Building the A Team - Advice for Start-ups

06/26/2015 03:20 pm ET | Updated Jun 24, 2016

"Bet on the jockey, not the horse." Just about every investor I've ever spoken with has repeated this gem of wisdom in one form or another. Sometimes it comes out as, "invest in a mediocre product with a great team over a great product with a mediocre team"... or, "good teams pivot, bad teams argue."

I'm sure you get the point. In this age of metrics and branding and hype, it's easy to forget that every start-up begins with a very few people (sometimes only one!) who have to envision, develop, launch, and fund. It's daunting. As an entrepreneur and advisor to numerous start-ups, I'm often asked about building a great team. Here are a few things to consider.

A rockstar product developer teamed with an inspiring salesperson/evangelist is an awesome combination. Some individuals actually manage to pull both off but it's rare. Investors are ideally looking for the whole package - a product developer that is, in her own way, a solid evangelist AND a salesperson knowledgeable enough about the product to interact closely and credibly with customers.

Be a Weeble. Long ago, "Weebles wobble but they don't fall down" was an ad for a kid's toy that couldn't be knocked over. Most investors are looking to back a team that has at least one Weeble, preferably more. Weebles have a history of being able to rebound no matter what rejection or challenge has befallen them. Remember, investors love a good comeback story, it shows resilience.

Industry expertise is vital. I was recently approached by an entrepreneur who had real game in the technology side of his business but knew nothing about the regulatory complications he was about to encounter. This was a serious enough red flag for me that I advised him to bring on an advisor or employee who knew more about his industry than he obviously did. I also advised investors against taking a stake in his business.

Every entrepreneur is a mobile entrepreneur. In this day and age, it's tough to be an entrepreneur without going mobile. You will be doing business at all hours and in order to keep living your life you'll need the efficiencies that mobile technologies bring.

And because we believe that every entrepreneur is a mobile entrepreneur, I am hosting a series of webinars for entrepreneurs with Mobile Future where you can learn more about building the A team - not just top-shelf skills, but also how to attract, compensate and retain great talent.

To learn more, visit