The most difficult part of building a company is bringing people together as a team.
Traditionally, creating a collaborative, supportive team is viewed as something that can’t be forced. It’s widely recognized as a process that takes time and effort from everyone involved.
But, as startup culture has grown and the role of founders has become ever more glamorized, a new method of company creation has popped up—venture production studios. Essentially, these studios bring together “founders” to start a company for a specific purpose.
Think of it as manufacturing a company.
While it’s possible to find success through that system, it’s also a very inorganic and impersonal way to build a company—and isn’t very good at fostering authentic collaboration.
In my experience, people co-found a company with people they know, trust, and care about. And authentic collaboration has nothing to do with the amount of money you raise. It’s about putting your head down and getting to work. You start building out an idea, talking to customers, offering a service, creating a product, and selling it.
That process creates a tight-knit group of people with the same goals and a collaborative spirit, which is why you have to take certain steps to get there.
It’s essential to choose the right people to collaborate with.
Everyone goes through a kind of courtship period when they first begin working with others on a project or business idea. It’s almost like dating.
What does everyone want out of this? Where do you see it going? How ready are you to commit?
Even in a new company, everyone should feel aligned, excited, and incentivized. And remember, like attracts like. If your team has the right mindset, you’re going to continue attracting more people with that mentality to join your team.
There have been a few times in my professional career when I felt completely aligned with what I was doing and the people I was working with, and that feeling can only be described as magical. It was the elusive flow state people talk about, at both a personal and organizational level.
One of the reasons why authentic collaboration within a venture production model is so shaky is because people are treated as resources. Rather than a group of people naturally bonding and aligning over a shared goal, they simply try to plug in people to fill the necessary roles.
When you use that method, it’s very difficult to bring together a group of people who will truly align around a common goal.
It’s important to understand the difficulties of working in an emerging industry.
In a space like blockchain, which is deeply enmeshed in the ethos of decentralization and distributed teams, organic collaborations happen all the time.
The opportunities I’ve had lately all revolved around taking the time to foster trust, build relationships, and get to know people. It isn’t necessarily that everyone wants to start a company and flip it as quickly as possible. Instead, these opportunities tend to arise out of situations where different people become interested in a concept, start working, and eventually drift into calls with potential customers.
Of course, that type of work can be a double-edged sword.
For example, people working together in blockchain are part of a foundation for building certain protocols, yet no single person actually owns the protocols. It’s all very collaborative, but it does lack the formal structure people are used to.
That’s not to say it can’t work. It’s just that collaborators need to have a good understanding of their own values and whether the new paradigm will work for them.
Authentic collaboration requires everyone involved to figure out their own values.
A business partnership only works if everyone involved understands what they want from the business, what their goals are, and how they view success.
Something I’ve done in my personal life—which works just as well in this situation—is performing a SWOT analysis on myself. What are my strengths and weaknesses? What are my opportunities? My threats (or simply the things I’m unwilling to tolerate in a partnership)?
There’s more than one way to go about this analysis.
Some people like to journal and write out what they’re thinking in order to clarify their thoughts. The more analytical among us might bust out Excel and create a spreadsheet with all their values, then weigh them accordingly. Maybe you value flexibility or remote work. Maybe you want to work in a specific industry. Or perhaps you’re looking for a certain type of team.
It’s really about having something in place to refer to when an opportunity to collaborate comes along. When you find the one that checks all your boxes, that feels right to you, then you know you’ll have a chance at true, authentic collaboration—the kind that often leads to something great.