"Entrepreneurship is a team sport."

Posted on June 19, 2007


Last Thursday (6/14/07), I attended the SVASE “Leveraging Service Providers” lunch event hosted at DLA Piper’s office in San Francisco. The speakers of the event were Christopher Keene, CEO of Active Grid Software and Radu Barsan of Redfern Integrated Optics.

A couple of key concepts were presented throughout the course of the discussion. The first of which was:

“Entrepreneurship is a team sport.”

Although we all here about the tremendous success and innovations of Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, their success was only made possible through the major contributions of those around them. This is a key idea with which those in the start-up world struggle – founders struggling with the necessity to delegate key aspects of the business to others and venture capitalists struggling to help company founders understand this concept.

At Aplia, I stepped into the lead Business Development role with semi-defined company structure in place. There were those that focused on product management, those that focused on content development, and those that did business development. Though we all cross-pollinated with support to each other, this structural concept was well enough defined already that those of brought on to the team for a specific purpose. And most importantly, the company founder was generally supportive of loosening the reigns to each of us to excel at what we did. Of course, there were always developments and conversations behind closed doors between the founder and CEO, but the fact that there was a CEO separate from the founder showed the understanding that entrepreneurship had to be a team effort.

There are important applications in for those leading teams in larget organizations as well. I can remember my first district sales manager at Prentice Hall – William “Butch” Porter (now the CEO of Optimized Learning. It seemed that he was only a “manager” for a few months each year – mostly in the summer between sales cycles in the Spring and Fall. During this time, he helped to define sales targets, territory goals, and lead training to increase our capabilities. The rest of the year, he took the active role of a customer service and sales support personnel, insuring that each of the reps had the adequate resources to close the sale. He had the faith that he hired the right people to do the job. Same concept as understanding that business is a team sport, even as a manager.