Understanding startups: Team structures of a start-up

A startup is much more than just a vision or business plan. The team of a start-up is the core of a young company. It consists of people who promote innovation and creativity and contribute their individual contribution to the success of the company. The members of a start-up must have a good balance of different personalities and abilities in order to act optimally. The right team often determines the path a young company takes and whether the innovative ideas of the founders will be a success or a failure.

With a fully motivated team, a company can always achieve more than the lonely business wolf. The managing director must have the optimism to be able to manage the company and his idea alone, but also have the self-reflection to understand which team structures he needs to be really successful. A good entrepreneur recognizes which talents he needs to achieve the breakthrough and which personalities complement him optimally. This entrepreneurial decision can go so far that some founders hand over the management of the company to others, as their skills are not in the management area. The success of the start-up and its vision is always in the foreground for a prudent, successful entrepreneur.

A team, which should complement each other, brings together many different disciplines and characters. These must act in harmony with each other in all phases.


Building a successful startup team

According to current studies, 50% of all new companies fail because the team did not fit together. Founders must therefore attach particular importance to this detail. Even if many people find it difficult to get a team up and running at the beginning, it is rarely advisable to bring family or friends into the company. Only in rare cases does such a relationship work as well in the professional field as in private life. There is a risk that business partners feel inhibited to address problems because they do not want to endanger the relationship with their relatives or friends. This can be a salvation for the social relationship, but a death blow for business.

However, not only the social relationship with team members or employees can be a pitfall on the way to a successful startup; too one-sided professional expertise can also become a problem. As already mentioned, a founder should always seek team members to complement him. But in a small company, every team member must be able to do everything, even in an emergency, despite special expertise. A founder should therefore be looking for flexible and dynamic generalists, but often he himself is so specialized in a subject that it is difficult for him to set up his team as broadly as it would be necessary. This is where the problem of an overly specialized founder comes into play. For the specialist, the focus is on technical expertise, not what would be best for the company, which has already caused many a company to fail. Such problems most frequently occur with spin-offs from universities or research institutions. Here, the founding teams usually include specialists who are artificially pressed into certain roles in the company without being able to operate them. This way, the most communicative member of the team quickly becomes head of communication without knowing anything about marketing.

Have you considered that with the social relationship and also looked for a well mixed team of generalists and specialists and still it doesn’t work? Well: In the end, team fit is what counts when choosing the right colleagues and co-founders. The personal values, the preferred decision-making and communication behaviour, as well as the way of dealing with each other must fit together and balance each other. Once all these characteristics have been met, the second step can be taken – learning to work together properly.


Challenges to startup teams

In a startup, the teams are confronted with specific challenges that need to be solved. These tasks must be shared among the team members, not only depending on the abilities of the individual, but also taking into account the specific needs of the company.

Founders have to learn to divide the areas of responsibility sensibly, even if all team members are often involved in all decisions in a startup, not everyone can answer for everything. Therefore, the team members of a start-up are usually assigned a special area, which is their responsibility. The earlier these areas are defined, the less likely are later disputes within the team. The same applies to the objectives of an innovation project. All members of the team must understand what is at stake and what is to be achieved at the end of a certain period (e.g. at the end of a project or fiscal year). Only when everyone has understood the goal can they pull together to achieve it.

This is also the advantage of a start-up team, because unlike the Group, they can put together smaller teams that complement each other better. Missing consequences can be compensated more quickly by finding someone who is particularly talented in a particular field or by different teams working together across departments. However, the challenge for the founders is to recognize this optimization at an early stage. Since many young entrepreneurs have only a lack of experience in teambuilding, they often need too long to identify and close possible gaps in their own team. But if they keep a close eye on the structures, they are more flexible and efficient than many larger companies.

However, since many founders cannot have an overview of all processes, the open word is often the law in a startup. If the goal is deviated from or responsibilities are shifted, this must be communicated at an early stage. This allows decisions to be made more quickly and conflicts to be avoided.


It can therefore be said that a good innovation team in start-ups is optimally controlled. They have fixed responsibilities and complement each other perfectly. Each roll is predefined, each gap is closed as quickly as possible.

Alexander Pinker
Alexander Pinkerhttps://www.medialist.info
Alexander Pinker is an innovation profiler, future strategist and media expert who helps companies understand the opportunities behind technologies such as artificial intelligence for the next five to ten years. He is the founder of the consulting firm "Alexander Pinker - Innovation Profiling", the innovation marketing agency "innovate! communication" and the news platform "Medialist Innovation". He is also the author of three books and a lecturer at the Technical University of Würzburg-Schweinfurt.

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