In this post, we’ll focus on what’s the best way to structure and present your team when applying to the Openfund – or for that matter to any other seed funding vehicle.
When filling out our application you should always, include links to your previous work (and especially the achievements you’re proud of), your portfolio, your blog, your Twitter and anything else you would consider representative of your accomplishments and your personality. That way we’re only a click way from the parts of your resume that matter and essentially we have a quick way to understand what you’re all about as individuals to begin with. Since we try to find as much as possible about the applicants, we’ll be definitely looking for all this information ourselves, so saving us some clicks is a good idea. It’s also important to provide an email you regularly check so that we can be able to contact you for clarifications on questions not covered by your profile links.
Of course, it’s important to show what makes each member a great fit for the business being suggested, essentially what they can bring to the table. Usually this is about ‘just’ three things: product development, business development and knowledge of the industry. These can be achieved in a number of ways but usually for the sort of startup we’re talking about you’ll need a couple of technically exceptional people that will develop the product (for example a developer and a designer or two developers) and one or two more that will push on the business development front. All or most of them should also bring some expertise on the domain the startup operates in (e.g. sports, image processing, fashion) – although having one or two people with little experience and a fresh perspective instead, can also be an advantage.
If for some reason, an element is missing (i.e. you need an exceptional designer for a project that relies heavily on that aspect and don’t have one) you need to address this, as it will stand out and you’ll lose points. It’s important to acknowledge the lack and perhaps address it by saying that you’re looking for an extra member or external partner – and actually doing it of course (spending a few weeks on this should be enough). Outsourcing a major aspect of your project to a freelancer is a bad idea and should be reserved only for secondary functions.
Apart from that, it’s very important to have an accurate picture of each member’s availability. Working full time for the project is something we have found makes all the difference. It’s best to be open about any future obligations early on rather than surprise everyone later. We’re open and flexible to give applicants time to wrap up projects after they’ve been accepted but this should be done in advance knowledge. Minor distractions may also be acceptable, but they should be indeed minor and in any case addressed in your application. At the end of the day, be prepared that a start-up cannot but be a full time occupation, and if you’re not ready to take the risk and fully commit into that, then you’re probably not that convincing when asking for people to take the risk and partner with you.
Another parameter that is often neglected is how the team actually met and to what extent they have worked together. Obviously old friendships and tried and tested collaborations score the team points but that’s not the only way. Putting together a team for a particular proposal may also be fine if it shows off determination and passion for the idea. In any case, a brief story (2-3 sentences at least) of how the team members decided to apply as a team and why they blend with one another is essential.
To wrap up, the team description is very important because at the end of the day, and contrary to popular belief, it’s more about the team and less about the idea. This means that your team may realise that they should change significant parts of their concept (main offering, revenue streams, target demographic) and they should be comfortable and flexible in doing it if it means the project flourishes. Unfortunately, changing team composition isn’t that easy so it’s more important to have a talented and flexible make up that can pivot towards a killer idea – rather than believe you’ve found the next big thing.
The next post will be about the product itself – stay tuned and keep the applications coming!