Football fever reached an all-time high this week with a classic Germany-Italy EURO 2016 quarterfinal. With the entire world watching, the Italian team did a great job punching above their weight and almost making us forget why death, taxes, and Germany winning on penalties are life’s three certainties.
But watching the Italians put up a fight against a clearly superior technical team made me realise this year’s EURO theme, a theme that is near and dear to our heart at BECO and analogous to the startup ecosystem:
No, it’s not about the England team crashing out of Europe (pun intended) and how they need top-down institutional reform.
Nor is it about how plucky underdogs Iceland pulling off a miracle with a population of 300,000 people is similar to startups beating the odds when up against incumbents.
It’s actually a pretty simple narrative we’ve seen play out: tactics are outperforming talent.
Whether it’s been Italy’s tremendous ability to stifle superior teams, Iceland taking advantage of the disorganised England team setup, or Wales playing to their strengths as a unit, EURO 2016 has been about inferior teams levelling the playing field in a very deliberate and calculated manner.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, all of England, Spain, and Belgium’s talent have not been able to save them from failure without a system to utilise that talent and make it greater than the sum of its parts.
So how is all of this relevant to our ecosystem?
Well it is and it isn’t. At BECO, the first thing we look for in a potential investment is a “rock star” team. We’re always talking about how an A class team with a B class business plan will outperform a B class team with an A class business plan.
So doesn’t this run counter to everything we outlined above about tactics outperforming talent?
Not really. We still wholeheartedly think that the number one trait all successful startups have are “rock star” talented teams/founders. I believe the message of EURO 2016 is more a reminder of how important and underrated proper execution is.
Most of our startups are going up against organisations with the resources to buy endless talent. But without the correct leadership, planning and executing, individuals will all fail to create a company (or team) that is greater than the sum of its parts. That’s the value of real rock stars.