Never Team Up with the Idea Guy
startup project management working with a team
How do you choose the right people for your next projects? In real life situations, you don't get a talent pool that's ready to serve you in your next world-conquering project. Your money is limited, and your time is even more so. Let's talk about who are the most likely candidates of your next startup project:
- Friends. Friends are good. You hang out with them, you have fun with them. Friends also come in many different flavors and skills, some of whom are not particularly useful to your project. There will be a certain percentage of them who could be useful. You are in the tech industry, and naturally, a handful of your friends could also be in the tech industry. Your conversations with them clicks more than the gal/guy you tried to pick up at a bar last weekend. Does that mean that you and your friends can immediately start something big? Unless all of you operate in the same wavelength for at least 6 months, it's difficult to encourage your friends to start a project. Your friends might have different ideas. Your friends might have different opinions. They have different priorities in life.
- Coworkers. You are working with great talented people. It's naturally easy for you to stir something up at the workplace during those lunch and coffee breaks. You talked about how to improve the company's existing broken procedures. The conversations would later evolve into "wouldn't it be great if.." chatters. However, the same situations with friends could apply here with coworkers. Your coworkers must also have the same vision as you. Although it's a bit easier to team up with coworkers because you work in the same industry, sometimes the stress and the amount of work at work can kill your side projects fast. I once had this great conversation with my coworker of creating one game. We both agreed what it should be like (that's rare!), but we never had the time to actually sit down and do it. Our schedules were so far apart. Additionally, depending on the company you work for, the country, and the state/provincial laws, the non-compete clause in your employment agreement can prevent you from achieving your goals. The company wouldn't like if you are making another game that could directly/indirectly compete with their games. And yes, they could actually pursue legal action against you, if you ever break that agreement.
- Family. Family members tend to work in similar fields. Your visions and perspective of life are alike. Family-owned businesses can be successful. The Wachowskis and Coen brothers are among of the several examples where siblings can coordinate and be successful together. But, this also means that they could have the most arguments among each other. They can also plunge into the tar pit far faster than any other teams, thanks to the argument last night about who gets to keep Fluffy the dog.
- Strangers. Don't even try unless you are ready to pay them money.
How to Identify the Idea Guy
Now, let's just say that you have found some team members. How do you know if one of your team members is the Idea Guy? You talked about your game with them. Your ideas converge. You all started working. It has great momentum, but not for long. You notice that one guy in your team is "The Idea Guy", because he has not done anything! He had talked about his great ideas, and how it's going to make your project great. He had spent 70% of the time explaining his ideas, and the other 30% merging other team members' ideas to his own, which means that he spent 0% on the actual project itself. Even though he actually might have some skills, if he never put his time working on the project, then he's not a member of your team.
Remember the 1% inspiration 99% perspiration quote by Edison? It applies here like a cookie cutter. Creating new products requires 99% perspiration, and if one of your team member cannot contribute even 10% of that perspiration, you should not count him/her in. It is not just the ideas that matter, but the execution. If there is no execution, ideas can't become reality.
Your startup project is just as important as any professional project, and must be executed with professionalism.
Real Example of Idea Guys
If you haven't watched "The Social Network", then you should watch it!
Yes, I'm talking about the story of how Facebook came about. Mark Zuckerberg were approached by three Idea Guys! What did they say to Mark? Something along the lines of "Hey, we've got some cool ideas of the next social networking site, and you seem to be a pretty bright guy. Wanna be our programmer?" Mark noticed immediately that these people could not contribute anything to the project. None of them can code. They were just a bunch of ambitious youngsters with no contributable skills other than their words. Teaming up with them would mean that Mark would have had to put up 99% of the work. So, why bother? Might as well move on your own!
By the way, this is happening all the time if you live in the Silicon Valley, USA. The people there are thriving for building the next multi-million dollar startups. Idea guys are running about, trying to recruit bright developers, and some of them have money to offer...
There is an exception to this rule. If the Idea Guy turns out to be the investor, the person with the money to pay the rest of your team, then it's actually okay to work with him. However, you would have no other options but to oblige to his cool ideas. As a matter of fact, this team structure already exists and is happening everywhere in the working world. The CEO, or investors, or somebody higher up, does not have to be part of the active development team, but they might certainly steer the project into any direction they want, and they can.