It's Ultimately About The Team

There's a culture of celebrity around founders in the tech business and certainly the Twitter founders are no exception. @jack, @ev, and @biz are celebrities and deservedly so. But you can't build a company all by yourself, or even as a trio. And Twitter has a relatively unsung near founder in @goldman who contributed so much to the company over the years.

At the end of the day, it takes a lot more than four people to build a company. And Ev's post today about Twitter says it so well. So I'll end with his eloquent comments about the team that built Twitter into what it is today:

Founders, in general, get an out-sized share of the credit for any successful company. There are hundreds of people at Twitter now, some of whom have been there for years and played critical roles. There are those whom you know by name and others you may never have heard of individually, but they have all contributed to the company’s success. I'd venture to say it's one of the finest teams ever assembled in the Internet industry, and it’s the accomplishment of which I’m most proud. Not just because they are people who are good at their jobs, but because they're good people.

When I was running the company, I felt very privileged that this amazing group had granted me leadership. (It practically brought me to tears on multiple occasions, during our all-hand's meetings, when someone demonstrated their unique and heartfelt awesomeness.) It was they who collectively helped Twitter mature from a quirky, wobbly toddler of a service with great potential but way too much attention for it's own good to an operation that is becoming—if not already has become in some areas—world class. And it is they who will take it to the next level, which will surprise us all.


Comments (Archived):

  1. Dale Allyn

    Kudos to Evan for publicly recognizing the strength and importance of the team. His post comes across as being quite humble, which I appreciate.Thanks for pointing to it, Fred. I hadn’t seen it.

  2. christopolis

    Humility and pretentiousness are two sides of the same coin. There is a reason founders/CEOs make 100 times the amount his entire team will make.

    1. Dave Pinsen

      I wouldn’t say they’re two sides of the same coin, but humility costs nothing and, along with faux egalitarianism (e.g., calling hourly Starbucks workers “partners”), helps lubricate the gears of a system that has generated record inequality in recent years.That said, Evan Williams’s post was gracious and well-written.

      1. Donna Brewington White

        So you mean illusion isn’t everything?

        1. Dave Pinsen

          It doesn’t have to be illusion. Obviously, everyone’s not going to get compensated the same way in a large organization, but you can make things flatter, or more equal in non-monetary ways. Companies that are ranked as great places to work often do that.

      2. awaldstein

        Humility can be a gracious and powerful act but also flat and off. Just saying it isn’t enough.@ev’s felt genuine. They work when they inspire the team.

        1. Dave Pinsen

          Genuineness is certainly key.

        2. Donna Brewington White

          Well said, Arnold.I often think of humility as “having an accurate assessment of oneself.” Which can mean the person is truly confident in his/her abilities and yet also fully recognizes (and never underestimates) the value of a great team. Powerful combination.Humility can be the foundation for a strong and quiet confidence…which is often marked by graciousness and generosity.

  3. Aa Bb

    Great article. Always remember that there’s no I in team (but there is in trio and unit).

    1. kidmercury

      there is also an “m” and an “e” in team.

  4. Dan Epstein

    Classy post and comments from Ev. Having the right team is such an essential part of an organization’s success. And recognizing the importance of the team is a starting point for building a good one.

  5. perfy

    He didn’t say anything about @dick

    1. Donna Brewington White

      These words immediately brought @dickc to mind:”…now that Twitter is in capable hands that aren’t mine…”

    2. fredwilson

      yes he did, just not by name. and it is @dickc

  6. kidmercury

    lol, just in time! i was wondering if the streak was going to be broken. do you know when was the last time you missed a day of blogging? that would be a fun stat for fredland historians to for teams, who is the ultimate team…..the developer community.

    1. Dave W Baldwin

      No, the ultimate team will have marketing savvy. You will be surprised re expanded horizons, moving from linear to quantum.

      1. Donna Brewington White

        Did you say “marketing”?

        1. Dave W Baldwin

          But of course…. and you’d be surprised what that opportunity looks like.

          1. Donna Brewington White

            Messing with you.I’m a marketing fanboy.

  7. Joe Siewert

    @jack shares some similar thoughts about team importance at Square in his Golden Gate presentation. Great message and an inspiring talk.



    1. Matt A. Myers


    2. Mwiya_101


  9. paramendra

    I wish @Ev blogged more often.

  10. Donna Brewington White

    I just got to be a fill in bouncer on AVC — that was fun.

  11. Donna Brewington White

    Someone that I follow on Twitter called @ev’s post a class act and I would have to agree.As gracious and true as Ev’s words are, no matter how great the team, there is no team without someone having the vision and courage to be the founder.And the quality of the team is often a direct reflection of the founder (or co-founders). There is just no way around this!So, interestingly, while Ev’s words point to the team, they say as much about him as they do the team. He rightly called assembling the team an “accomplishment” and owned this.I know that we know this, but I just had to say it.Great leaders are an extremely valuable resource — especially when combined with humility.(okay, stepping down from soapbox)

    1. Matt A. Myers

      Fred et al do this same reallocation of attention, but it’s totally warranted because without the team – no matter how good an idea of the founder is they can’t get it done without even the person with the most seemingly mundane task.That’s pretty much how society works too — I just wish everyone realized that.

      1. Donna Brewington White

        This relationship between great leadership and a great team…it seems to be circular.

    2. Alex Murphy

      Team Building = Company Building … Attract, Retain, Direct and Train

  12. Alex Martsenyuk

    I can’t agree more with the post. There is culture of separating founders/ceos/superstars on the team attributing all the credit to them. That’s why I respect most those leaders who use “we” and “us”, describing the company’s accomplishments. This is the least they can do to all those not in the spotlight, making the wheels spin. The leader’s mission to make sure that all those behind him mold together into a powerful force, that brings the best out of them and of the leader.Superstars’ admiration is very common in the sports world. Ultimately, even in individual sports like boxing, for every Tyson and Ali there are tens and hundreds of sparring partners and coaches who sacrificed their aspirations for the time being to make this one guy the best he can ever be.

  13. David Noël

    Your and Ev’s post reminded me of a tweet you posted Fred:”Starting a company is not DIY. It is DIO. Do it ourselves. Teams win” a quote by Meetup’s @heif at #wefestival

    1. fredwilson

      that is a @heif quote

      1. David Noël

        Yup, I did credit him in my original comment

  14. reece

    We all know I’m a sucker for anything “team,” but Ev nails it here. He’s got a way with words.Generally though, as a startup CEO, at least a non-technical one, I think the best thing you can do when pitching your company is talk about your team – tell the stories that say why you work well together, have fun together, and persevere together.This is the strongest and sometimes ONLY thing you have in the early days…I’m extremely lucky to have two amazing co-founders who pushed through three years of bootstrapping, and now two additional team-members and a few awesome interns who make showing up seven days a week an absolute blast.Startups are hard, but they’re fun as hell when surrounded by the right people.

    1. David Noël

      Team stories make it real. With Tumblr, I remember two things that make up the team and parts of their culture:Tumblr hired the “funny guy” (Topher) out of Florida and the guy (Mark) in Richmond who told David: “your tech support sucks, let me handle that”.

      1. reece

        ha… Awesome.

  15. Tom Labus

    Creating the culture that allows the growth of a great team is one of the main responsibilities of management. It sounds obvious but not so simple to carry out.

    1. awaldstein

      Tom..its everything. And happens rarely.

      1. Matt A. Myers

        The environment and starting space to me is the crucial foundation to what culture Can exist in that space. This space will also determine who you attract to such working environments.The physical environment and location, as well as the people in that space that help sustain and create culture.That’s why stories of Fred’s low burn-rate of 7 guys crammed into an untidy house they’re renting doesn’t seem all that good or productive of an environment to me.But I guess that space and culture that came out of that worked for them – unless Fred wants to cue in with more details. 😉

        1. awaldstein

          We’ve all been there in some way or another whether it’s our homes or some dump office in a strip mall in Santa Clara.I really like the incubator spaces. Met with a client in one in SF last week. Sure cramped (5 folks in a tiny office) but great connectivity, windows on the Bay Bridge, lots of other startups, people with their dogs…That’s the way I would go next time to start.

        2. fredwilson

          twitter started out in a strange space on south park in sfit wasn’t a untidy house they were renting, but it was a bit odd

        3. David Noël

          Not sure I agree on this one, Matthew.SoundCloud started in a (very) rickety office in Berlin. In the winter, we had to wear gloves while typing/coding.Productivity was insane (we were less than 10 people back then, launching, fixing, launching, fixing…) and anyone visiting loved the vibe.These humble beginnings were the foundation for the culture we have today.Here are some photos from the place:

          1. kidmercury

            no doubt. the adversity a team faces IMHO is often the “secret sauce” that leads to great collaborative dynamics, great team chemistry.

          2. David Noël

            Best when the secret sauce turns awesomesauce (with amazeballs)

        4. J.R. Sedivy

          Check out Where Good Ideas Come From by Steven Johnson. He makes a great case for ditching the new office space for the run-down building and provides some great examples on how these environments foster creativity and innovation.

          1. Alex Murphy

            Or, just go meet in the local coffee house.

          2. J.R. Sedivy

            Coffee house is a good workaround, although what Johnson describes is more the direct link between dilapidated structures housing businesses which are only meant to serve as an office/workplace for a short time period, say five years.The concept is that businesses are more creative in these places and are uninhibited, for example a founder may knock a hole in the wall to accommodate a more creative office configuration without the worry of devaluing a new structure.The interesting part is that these temporary structures sometimes end up housing the business for many more years than originally anticipated and some founders purposefully choose such structures even when they have the funding to work in higher priced environments.

        5. FAKE GRIMLOCK


    2. Donna Brewington White

      That is one of the key things I look for in trying to assess someone’s leadership capability. Gone are the days when great leadership meant the ability to charge ahead; it is now measured by the ability to empower others and to create a culture of empowerment.

      1. Tom Labus

        It takes awhile for some employees to realize that they can makes moves and some employees never get it and some don’t want to get it.Hitting the right combo is trial and error.Speaking of hitting, it’s Opening Day at the Stadium and best wishes for a good year in da Bronx.

  16. Dave W Baldwin

    Brings to mind the article talking of Allen’s new book that will allegedly slam Gates. Amazing how the ego drives things and all founding teams need to keep an eye on that.

    1. fredwilson

      the dynamics among founders is always complicated and often difficultlook at Woz and Jobs, for example

      1. J.R. Sedivy

        I recently read that founding teams operate like dysfunctional families, and tend to agree.

      2. Dave W Baldwin

        Good point. On this point I am very lucky because the one with the IQ of 187 understands the need for more study time related to the one lower.

  17. awaldstein

    Genuine humility is rare. When true, when not self-effacement with a political end, it’s a powerful emotion,@ev’s statement feels true to me.

  18. Laurent Boncenne

    always had in my mind that the founder’s first job (along with the vision) was to do team/people management.Twitter and obviously many more have done this very well!

  19. markslater

    there is a story within a story here.someone got moved out.

  20. Alex Murphy

    There are a lot of posts about what it takes to be successful. The more entrepreneurs that I encounter, the more I believe that an uncommon level of humility and empathy are key ingredients.

  21. ShanaC

    Yes. What is amazing about that post is his modesty

  22. John_kent10

    so is the company stock distributed to reflect this?

    1. fredwilson

      yes. generally about 20% of a company’s stock is set aside for the team

  23. Tony_Alva

    Biz was on Howard Stern yesterday and as usual, Howard did an amazing job interviewing him. I found the guy very intriguing. It was easy to see why you’d be interested in doing business with him Fred. He was very complimentary to all those that worked at Twitter and seems to be an all around well grounded guy. He was certainly honest (even with Howard’s less mature questions), but it was really cool listening to a newcomer to Twitter (Howard) deep dive into his history and insights.

    1. fredwilson

      tony alva back in the AVC comments!biz is a great person in so many ways

  24. sippey

    I was going to blog this yesterday, but all the activity was starting to feel like a eulogy, and I took Sarah’s tweet to heart that HE’S NOT DEAD YET. Anyway, re. the team bit, a quick story about Ev…I was at Chirp last year, and Ev and I were hanging out a bit at the Fort Mason festivities after the day full of presentations. We sat down to watch Twitter’s Robin Sloan give his great “Stock and Flow” talk in lightning format, and Robin just killed it. Ev turned to me and said “That guy works for Twitter, can you believe it? How lucky am I.”

    1. fredwilson

      great story

  25. Allen Price

    As the founder of my own company (pre-launch, with an equity-only team of 5: my take on it is that I’m a conductor. The composition we’re playing is a joint effort and the team is the orchestra (or, more accurately, small band). I may be leading but they’re making the music.

  26. calabs

    Until startups get the visibility and scoring sophistication of a sports team, there will only be recognition for founders for simplistic scoring like new investment or market share.When we start getting enough data to run a fantasy startup league, then I’ll believe this crap about the value of a team. Until then, it’s self-serving bullshit: investors and customers *want* the complexity to be abstracted away. Only if exposing the complexity of individual contribution serves a purpose in it’s own right will individual contribution be exposed.

  27. calabs

    I mean, look at how many people are named in your mention, Fred.