The problem with so many people wanting to launch a startup, is that they know they must have a team if they are going to be successful.
“Individuals don’t build great companies, teams do.”
— Mark Suster, General Partner Upfront Ventures
What happens when you are the solo entrepreneur and you can’t find anybody to join you?
There are a couple reasons why someone would not join your team:
- They don’t believe in the product
- They don’t believe in you
- They don’t have time
If they don’t believe in your product, ask them. What they say will be worth it’s weight in gold.
If they don’t believe in you, ask them. What they say will be worth twice it’s weight in gold.
If they don’t have time, you either need to pay them, offer an attractive ownership percentage, or face the reality that there may be no amount of money that can replace the satisfaction they find in their current life circumstances.
So if you physically cannot get anyone to join your team, and the above three reasons are getting old to you, dear solo entrepreneur, then consider the following solution:
[Warning: this is going to get extremely practical. There are other ways of finding team members, but this is one way I have found that works.]
Buy a domain (I use GoDaddy) for your idea and set up a landing page using a simple website builder (I use Instapage) and pitch your idea as you would if you were trying to make real sales or get downloads from the public customer. Do your best using images and words to capture exactly what your business idea is (this is one of the greatest possible skills of an entrepreneur).
Build the landing page with an email capture call-to-action at the bottom. Put something similar to, “Get Early Access” or “Tell Me When It’s Ready.”
Once you build a landing page, and it looks great (Read: How to make a great landing page with crazy high conversions), share on your social networks. This is assuming you have a small to large social presence across Facebook, LinkedIn, Google Plus, and Twitter. Write a post with the link and ask people to check out your new business idea. Use Instagram to take a picture of the screen and post it with the link.
Also, use Reddit, “the front page of the Internet” social news website, especially the subreddits /r/entrepreneur and /r/startups. Reddit has been an incredible source of objective feedback and traffic for many startups.
Also, write a post on Medium, an emerging publishing platform for new ideas.
After you’ve done this “mini launch” of your yet-to-be-built product, check the conversion rate on your landing page. The conversion rate is the number of visitors who signed up with an email address after reading about the business idea. A 25% conversion rate means that out of 100 people who landed on your webpage, 25 of them signed up.
If your conversion rate is above a 6%, go to the next step. If it’s below 6%, then either your landing page is designed defectively or your product offers inadequate value. Experiment more with your landing page (this is calledA/B testing). If the conversion rate does not budge, then your business idea might be one to forget. Don’t worry, you will think of another one in a week!
Next, let the buzz settle down on your social networks and other websites — give it a week or so to get as much traffic as possible. Respond to all comments quickly! Then, set up a free Slack community. Slack is a simple organization platform for messaging. It is a great way to focus conversations and share ideas remotely with people in one place. Within Slack, set up channels where you can focus conversations and brainstorm on specific topics such as #Design, #Marketing, and #Development.
After you set up Slack, send an email to everyone who signed up for the product and invite them to join the Slack community with a message that says something like this:
This isn’t what you expected. [Product name] is not built yet, and I want to invite you to join the team. Be a co-founder with me and let’s build this thing right. If I build it by myself, I’m going to mess something up, so I need to hear your visions, ideas, and inspirations.
If you’d like to be a part of bringing [product name] into this world, join the team on Slack.
Ideally, you will get 25–33% of the people who signed up on the landing page to join the Slack community. When I did this, I had 80 people sign up and 27 join me on Slack.
The people you invite will have different strengths and weaknesses and be drawn to some channels and not to others. For example, Jimmy may have ideas about the look or branding of the idea, while Anne may be interested in developing the features.
Have everyone introduce themselves in Slack under the #General channel, stating their occupations, and what makes them most excited about your business idea. In other words, why they wanted to join you. THIS IS HUGE feedback.
What you will find is that of the third or so people who came over to Slack, a third of THAT group will actually participate on Slack. These folks are the most engaged and passionate about your idea.
Direct message, call, and solicit specific opinions from the people on Slack. As your relationships grow around bringing your business idea to life, your team will emerge. Start to bring up equity splitting, compensation, and a plan that makes it worth it for these people who love your idea to work with you. If all goes according to plan, you will end up with a team the size of 3.6% of those who initially signed up.
A diagram of how it works
As a solopreneur, this has helped me immensely. It has led to great phone conversations, idea-swapping, networking, investment leads, talent recruitment, and a ton of motivation.
Do I have a physical team I rub shoulders with and throw crinkled paper balls at? No. But seeing that working remotely is becoming more and more the working norm, I am a lot better off than building a business idea secretively inside my own head.
As an aside: to the people who give feedback, I salute you and respect you for taking five minutes to think critically and type out a few questions to throw back at the entrepreneurs in your life. Your feedback and opinions make a bigger difference than you think in the life of an entrepreneur.
As I mentioned before, this is not the only way to help you find your team. So I wanted to ask: what has helped you find your team? Please write a response so we can learn from each other. Thank you.