On Monday morning, October 24, 2022, Dr. Elke Eller, member of the supervisory board and investor, and Dr. Harriet Sebald, senior partner of the hkp/// group, welcomed roughly 20 female investors for the third encourageventures female investor breakfast of the Rhine-Main hub at the Frankfurt Office of the hkp/// group HR Strategy and Corporate Governance Consultation. The informal discussion centered on the talk “Appraisal of Founder Teams” given by Simone Siebeke, partner at Spencer Stuart—addressing the question of what makes a strong start-up team.

The key to success in start-up teams: diversity—of people and skills

It’s all in the mix! This describes Simone Siebeke’s talk in a nutshell. She started by explaining that successful start-up teams are equipped with a wide range of perspectives and abilities: diversity, of people and skills. She first referenced the key positions that need to be filled, such as Marketing, Sales, HR, Finance, and IT. Following this, however, she named various types of expertise, soft skills, backgrounds, and personality traits that are helpful when founders and leaders are setting up new businesses. For example, it is not only technical qualifications that are useful, but also internal motivating forces such as the ability to self-reflect, a tendency toward perfectionism, a constant desire to optimize, and an appetite for success and development.

Structured storytelling interviews to assess founders

As individual people cannot always provide the properties named in the leadership models, successful teams should ideally complement each other even in terms of their personality traits. Targeted mentoring would also be a valuable tool for advancing development, even for a specific role—but this is more likely to be successful if the foundation is already present in the form of a specific talent. It makes little sense to put someone in charge of sales if they have little self-confidence, are introverted, and have poor listening skills.

To find out whether a start-up team is suitable for potential investment, Simone Siebeke recommends carrying out structured storytelling interviews. These interviews should be closely based on the required skills and traits—i.e. a specific requirements profile—and involve open-ended questions and follow-up questions that give the founders the opportunity to describe their expertise, experience, and personality on the basis of specific examples.

Author Dr. Harriet Sebald

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