking tangible steps to make it real. They bounce ideas off of one another and back each other up during the rough spots.
Consider the example of Danielle Weisberg and Carly Zakin. They met while studying abroad in Rome, then both worked as producers at NBC News, where they saw how friends and colleagues always wanted to know the day’s headlines and highlights.
So, they put their heads together and founded and launched the Skimm on a shoestring budget. It’s now an email newsletter phenomenon with 7 million subscribers and $28 million in VC funding.
Every venture needs Collaborators. These are the individuals who are the glue, who prioritize team and company objectives over their ego to the team’s benefit.
We’ve just given you a sense of the five critical talents every startup needs.
In “The Entrepreneur’s Faces,” we explore 10 unique types of entrepreneurs and follow them on their journeys. We believe there’s power in self-awareness, in celebrating your strengths and acknowledging your weaknesses, so you can build a supportive team around your venture that will lead to greater success.
Leaders should seek a combination of idea people (such as Outsiders and Accidentals) and doers (Athletes, Collaborators and Makers) in order to achieve a strong foundation.
When starting and building a business, it’s all about the team!