Test 6: Do You Have the Right Team to Commercialize Your Business or Technology Idea?

Test 6: Do You Have the Right Team to Commercialize Your Business or Technology Idea?

Is there a passionate champion? Do I understand what skills are missing?

[This post is part of a series of blog posts titled “6 Tests to Know Whether You Should Pilot Your Idea” and focuses on Test 6: Team. The full blog post series is available in a downloadable ebook. It is covered in more detail in the online course Opportunity Assessment for Entrepreneurs and Innnovators. Click here for a summary overview of all 6 tests, here for the previous post (Test 5: How to Develop a Basic Intellectual Property Strategy for Your Business or Technology Idea) and here for the final post (What next? What to Do After You Have Applied the 6 Tests to Your Idea). Subscribe to the Moolman Institute newsletter (in the footer at the bottom of the home page) to be notified first when more content like this is posted.]

Why is this important?

“When a great team meets a lousy market, market wins.
When a lousy team meets a great market, market wins.
When a great team meets a great market, something special happens.” – Andy Rachleff

Passionate champion image

If product-market fit is the number one determinant of business or technology idea success, team is undoubtedly number two.

The key team question is: Is there a passionate champion?

I’ve seen many great ideas die in research institutions because of lack of a passionate champion. Ideas are plenty, implementers are few.

Why must the champion be passionate? As Mark Twain, Eddie Cantor and Steve Jobs observed, overnight success stories take a long time. If you are not FULLY committed, you will drop out before success.

What makes people passionate about something? It’s difficult to sustain passion if you are doing it just for money. As Dan Ariely noted in Predictably Irrational, causes are much stronger motivators than money.

“It’s hard to tell with these internet startups if they’re really interested in building companies or if they’re just interested in the money. I can tell you, though: If they don’t really want to build a company, they won’t luck into it. That’s because it’s so hard that if you don’t have a passion, you’ll give up.” — Steve Jobs

Of course, you might not be ready to take the plunge and start a new business based on your idea. This blog post series is precisely about helping you determine if your idea is promising or not, before you make big decisions. Also, not everyone is an entrepreneur and not everyone should be an entrepreneur.

But if you won’t be the champion, you need to find someone else just as passionate about your idea – and that is hard.

Another wrinkle: not every technology or idea is suitable for a start-up business. New paradigms, platform technologies, 10x improvements and new markets are some of the factors pointing to start-ups as the appropriate route. Incremental improvements or changes to existing products are more suited to being licensed.

But even if you are licensing your technology to an existing company, a champion within that company is critical for success.

Team image

Another key factor is team composition. One person almost never has all the required skills. This is why Y-Combinator and other leading accelerators and investors strongly prefer teams over single founders.

Yes, you won’t have a team when you start out, but what you should have is self-knowledge about your weaknesses, and what other skills will be required to take your idea forward.

How can I check team strength quickly at low cost?

Answer these 3 questions for your business or technology idea:

    1. Is there a passionate champion? If it won’t be you, do you have someone identified? Are they passionate about your idea?
    2. Is there a team in place with the required skills set for commercialising the idea? You are unlikely to have a team in place early on – in that case, you should at least have a list of what skills you think are required, which of those you (or the passionate champion) have, and which skills are missing.
    3. Are the team members able to commit? People might have other commitments that will divert their attention.

Real-world examples

“Not the right team” is the third-biggest reason for start-up failure according to CB Insights. Two examples from their study:

1. Standout Jobs

Standout Jobs image

Standout Jobs was a recruiting portal for mid-sized companies.They did not have a team in place with the required skills set. In their post-mortem, they wrote: “The founding team couldn’t build an MVP on its own. That was a mistake. If the founding team can’t put out product on its own (or with a small amount of external help from freelancers) they shouldn’t be founding a startup. We could have brought on additional co-founders, who would have been compensated primarily with equity versus cash, but we didn’t.”

2. Nouncer

Nouncer logo

Nouncer was an enterprise microblogging platform with a solo founder, Eran Hammer. Eran concluded that the core reason for failure was “…I didn’t have a partner to balance me out and provide sanity checks for business and technology decisions made.”

The lesson? A passionate champion is key, don’t go it alone, and be careful who you pick.

Moolman Institute logo

In the next and final post in the series I discuss What next? What to do after you have applied the 6 tests to your business or technology idea.

Let me know in the Comments section what you think of this method or if you have a good example of where things went wrong based on the Intellectual Property criterion.

This methodology is part of a Moolman Institute online course called Opportunity Assessment for Entrepreneurs and Innovators. The course guides you step-by-step through the 6 tests and provides you with a set of practical tools and templates to make it as easy as possible for you to get to product launch or idea demise.

If you would like more useful content like this or get notified when the next course launches, subscribe to the Moolman Institute newsletter on the home page.

Photo of pinata man by Ryan McGuire on Gratisography. Photo of night-time team by Jehyun Sung on Unsplash.

Posted by Sean Moolman in Opportunity Assessment, Technology Commercialization, 0 comments