Today I want to answer another question from email, on another subject that comes up a lot. Here’s the question, as I received it:

I’ve read many times how investors would rather invest in a quality “A” team with a “B” level product than with a “B” team and an “A” product.  According to most, I have what would be coined as an “A” product and business model. However I only have me. I am looking to apply for formal Angel investment and the team part is an integral part. I am listing that I do in fact want to find a CEO who can run the company. I am listing CEDO (Commission for Economic Development) as a team of advisors. I am listing legal as on retainer. Please share with me what I should do at this point to make the team viable in the eyes of the angel investors.

My answer:

Fill in the team first.

Find that CEO, and let him or her help you find somebody to run either the marketing or the product development, whichever of those two functions you’re not going to do. Look for somebody who’s been down the road, done a startup, made it successful, and sold it. And while you’re looking, keep an eye out for a finance/admin person as well.

What you’re looking for most is experience. Credentials are nice too, but in a pinch, experience trumps credentials, and if you possible can, get both.

Compatibility is a big deal too. You’re going to want people you can work with, who share the same values, who believe in what your company is going to do. Compatibility doesn’t mean sameness, either; same values maybe, but diversity broadens a company. Look for people who have skills and experience that you don’t. Fill gaps.

I assume what you’re thinking is that the investors can help you fill in the team, and that having people they know and trust on the team might seem to be an advantage. But the problem with that idea is that the team is so much of what they’re investing in that it’s like trying to sell a car without tires or an engine.

Investors don’t want to do it themselves. They want you to do it. That’s where the value comes.

Core problem: valuation. Divide how much money you want by how much of your company you’re offering, and that’s valuation. So for example if you want $500K for 33 percent of your company, you’re valuing your company at $1.5 million. Not having a management team really kills your valuation.

(Illustration: istockphoto.com. The point? an individual playing a team game.)

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Tim BerryTim Berry
Tim Berry

Tim Berry is the founder and chairman of Palo Alto Software and Bplans.com. Follow him on Twitter @Timberry.