You are who you surround yourself with. Who surrounds your startup?

Much has been said and written on the topic that you are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with (there's over 20 million results on that Google search!?!).  When thinking about startups, that lesson must not be forgotten and may explain why some startups stall and fail.  Sometimes, getting caught up in all the startup noise you may forget this, so I'd like to explore this concept. 

 

You are who you surround yourself with. Who surrounds your startup?

After spending over 18 months in our startup community, I've discovered that there are more layers to our startup community than I ever thought possible.  Reflecting on this situation, I realize it's easy to get sidetracked and focused on the wrong things.  When thinking about your own "5 person average," think about it through the lens of helping your startup:

1) Your Peers

These are people at a similar stage to you for the stage your startup is at. They're great to seek out and share ideas with, because they're struggling with the same challenges you face and focused on similar goals. 

The informal #startupdinners that you may have seen slip through Twitter are great examples of early stage entrepreneurs getting together to share war stories and talk through challenges.

2) People Ahead of You

When looking for inspiration, there's nothing better than seeing people slightly ahead of you. If you're an entrepreneur, you have to have at least a couple of competitive bones in your body, which means seeing someone succeed ahead of you makes you slightly envious and motivates you to work harder and try to reach their level.  

These people are also great, because while they no longer experience the challenges you do, they were there and they made it.  Often, they have some insight into what you're battling now; we all know that hindsight is 20/20 and maybe the rose colored glasses can be on (and hence the value of your peers), but I find the entrepreneurs are a pretty cynical and humble group, so it's still valuable thoughts. 

Anytime I see a more veteran entrepreneur at an event or have an opportunity to get coffee or a beer with them, I make sure to take advantage.

3) Advisors

Why do startups have advisory boards? Of course! It's to have really smart, experienced people helping out in your startup. When building your advisory board, consider the opportunities to raise the IQ of your startup thanks to them.  If you are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with, then I would argue your startup is the average of your employees plus the advisors you engage most.

However, keep in mind when going for that advisor that you should aim for someone who has built a company like the one you're aiming for. If you aren't going to be the next Amazon.com and instead are building a great SAAS business, then go after SAAS experts with similar businesses...not the big name guys that used totally different models to succeed.

 

It's a simple concept, but so easy to forget as you get caught up in your day to day of trying to move your startup forward.  If you feel your startup stalling, try mixing up who you're surrounding yourself with...

 

Who surrounds your startup?