Best Practices for How to Build a Startup Brain Trust

Best Practices for How to Build a Startup Brain Trust

By Paul Grossinger

The longer I spend as an investor, the less important I think investment dollars are to startup success.

You need them, of course. But investment dollars are more like water or oxygen than anything else: they are a prerequisite for life but they won’t do much alone.

To really succeed as a seed-stage startup you have to build an A-plus brain trust around your company.

People talk constantly about the importance of team – having an exceptional founding team. This is, of course, very true. But to succeed, what you need goes far beyond the core team.

You need experts in each of the relevant areas where you need to breakthrough around the company, and a brain trust of advisors and board members who can open just the right doors at the appropriate moment.

One investment my colleagues and I are currently working on comes to mind as a particular case in point for illustrating this.

The startup has a strong founding team, with about four decades of experience in media, and is a significant opportunity with the potential to dramatically alter its corner of the broader media landscape.

To do that, however, the company will need to build a significant social audience, generate a repeat user base from that audience, and build meaningful relationships with large media giants quite rapidly here in the US, the UK, and Canada to syndicate joint content to their audiences.

As is obvious, it’s not a classic lean-startup company, where you build it, see what you get, and iterate.

Despite their decades of experience, the core founding team does not have enough highly specific expertise in two crucial areas – social media and audience generation – and while they have some strong media relationships, they don’t have ones with every major player they will need.

As a result, what we have focused on while working on this investment, less so than the money, which is pretty available for a big opportunity of this type, is bringing in six advisors we have determined will build out the brain trust appropriately and hit those three crucial needs.

The net benefit is: money is and will always remain critically important. But without the right talent nebula around the core team, you are wasting it.