Scaling a business depends a great deal on funding. There are obviously a number of sources for this but the first thing any potential funding partner will look at is the founding team and how well they operate. Obviously there are other elements to a successful company but in the mind of an investor they very much start and finish at the feet of the founding team and if there is no faith in that team then there is unlikely to be any funding.

So what are they looking for?

Vision

For there to be any chance of a business successfully scaling up there needs to be a clear vision that everyone buys into. The founding team have to provide that vision and inspire the passion and drive throughout the rest of the organisation to ensure  everyone is pulling in the right direction. Discussion and debate is at the heart of successful business leadership but as a founding team it is essential to present a common vision.

Duty

It’s important there is a sense of purpose and a duty of care for the business entity and it’s people. While the leaders of the business are focused on delivering success it can’t be to the detriment of their team.

Commercial

Investors are also looking to be assured that the people running the team have the requisite skills to make a commercial success of the business.
They want to see a significant return on their investment so if they have little faith in the commercial nous of those in charge they will take their money to the next start up or they will replace those in key positions.

Decision Making

Potential investors need to have faith in the strength of the founding team. Tough decisions need to be made and made quickly. If there is a sense of indecision among the founding team this won’t inspire investor confidence.

Stomach for a Fight

Scaling up a business is hard work. Investors are looking for people who have the stomach for the fight, who will work the long hours and lead by example, setting the tone for the business. As mentioned investors won’t accept passengers and will quickly identify the weak link in the team and will want them replaced.

Fun

Finally, something I’ve noticed is that the best businesses out there all generally seem to be having fun. They know how to work hard but they are all acutely aware that it’s essential to enjoy what you do too.

How Important is your Founding Team?

David Hunter, CEO & Founder at Optimal – I think it’s essential to be honest with yourself and know your own capabilities. The focus has to be on building the best product or service on the market and ensuring that the company as a whole is successful. Ego can’t get in the way of the end goal.
For instance, I have a strong technical background and have been central to the technical development of Shot Scope but I knew to ensure we produced the very best product I needed someone with the even greater technical ability than I have. Lewis our CTO has brought a whole new dimension to our product. Combining this with even greater customer insight has made a real difference.

John Peebles, CEO at Administrate – It is essential you recruit the right people at the right stage of business. Working in and running a start-up or scale-up business is a fast paced environment and you can’t carry passengers, especially when they are in decision-making positions. The right experience is essential at every step of the process, I’ve found people very often can’t learn quickly enough.
However I also firmly believe that you have to balance that experience with the right values alignment. We are focused on creating the ultimate human organisation but this is reliant on everyone at within the leadership level buying into our values and living them. The investors we work with also share a passion for our values. Much as the right founding team is important in attracting investment so the investors have to buy into your values too.

Colin Hewitt, CEO & Founder at Float – The ability to deliver is vital. When you’re working in such a small group, especially amongst the founding team who should be leading by example, everyone has to be hitting their targets. Also, as mentioned, understanding what skills you need at different stages of your business journey is so vital. This has been very important as we scale up. Natural tensions have emerged as we’ve grown – which is us hitting our own limits.

Maria Rooney, talent Director at FanDuel Inc. – The characteristics that the founders at Fanduel demonstrated from the outset are still very much in evidence today.  If I was to describe them collectively I would say they are ambitious, risk takers, tenacious, innovative, people focused and collaborative. Despite being based in the UK, they pioneered  an entire industry with the introduction of their daily fantasy sport product which they launched in 2009.  The ownership and autonomy that they fostered within the team has resulted in a strong sense of loyalty and commitment to the company.
The remaining founders balance being close to the detail with leading the strategy; they have trusted the team around them to hire the right people to make the right decisions for the business.  The optimism that they have helps employees to remain focused even during the times of adversity that start-ups face.  They remain open with their communication and make themselves available (through structured and unstructured channels) for people to talk to which is important as you scale your business.

If you’re an early stage business interested in securing the top talent to build your business or are interested in working in an exciting innovative business, let’s talk.