Constructing the Best Startup Teams with the Benefit of Complementary Intelligences


Building a successful startup team is no easy task. To achieve stellar team performance, it is important to understand the psychological makeup of team members. Alan Clayton is an executive coach, licensed consultant with the Herrmann Institute since 1997, and a global roaming mentor at SOSV. After assessing or coaching nearly 4,000 founders from 1,000-plus startups, Mr. Clayton has identified that healthy, complementary relationships among the founders is one of the biggest determinants of success.

To gain insight into team dynamics, SOSV uses a tool called Herrmann Brain Dominance Instrument (HBDI). Similar to the team makeup of U.S.S. Enterprise from the Star Trek series, HBDI measures preferences for four critical thought-processes: Picard (boldly pursuing the mission), Data (tirelessly taking the analytical view), La Forge (responsible and attuned to technology’s limits) and Dr. Crusher (always monitoring the crew’s mental and physical well-being).

When SOSV took reviews of the HBDI results from founders, it pulled out some trends, especially those from CEOs and CTOs. There was an increase in the score from Picard from their regular founders to CEOs, and leaders of their high-performing startups had an even higher score for Picard. Data also showed that La Forge’s score lowered significantly for CEOs and high-performing leaders, showing that there is a need for balance in the team mentality.

By understanding team members’ intelligence types, Mr. Clayton and SOSV have used the HBDI tool to build teams that are complementary in approach to reach the best results. The tool creates clarity on the unique contribution of each team member while also highlighting the need for balancing the attitudes. In any great team, individuals must have different levels of expertise and intelligence – taking into account the right complementary synergy of personalities and attitudes to achieve the desired outcomes.

SOSV is a multi-stage, global venture firm that offers investors an opportunity to start investing at pre-seed with promising startups. It has invested in over 1,000 startups and is known for helping teams build strong, balanced, and complementary relationships which results in an increased chance for success.

Alan Clayton is an experienced and knowledgeable executive coach with over two decades of experience in venture capital and founding successful start-ups. Through his work at SOSV, he has identified that creating teams with the right complementary personalities is a key determinate in startup success. With the Herrmann Brain Dominance Instrument (HBDI), SOSV has been able to create teams that have the optimal blend of complementary intelligence types which has allowed them to build startups with a higher chance of success.