Team and startup success: how to build it

team and startup

Table of Contents

Team and startup success are intrinsically linked; indeed, the team represents one of the most critical elements for the startup success.

According to the last CB Insight Report, the team is one of the main cause for startup failure, corresponding to 14% of the failure cases.

If you want to know more about the causes of startups failure, please read also this article: Startup failure: main reasons and how to avoid it

Training the startup team is one of the most crucial steps, as well as one of the main factors determining its survival in the long run. For this reason, the final goal consists in creating a winning team made of members with the right skills and seniority, as well as the right team spirit. 

Starting from these premises, in this article we will focus on the analysis of the characteristics that a team must have to accomplish a project. 

Guidelines to build a startup success team

Team and startup success are strictly linked, as we have said before, so now we will see the guidelines to build a winning team.

As the team is one of the main elements on which a startup stands and develops, it is important to build a cohesive group that supports each other just like a real sport team. 

There is not a specific number of members to set-up the group, nor a list of rules to follow, as each idea or project needs a different type of work and specific skills, each time different. The important aspect is that the individuals who are part of it should have the right skills necessary for that project and they are equally distributed within the team, ensuring the heterogeneity of the profiles.

We can identify the factors for the team’s success in three elements:

  • Soft skills, hard skills, and skills complementarity
  • Motivation and sharing of mission, vision, and values
  • Team governance
  • Monitoring results

Team and startup: the importance of soft skills, hard skills, and skills complementarity

When building the team, the choice of the people to be involved should be based on their skills, trying to maximize the areas of competence covered, focusing on the strengths and attitudes of the individuals, so that the resulting team is complete and transversal.

First, let’s explain what soft and hard skills are in order to understand their importance for building the team and the startup success and the fundamental relevance of the skills complementarity.

Soft skills

Soft skills are transversal competencies, related to the macro-areas of organization, productivity, and speed of learning, associated to the behaviour in daily situations in the work environment.

Among the most important soft skills for the team and the startup success we can mention:

  • Leadership, the ability to lead a group of people, being a point of reference and a source of inspiration. 
  • Team-working, therefore the ability to work in a team, creating mutual collaborations, communicating, and establishing strong relationships.
  • Problem solving, the ability to analyse and solve problems or critical situations.
  • Empathy, a form of deeply communication, the ability to identify yourself in others’ mood or situation naturally.
  • Creativity, the ability to create and innovate in an ever changing and constantly evolving context.
  • Public speaking, which requires strong communication skills and the ability to manage and engage the public.

Hard skills

Hard skills are those abilities that can be acquired with study, practice, and experience. Generally, these are technical skills, which are gained with professional education and work experience.

Although there are numerous areas of expertise covering various professional sectors, among the most important hard skills are:

  • Marketing
  • Sales
  • Operations
  • Information Technology
  • Finance
  • Legal

Skills complementarity

Within the team hard skills and soft skills must be equally distributed and it is also fundamental that the skills of the various members are complementary, to have differences of profiles within the group. 

It is important that the team owns the vertical skills of the startup core business.

Not having a good mix of hard skills and soft skills can lead to the failure of a startup. For example, the lack of hard skills in the core business can lead to the incompetence of the management team in the project and so to its failure. Therefore, it is important to have sufficient experience and seniority in those competences which are key skills for the startup business.

It is clear that team and startup success are intrinsically linked. It is fundamental to keep in mind that companies are made up of people; projects are carried out by people and only with the right mix of skills and team spirit it will be possible to achieve the set goals.

Team and startup: the relevance of the strategic drivers of motivation and sharing of mission, vision, and values

What are the elements that can increase the chance to build a winning team for a startup? Certainly, an important factor is motivation, but there are also other fundamental elements that must be shared by all team members, which are mission, vision, and values.


Motivation is the deepest reason why an individual spends his/her time and effort achieving a given goal. It is particularly important to have a strong motivation and commitment on the part of all team members to carry on the project of a startup. One can have a financial, social, or personal motivation. It is important that the team members share the same “the big why” so that there is the same spirit to carry on the project over time successfully. 


What is the mission?

Once defined the company goal to achieve, the mission consists in outlining the guide, the direction to get to the set goal.

The company’s mission therefore represents the declaration of intent of an organization, or its final goal, what distinguishes it from competitors and allows it to achieve the determined objectives.

To achieve these goals together, the startup team must share the mission in a cohesive way to follow the path that will lead to success.

Once the mission statement goals have been set, the objectives are the result that each team member wants to achieve. Having common, clear, and measurable goals within the team is necessary in order to establish a common task to fulfil, around which the team’s work revolves. 


What is the vision?

The term “vision” means the projection of a future scenario that respects the values, ideals, desires, and aspirations of those who set the goals. Indeed, we refer to all the medium or long-term objectives set for a team, for a company or an activity. 

As mentioned above, to make a successful working team, the vision must be shared by all team members.


What are the company’s values?

Company’s values are motivational constructs that define a company’s landmarks; they represent what is considered important and constitute the criteria and standards to follow to manage the company. 

Company’s values are a reference map and must be clearly defined to let the team to orient itself in the working reality in a coherent and effective way.

The values represent the company, the brand, and must therefore be shared by all the team members, and then be transmitted to the clients, so that they can identify themselves in the brand.

Team and startup: the fundamental element of governance

Startup team members must identify, discuss, and determine what should be “the rules of the game”, which are the key points for the team to work properly

To build a winning team it is necessary to adopt specific behaviours that build confidence within the group and around the individuals who are part of it, making the team as efficient as possible. 

Hereafter we list some behaviours that are highly recommended to make the difference between a team that works and one that does not work:

  • Everyone must have the opportunity to speak and express him/herself within the group. 
  • Every member of the team must be heard, without being interrupted.
  • People being part of the team need to pay attention to each other.
  • A respectful body language must be adopted. 
  • It is advisable to share vulnerabilities in a friendly way, so that the team members can connect more deeply with each other. 

These behaviours help to make the team harmonious and cohesive, leveraging on the sense of belonging to the team itself. Confrontation and dialogue are important aspects not to be underestimated, solidifying the relationship between the individuals of the team, and contributing to improve their performance. The aim must be to create a positive atmosphere, a serene and stimulating environment, so that corporate well-being can facilitate the development of a successful business. 

Rules, together with the values of the team, are important for determining the lines of behaviour that should be followed within the group. Thanks to them it is possible to work in harmony and mutual respect.

There are also other critical factors to consider building a successful team that allows the set-up of performing groups, such as the development of an organizational structure, team building activities and the ability to celebrate successes.

The definition of a clear organization structure is crucial. With the growth of the business, having a well-defined organization with clear job descriptions, objectives and accountability is essential to achieve future goals. 

As mentioned above, combining different skills of the startup team members is particularly important, so that they are as much complementary as possible. At the same time, however, investing in the know-how and soft skills of your team with team building and training activities helps stimulating their growth and creativity, as well as improving their performances. 

Inevitably, depending on the team accomplishments and the way the market reacts, you will be faced with successes or failures. In both cases, it is good to stop and evaluate the work done by the team and congratulate their commitment and efforts. Even if defeats are faced, it will be useful to understand which business direction should no longer be taken into consideration and change the work plan and the past strategies.  

Team: the importance of KPIs and monitoring of results

A constant monitoring of the team’s achievements is a key aspect that allows the organization to evaluate whether the actions put in place to achieve certain goals have been effective or whether it is necessary to implement a change of direction, adjusting swiftly the path mapped out by the team to achieve success.


Currently the number of startups is booming, but a series of important aspects are still underestimated, and remarkably the process of building a successful team. An inadequate team is among the first 10 main causes of failure for startup projects.

Therefore, Team and startup success are strictly linked and, as we have seen, building a winning team is a complex process. Technical and ethical factors should be considered to establish rules, goals to be achieved and create a positive and comfortable business environment. Although there are not specific rules to refer to, this article provides guidelines for creating a performing team.

If you are interested in how to build a winning team, find out more on Start your startup page. You will discover more interesting content and videos to watch!