November 6, 2018

Show me the Team!

In the road to an ICO, many blockchain and crypto start-ups get lost in the technical details behind their game-changer idea, while the team behind it takes a back seat.

In the road to an ICO, many blockchain and crypto start-ups get lost in the technical details behind their game-changer idea, while the team behind it takes a back seat. For investors, the team — not idea — should be the starting point. Here’s why.

Great explorers become great not because of what they discover but because of how they reach — or not reach — their goals.

Think, for example, British explorer Sir Ernest Shackelton whose last expedition to cross the South Pole from sea to sea in 1915 ended in tragedy when his ship, The Endurance, was trapped and crushed by ice before the crew could set foot on the frozen continent. Instead of pursuing his goal, Shackelton decided to turn his attention to saving his team members from certain death by risking it all in a dangerous lifeboat journey to a whaling station from where he could organize a rescue operation. This botched expedition became one of the greatest leadership and teamwork lessons in modern times.

Today, university students and chief executives of large corporations leverage the Shackelton story not only to boost their leadership skills but also to show the importance of building a solid team to reach an objective under difficult circumstances. In the emerging, yet volatile blockchain and crypto sphere — where the pressure to deliver is not for the faint-hearted — the team behind the revolutionary product or service can make or break a project.

Invest on people, not ideas

Winning idea to change the world? Checked. Clear, targeted whitepaper? Checked. Tokenomics? Checked. Solid marketing plan? Checked. Strong pitch to seduce potential investors and followers? Checked. Ready to introduce your token to the world and get your blockchain or crypto project off the ground? Before you review again the checklist and say yes, think about a missing point: Your team.

As the number of start-ups searching for funding through ICO increases, so has the number of failed projects. Time and again, the most neglected aspect of whitepapers — which play the double role of a business plan and a manifesto — is not the product, technology or metrics but the team.

After displaying a gold rush-like behavior in the early days, investors in blockchain and crypto projects are becoming more selective when it comes to the ventures where they put their money. Their reluctance comes from the skyrocketing number of scams that continue to tarnish the emerging technology’s reputation. According to Amazix, a leader in community management in crypto projects, closely scrutinizing the team and the skillset that a start-up possesses is a guarantee that the project will make it beyond the ICO phase.

Assessing the people behind the project goes beyond focusing on the core team. Investors look at their advisors and the knowledge they have related to the project they are trying to develop. For example, a start-up developing a decentralized App that aims at disrupting the fishing industry should boast a team with expertise in a number of activities associated with that sector, including marine biologists (fish stock management), mechanical engineers (vessel logistics and distribution), open water regulation (maritime law), and cryptography (blockchain). A company developing a blockchain-based service to help the US federal government expedite processing of tax revenue would need a team with core competencies in big data management, business development, procurement and tax law just to name a few areas.

I see you, you see me…

For a technology that claims to be transparent, the jury is still out when it comes to team composition and expertise. A review of scams and deceased companies in shows that a large number of failed start-ups did not even bother to show the team behind the idea or highlight their past experience on specific blockchain or crypto projects. Many of these companies provide no information on their team composition, use dubious celebrities to endorse their product/service, or show people who don’t even have a presence in professional networks such as Linkedin — a red flag for investors evaluating the viability of an ICO project.

In the eyes of investors, the team should instill and radiate confidence from the get-go. Any team member should be able to state how the company plans to execute its vision either at the office watercooler or on the trade show floor. It should openly display the expertise related to the project. Most importantly, the team should remain stable as frequent changes undermine the project chances of surviving the ICO ride.

Showcasing the team 101

So, how can blockchain start-ups live up to its inherited transparency nature and showcase the people behind the idea? Here are some basic steps to get the team on the front row:

  • 1. Use your team as a guarantor: Your team is your calling (business) card. It should be prominent in the whitepaper, company and token Websites, business pitch, as well as marketing materials. Core team members and advisors should inspire trust and serve as ultimate guarantors of the company’s success.
  • 2. Show your profile: If you are planning to raise funds through an ICO, you need to show your team’s face and competences to the world. Make sure that a least the core team and the advisors have up-to-date profiles in Linkedin and that these profiles — in the case of advisors — are linked to your company. If investors perceive gaps in the profiles, the entire project may be put at risk.
  • 3. Tell the story: Will your product or service save humanity or just ensure that your train connection takes you from point A to B on time? Then tell your story to the world through Twitter, Telegram, Reddit and Medium. Popular with the blockchain and crypto community, these channels help position your idea, increase awareness (and adoption) and validate your start-up vision vis-à-vis potential investors. While is not realistic to ask every core team member to write a story or tweet an update, pick a “spokesperson” who can best articulate your vision and connect with the target audience. If your start-up does not have the in-house expertise, look for professional advice to help tell and promote your story.
  • 4. Close ranks: The ICO process — from determining the soft/hard cap of your token to creating an enthusiastic crowdfunding following — may be time-consuming and stressful. Start-ups with solid teams and objectives can weather this period and bring the product/service to market. Closing ranks does not mean, forcing people in your team to share your vision. It’s a collaborative effort that ensures a unified approach. The main objective is to establish a constructive dialogue with investors so that they can fund your idea.

It’s important to remember that no matter how much technology there is behind a start-up idea, what really turns a blockchain or crypto project into reality is the people behind it. Just as with great explorers, the talent onboard is what keeps the ship afloat, on course and on the radar of potential investors.

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