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This is the Secret to Building a Successful Startup Team

Jonathan Littman and Susanna Camp

Jonathan Littman and Susanna Camp

Jonathan Littman collaborated with IDEO on the bestsellers “The Art of Innovation” and “The Ten Faces of Innovation” (more than 650,000 copies sold worldwide in 12 languages). The author of 10 books, five of his works have been optioned for films. His award-winning journalism has appeared in Playboy, the LA Times and Forbes.

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."
Jonathan Littman and Susanna Camp

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How do you build your best startup team? Entrepreneurship is a wild ride, with huge challenges, exhilarating ups and formidable downs. It’s more essential than ever that you bond and mesh with your co-founders and first hires. Today’s dramatic shift to remote work demands that you take charge of your identity and path. How do you bring your best self to this all-out effort?

We think a great place to start is our new book, “The Entrepreneur’s Faces: How Makers, Visionaries and Outsiders Succeed.” Begin by finding your own entrepreneurial type, and you’ll be well on your way to forging stronger teams and more productive collaborations.


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Success comes from balancing your team. Consider this legendary example: Phil Knight, the co-founder of Nike, was a runner at the University of Oregon under the famous coach Bill Bowerman, who later coached the U.S. Olympic team. Phil Knight was the type we call the “Visionary.” He came up with the idea for an entirely new kind of running shoe when Coach Bowerman would test new shoe designs on his athletes. Bowerman was the mad prototyping type we call the “Maker.” He devised the waffle sole by putting melted plastic in his waffle iron. They needed one more type on their squad to succeed, Nike’s first employee, Jeff Johnson, the type we call the “Evangelist.” Johnson was a running fanatic who believed it was his mission to help runners reach their nirvana. He was the indefatigable sales and marketing guy who went out and hawked shoes at track meets all over the U.S., then built the first store. These three different archetypes complemented each other and got this great American company off to a strong start.

Apple Computer? Jobs was the brilliant “Visionary” and inspired “Evangelist,” but he wouldn’t have had anything to sell without Wozniak, the inveterate “Maker.” Knowing your type is essential – whether you’re an individual, duo, or team.

The self-awareness that has emerged between the two of us as co-authors has made all the difference in our own collaboration. Jon’s type is the “Athlete”: enthusiastic, energetic, intuitive. Competition and crazy deadlines make it more exciting and real. Setbacks and failures are character-building for the Athlete. The crisis has given him a fresh challenge – to understand on a deeper level how his learned and natural capabilities as an Athlete can help him and others navigate our uncertain territory. Susanna is a steadfast techie “Maker.” She takes care of the website, the e-book, A/B testing apps and social media approaches to getting our content out there. Together, we have an Athletic energy and drive, combined with a Maker’s unrelenting focus on prototyping and testing. In our case, that’s about experimenting with new ways to collaborate digitally and internationally. We’re cooking up all kinds of partnerships to get the word out about our book.

Ready to dive into the 10 types? Take a moment to discover yourself below.  Most people find that they have a major and a minor type. You can also aspire to grow into an archetype, say for instance, a Leader or Collaborator.


Related: 10 Common Traits of the Most Successful Entrepreneurs

The 10 entrepreneurial archetypes

The Outsider: Inspired by the promise of unknown industries and markets. Master of the “beginner’s mind.” Defies the experts. We believe every team needs at least one Outsider. The global crisis has made this role even more essential. When trends and habits change overnight, the Outsider is even more attuned to emerging possibilities.

The Maker: Designs and executes prototypes to generate fast insights. Stubborn, single-minded, obsessed. Unfazed by obstacles, the Maker views mistakes as great feedback, the quickest way to focus a product and bring it to a paying customer.

The Accidental: Starts with a passion project, rarely planning to profit from it. Google and many other firms have officially recognized this entrepreneurial type with a 20 percent or 10 percent rule, allowing staffers to pursue their own project ideas on company time. The Accidental infuses a project or company with authenticity.

The Visionary: Brings a different kind of inspiration, based on an uncanny ability to see months and years ahead. Visionaries map “from now to then.” They understand how the future will build on present realities and take key steps to get there.

The Conductor: This team member is always thinking about how to connect products and services. Fascinated by networks, the Conductor believes that cross-pollinating with other experts is ideal to expand a team’s reach. Always thinks big, searching for building blocks to add to the platform.

The Leader: Confident. Gathers a tribe of followers and prioritizes their interests. Master delegator.

The Guardian: Prioritizes helping others. Sets out to find the one targeted focus that will can change lives. The Guardian’s product may become a movement. The work demands total commitment.

The Collaborator: Listens, watches … and learns. Analyzes how everyone and everything fits together. Collaborators keep their own egos in check, knowing they’ll rise farther by connecting others and bridging ideas. They are the glue connecting the whole team.

The Evangelist: A natural at creating the story behind the product. The Evangelist knows how to strike just the right points to touch hearts and move minds.

The Athlete: Learns from movement and the unpredictability of the wild. Loves a contest and a challenge. Athletes relish preparing for the… unexpected. “Adapt, recover, pivot” is their mantra.

Venture capitalists say it all the time: the human factor is the key to startup success.


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Discover your entrepreneurial archetype to know what you’ll bring to the table, and who you need to round out the team. Take our quiz and share with your teammates in order to build a stronger and more successful startup.

“The Entrepreneur’s Faces” is available now wherever books are sold and can be purchased via StartupNation.com.

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