Startup lesson from the World Cup: Beware of Rock Stars

June 22nd, 2010 § 1 comment

So I’ve been watching the World Cup, as I do every four years, and have been mainly supporting the underdogs. My exceptions – France, Brazil and occasionally Spain, Germany and the Netherlands. Actually, I wasn’t sure if I’d be supporting Brazil this year – they crashed and burnt 4 years ago, and my heart hasn’t recovered. And then France, the runners up last World Cup, go and lose their first game and draw the second. *sighs*
And then there’s England – they draw with USA, their fans go into shock then rage, and I wonder why anyone is surprised at all. I mean really, that *is* their pattern… *ducks*

Now the reason I mention these teams is that they’re full of rock star players. Guys who make millions doing what they do really well between World Cups. Guys who win Player of the Year awards and are household names. These teams’ player lists read like the fantasy football teams we build.

And yet, the teams are crap.

And so, musing on this in a sleep-deprived haze, it suddenly hits me – Many Rock Stars does not a Team make.

As you know, I’ve been job hunting the past few months. One thing most startup job listings have in common? Using words like “Rock Star” in their role descriptions. And I’ve come to realise that they aren’t using the term just to look cool and funky, as startups tend to do. That’s what they’re actually looking (waiting) for. And so, those of us like me, those who are really really good at what they do but don’t have a rock star reputation preceding their job application don’t even get a look in.

There ain’t nothing wrong with wanting to hire a rock star mind you. All I’m pointing out is that filling a team with too many rock stars isn’t the best thing for a startup. Every startup needs ‘generalists’. People who can fill in the voids between the specialist rock stars. I do believe there is enough anecdotal evidence out there as well, from following the startup scene via blogs, as well as listening to ‘insider’ stories of failed or troubled startups.

Oh, and feel free to forward this post to the English manager. 😛

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