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What’s a great team?

Well, this came out of a comment on our fund announcement post. Someone asked, what do we mean by a great team. While it is almost impossible to provide a precise definition of the same, I would like to offer some things that we look for. Every team might not have all of them, but these matter (in no particular order):

  • Hunger and passion, sense of purpose driving the specific business
  • Relevant experience and execution capability
  • Alignment of objectives – focus on scale, profitability and value creation/realization
  • Team dynamics and ability to work together
  • Leadership qualities such as driving change, hiring and developing top talent
  • Value system match – Integrity, Intelligence and Intellectual honesty

I could elaborate on each of these, and that would make up a book. I do realize that I might have walked into a minefield with this, but feel free :)

  • http://www.citywalainfotech.com Raghu

    Srinivas, excellent 7 points to summarize the responsibility of the team leader (pt.1-3) and attitude of team members (4-7)..

    As it is said, ‘Skills follow attitude’..

  • http://www.globalgreeninitiatives.com srinivas

    Great Team definition. I am reminded of my trainer days when I was asked a simple question – What constitutes a great team. I answered it as below-

    1. All team members know the goal to be achieved.
    2. All team members know their role and what is expected of them.
    3. Each team meber understands – individual limitation and collective strengths
    4. Each member of the team respects other indivdiuals opinion and decision
    5. Ready to ask external help when needed rather than brainstorm amongst themselves to solve every single issue as a team
    6. Each member agrees that collectively they can go wrong in their decisions and are willing to accept their mistakes and learn from it.
    7. Ambition to move to next level in shortest possible time through hardwork and dedication. No shortcuts.

    The education is not a substitute to experience. Education only complements experience.

    Betting on a colt in its first race based on pedigree is foolishness without checking what it clocked in heats and training.In Sanskrit there is a saying Panditah Putra Shuntah. We can extend its applicability here as well.

  • vyaas

    I heard from a successful entrepenuer that a great team is that which works!

  • http://bombaycurry.blogspot.com RYK

    isn’t Mr. George W Bush Yale & Harvard ;)

  • http://www.canaan.com Alok Mittal

    Virat, sorry if I implied that you were annoying – not at all! You’ve been great in raising and discussing some of these issues, and thats what venturewoods is for – to allow multiple perspectives to get tabled. Equally the views I table are my own, and really dont seek to represent the venture industry in any manner!

  • http://www.gpsurvivalkit.blogspot.com Krish


    You are right by half.

    An elite Degree from a reputed institution certainly carries a huge, initial signaling effect. Much is gleaned from a deeper probe into what the team is up to, what they collectively aim to achieve and how. That scrutiny exposes the warts within as well. A good team often has a manifest ability to outline its plan of execution from an investor’s perspective besides that of its own. He has to mentally digest it and be convinced that it would indeed work. Still actual execution is a far cry, but a diligent investor certainly has a stomach for that level of risk. It could even be that he is sure of filling the gaps himself by reinforcements.

    One can safely overlook the lack of his Ivy League background. Neither does he need frequent bursts of earth shattering inspiration either. Recognize that innovators and other creative types don’t wield secrets and magical talents beyond the rest of us. It is a slow process of accretion, building small insight upon interesting fact upon tried-and-true process. Just as an oyster wraps layer upon layer of nacre atop an offending piece of sand, ultimately yielding a pearl, innovation percolates within hard work over time.

    Notice that the key word here is “hard work” and not Ivy League :)

  • http://twistfuture.com Virat


    My intention is not to annoy readers as well as anyone. I am simply saying judging person or business proposition is very difficult. It is two way sword. I was just triggering ideas for judgement process.

    Personally i worked in gameloft as game designer, which is second largest mobile gaming company. I have friends in top-notch gaming companies in India. I know the difference between local street companies and huge companies. It has difference of jet age and stone age types in technology and thinking. I personally know the competetive difference between people, idea and work.

    My idea was to provoke ideas and thought culture, which should be open for everyone to think and judge the environment we live in.

    You are sitting at a place where 100 to 200 proposal per month have to be judged very minutely with 100% precision and commetment.

    I know commenting from my desk is totally different from commenting from your desk. The world is different the moment you change your shoes.

  • http://www.canaan.com Alok Mittal

    Guneet – I am somewhat of a sucker, but not totally – wont fall into specifying a formula here :) By composition, if you meant coverage of key skills for the company, I do think that the market facing piece is very important – how does the team even know they are solving the right problem? Other pieces can come in over time.

    Virat, Rehan – I am not sure if labeling MNC or Ivy league helps – I dont know if either of those is correlated with venture success (I would definitely be interested in finding out). However, I remember that some of the large companies in India used to look at class X and XII score for recruiting people – how is that relevant, I asked – and they said it demonstrated diligence. Having excelled at something in life might be an interesting indicator to one’s drive and commitment – might be studies, might be sports. I see a person who says “i have never accomplished anything in life, but I am very innovative” and I go ahem!

    unknown entrepreneur – good move to go anonymous – I know what is nsn – have friends there :) that was why I was surprised when the initial post came from nsn email id,

  • http://www.invenon.com Himanshu Sahani

    Alok, do elaborate on each and write a book :) It would be an interesting read.

  • unknown entrepreneur

    I think another need is to have a complementary team i.e. a team with complementary skill set.

    In our team, I am a CTO, I need Chief Sales Officer for example

    Go to nsn.com to see what it is :) :)

  • http://bombaycurry.blogspot.com RYK

    Someone once pointed out that the only pre-revenue projects that got funded were teams of Ivy backgrounds. Would it be fair to say that education seals your fate for the rest of your life?

  • http://twistfuture.com Virat

    I have one interesting point for investment firms.

    Investor wants high profile guys from MNC to lead their investment. Imagine two guys in front of you.

    Scene 1:

    One who was looking for MNC job in campus after engineering. Second guy who refused MNC job for personal R&D. Investors would prefer MNC guy. It is safe to invest on him.

    Scene 2:

    MNC guy is earning 8 to 12 Lach CTC. Rebellious talented guy left 4 jobs in 2 years ranging CTC of 4 to 5 Lach. Reason is simple he can’nt fit inside copy-cat world where things are copied. Innovation word is used for copying others work smartly in MNC. But VC would prefer quick copying machine. Coz it is safe.

    Scene 3:

    Cocktail parties, collection of huge medicore with greedy MNC guy would be best fit for next MNC. But pure innovater has to wait for 3 hours to get appointment from same MNC fools.

    “Generally MNC tagged guy with high contacts, fast innovation copying skills and finally better theif is hugly needed”

    (MNC is word used by me. It has much deeper meaning)

    Now really what happens infront of our eyes. Few underdogs with pure innovation build real innovative companies. Those companies are truly rejected by VC firms and major investors as sick ideas and sick people. Those companies really make big where money is not motive to start company. It is simple human curosity to solve problem rather then big business plans and long board meetings. It is like child’s vision to the world, which is not confused in figures, parties, contacts, PR’s, percentages and discussions.

    I think we need to keep things simple and clear to make success for all. It is purely based on love for our work.

    Lastly one question which amaze me a lot. Do really VC choose their job as passion or just to make more money. If they choose because of money then MNC guy is best fit for them.

  • http://www.guneetsahai.com Guneet Sahai


    How much weight would you assign to the composition of the team?

    Guneet Sahai
    Freelance Software Arch

  • http://twistfuture.com Virat

    Thanx for reply.

    I respect your points as well as vision for great team.


  • http://www.canaan.com Alok Mittal

    Kartik, I am sure something that can create such great teams is very interesting. I am not sure if it can make tons of money in a short term! Depends on the business model. And that is typically the kind of question one must ask regarding “alignment of objectives”.

    Do send some of the teams you create our way. Is this part of NSN?

  • Kartik

    Hi Alok,

    Thats great definition on Great Team

    If I have an idea for a start-up which produces / creates such great team, does it make an interesting model ?

    Thats wow

    Yes, we know do that.


  • http://www.druvaa.com Jaspreet

    Very well said Alok, well put up.