Putting the Band Back Together

I tread carefully when using tired metaphors.  However, "Putting the Band Back Together, " accurately describes the attempt to achieve success as a startup by pulling together a team from key players in a previous successful startup.   The anecdotal evidence for repeat success by a successful startup team that re-forms is pretty strong.  Consider:

In these instances, a founder is able to recruit a core team from past successes to create a new company.  Further, "re-coalescing" to work in the same, similar or adjacent space allows the players to re-create the "magic" that allowed them to be successful the first time around and leverage accumulated expertise.  It's not a guarantee for success, but perhaps it gives your company a leg up and reduces risk.

Why is this you ask?  After all, isn't past performance no guarantee of future return?  And, what of the possibilities that your team is in a "rut" and can't adapt to the rapid changes in the land of technology startups?  Further, since you and your team have enjoyed success, are you no longer "hungry" and now "lazy?"  Plus you are older and face the up hill batter of founded and unfounded biases against the  old.

All valid points.  However....

Making a Bet on the Past

The value of getting together "one mo' time" is undeniable.  You are a proven success story.   You are a team that has shown it can work together, stick it out in thick and then, and predict how others think, act, and decide.  You know each others strengths and weaknesses.  You are a "well-oiled" machine.  And, to mix-in yet another metaphor, you can complete the blind, over the shoulder alley-oop without even practicing.

Further, you are a proven success story.  Others have confidence in your team because you've done it before.  Investors are more likely to flock to you because of your past successes.  You might get a "pass" from a skeptical investor, partner, or potential new employee only because of your track record.  Possibly, odds tilt in your favor because success begets success.

What about Charity Blossom?

At Charity Blossom, we believe this.  We embrace this.  We're banking the company on it.

We're making a bet -- indeed, we've pulled together a team of known players that we've worked with, fought with, and succeeded with.  Nearly every key early individual I hired at MerchantCircle (merchantcircle.com) is back.  Engineers, product managers, marketing types, and biz dev managers are back in some form of another - employees, advisers, contractors, partners, and seed investors.  Even our legal team and F&A organization are staffed with people we worked with at the 'Circle.  At Charity Blossom, we  leverage our past experience and success in an adjacent space with similar characteristics.  What small businesses are to MerchantCircle, nonprofits are to Charity Blossom.

Moreover, we tap relationship strengths that are even older and more successful.  We've brought in some of the very successful personnel from the early days of BroadVision.  Sales people, product managers, and marketing executives from a company Jason and I help grow to a $25 billion market cap are all on board too.  In fact, at Charity Blossom, some of us --  Jason, myself, and few others -- are on our "third tour of duty."  We've known each other for over 20 years.

Of course, we don't rely only on people from our past.  We are bringing in "new blood" too - we believe this is key.  Even so, the initial players, the culture and "DNA" of the company, the processes, and the philosophies come from our past.  An injection of new people bring updated and different values that we believe are essential to transforming the company for the future while we believe we must leverage our strengths from the past.

What about Investors?

One thing we are carefully considering - will we bring in investors from our past?  Or  will we work mostly new investors?  Certainly, we've worked with some great ones in the past (Rustic Canyon Partners, Scale Venture Partners, Steamboat Ventures, IAC).  Investor relationships are obviously key too.  However, is  there great strength in leveraging these past partners too?  We think so, but we are less certain than the importance of bringing together the old operating team.

Relationship Matters (or Relationships Matter)

Putting the Band Back Together hinges on a key issue - the people you used to work with must want to work with you again.  And perhaps you must understand why.  Do they really want to and enjoy working with you?  Are they in it for the money?  Do they want to work the other people you have brought on board?  Sometimes, even if people didn't enjoy working with you in the past, they might want to do so again.  Maybe because coming together again is just a means to an end - success.

However, I've come to realize that if I won't enjoy working with someone, I probably won't bring him/her into the band (at least in the early stages). Life is too short.  When I was younger, I thought differently.   Stellar players are often difficult to work with.  I'd sacrifice for the talent.  (What? That prima donna killer drummer that is difficult work with is available?  Go for it!)  Further, the reason you hire good management is to get the best players to operate at maximum capacity while mitigating the "collateral damage" from difficult personalities. Nonetheless for the first few players, I've decided not to go with "difficult" talent, regardless how good they are.

Ultimately, your ability to work with people again depends on the relationships you had in the past.  Indeed relationships matter.


You can't always put the band back together because the timing might not be right.  Regardless of how much  former colleagues might want to work with you, it might not be the right time for them.  Perhaps he or she just started a new gig.  Or there are personal circumstances that prevent someone from coming on board.  Timing is critical if you take this approach.

Further, you really can't approach a former co-worker of your last company.  Only when they approach you or after they leave can you engage.  It's just too messy.  (BTW, I'm thinking about you, Wes Mitchell.  ☺)

Charity Blossom:  The Reunion Tour

Our core team is in place and we're ready to rock.   We've taken the approach of focusing on hiring key people from a pool of people we've worked with before. Each new person that has come on board has been able to "hit the ground running."  (Pardon yet another  metaphor).  A few "mix-ins"/additions have plugged in.  But, we're largely a band doin' it again, one more time.  Indeed, we've pulled the team together from a deep list of BraodVision and MerchantCircle colleagues that have been instrumental in our past successes.

We're off making some music and hopefully we'll produce a monster hit!

The Band:

Who Else (Or Are We Crazy to Have Drunk the Kool-Aid)?

Is there really evidence for this approach?  Perhaps looking in the "rear view mirror" to predict if this will work in 2011 might not be the best predictor for future success.  The time and place in which these aforementioned success stories might be very different than today.

But others are making this bet.  Here's who I'm watching:

I'd bet on them too.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by published on November 13, 2011 1:05 PM.

Job Creation -- Is Something Amiss? was the previous entry in this blog.

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