We spoke to CEO & Founder of Wipster, Rollo Wenlock about what it takes to successfully build a startup team. Wipster came out of Lightning Lab 2013 and launched into the NZ marketplace in 2014. Wipster is a beautiful, intuitive video review and approval platform bringing frame accurate commenting to producers, content creators and media teams.
Wipster Manifesto – “We believe in the power of creativity. We believe that great work makes the world better. It’s our job to make it all go faster.”
Rollo Wenlock – (CEO and founder of Wipster)
How did you identify what skill sets you needed in your team and how did you find them?
In the early days, the skillset was simply a very straightforward job title. I was the person who was founding the company [Wipster], I knew about the video part of it, as a user, but not as a creator of products. When I started looking for my initial co-founder, I needed somebody who knew how to write code and build software, so that’s the simplicity, it doesn’t have to be an extremely complicated process.
The process was going out and finding somebody who could create the software. I started by explaining what the problem was, seeing if they were interested in it, see if they have the skill-set to do it, then asking them to build something to prove it.
After that, it was all about finding two other co-founders, specifically in design and marketing, and again because I was pretty inexperienced, I didn’t know what part of marketing or what part of the design.
The design side worked out well, James [co-founder] is still smashing it out. With that skill-set, it’s saying look we need someone who can make a brand and also design how a product should be used and work.
Marketing was a bit harder because I was so vague, I didn’t know what the aim was. Whether it was digital marketing, content marketing or whether it was more a brand marketing versus use case marketing. In hindsight, I could’ve defined it more and not had such a terrible time.
How extensive were you when defining the roles/responsibilities of each team member as your team continued to grow?
At the start, it was not very wide, the first three people, including myself (other than the marketing guy who left at the end of Lightning Lab) they were just very early on. The next person we hired was the designers brother. After that, we started to define roles by writing job descriptions, figuring out where the gaps in the company were and hiring people based on those gaps. Now we are just like a big company writing very precise job descriptions and setting goals and milestones for employees.
Regarding the success of your business, how integral was finding/developing the right team?
100% of the success is the team. Having ideas is cool, but being able to execute on them is the most important thing. Having a team who can do stuff and do it day in, day out, and get that stuff delivered and in front of people, optimised and iterated, that is what success looks like. Without the team, there is no Wipster. And of course, developing the right team means getting the culture right, and that’s what I need to improve on, getting the team focused on the same goal. There’s always new ideas, new directions to go in. I would urge any new CEO to focus on that.
What did you find challenging about growing your team?
We hired people to fulfill a vision, not to expand what we were already doing. That didn’t work, and we lost about half the team. Then we hired people to expand on what we were already doing, and that worked. Never hire for what you want to do, only hire to expand what you are already doing.
What advice would you give a sole founder looking to build a startup team?
Well, everything starts with one person, so begin by getting one other person to join you, do the smallest amount possible to feel the momentum. If you’re waiting for other people to help you when you haven’t achieved anything, there is much less chance of success. Create a sense of movement, do activities and see the outcomes, if you become a very active person that produces results, the people around you will be much more willing to join in.
This interview is part of Straight Up – Creative HQ’s monthly startup resource enewsletter that focuses on a different topic startups struggle with each month. You can sign up for February’s edition on how to build a startup team through the form below.