Why VC-Backed Teams Are Unique
Taking on starting a business and making it successful is almost an impossible task. Level that up to what VC-backed companies are doing, and it’s like landing on the moon.
Venture-backed companies are just different. Venture-backed leadership teams face a unique landscape of challenges and opportunities, and it’s because these companies are innovators. They’re navigating uncharted territory with no roadmap. They’re doing something that’s never been done before, building something revolutionary. Their mission is more than making a profit; they want to carve out a new sector of the market—or even create a whole new one.
The CEOs of these companies face pressure from above, below, and all sides as they work toward growing the business. They answer to their board; they answer to their teams; they answer to their clients and stakeholders. It’s a lot of juggling and keeping various groups of people happy, focused, and clear on their mission.
In my career as a CEO Founder and business coach, I’ve been privileged to work alongside VC-backed CEOs every day, and in all that time, the most common challenge I hear from them hasn’t changed.
It feels like everything is on my shoulders.
The amount of stress and, at times, doubt I hear from these undeniably successful leaders may not surprise you, and probably feels familiar. It’s not imposter syndrome; you know you’re where you belong. But the sheer number of responsibilities a CEO Founder is juggling would make anyone feel some doubt about sustaining that success.
We’re not growing fast enough.
We’re struggling to raise capital.
Are we going to be able to live up to the promise I sold the investors?
I really want to make the right choices, but everyone disagrees on what they are.
I’m not sure we have the right people on the team.
I don’t know how much to share with the board—what if we share too much, or possibly not enough?
I’m not sure I can pull this off.
Everyone who has read The E-Myth knows the mantra, "Work on your business, not in your business." But VC-backed CEOs have to do both. They’re the central hub that connects all the spokes of the business: the board, the investors, the clients, the team. It’s up to them to make sure the wheel is turning and there’s no stick in the spokes jamming up the company’s momentum.
The Unstoppable Team: Empowerment through Knowledge
In my two decades of coaching, I've debunked numerous myths about 'tech people'. From the fallacy of the 'lone genius' to the misbelief that chaos is a feature of growth mode, these misconceptions often act as barriers. The human factor is critical, and understanding it can propel a struggling company towards success.
The Blueprint for Victory: Behaviors of Winning Teams
There are specific behaviors that signify a winning VC-backed team:
- Alignment: Everyone must share the same vision and direction.
- Symbiosis: Trust, respect, and unity are non-negotiable for team cohesion.
- Communication: The cornerstone of team unity, poor communication can be the death of motivation and progress.
- Empowerment: Autonomy and ownership in decision-making lead to higher engagement and innovation.
- Learning: A team that learns is a team that evolves.
These fundamental habits that make a team run fast, smooth, and consistently on track. Once they’ve mastered these fundamentals, teams don’t need constant check-ins from the CEO; they don’t need endless meetings to "get on the same page." I’ve had the privilege of being under the hood of so many companies that I earned a fluency in the fundamentals that make the machine run smoothly. I’ve worked with change agents for years, and I’ve seen what works and doesn’t work.
The biggest takeaway from all the companies I’ve worked with is this:
The teams that focus on and master the fundamentals are the teams that win.
As Bruce Lee once famously said: "I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times."