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Teamwork - You Never Know

Last night I went to see my beloved NY Rangers hockey club at the newly refurbished Madison Square Garden (Hint for all you New Yorkers out there - get to the Garden, they've done a wonderful job reinventing the place)

While the team came away with an L - getting shut out 1-0 - the game did get me thinking about teamwork.

VC's are always evaluating teams, not just the founder or founders abilities, but we are also making a judgement as to whether or not we feel that the founders are going to be able to field and motivate a great team around them. Very few men (or women) are an island. It does take a village (or a small office cramped with tech gear and red bull) to build a company.

The easy route is to invest where there has been previous success - founders who have built teams around them in the past.

Look at Zynga for instance. Mark Pincus certainly had built companies before, and I suspect that if you went back and asked Fred Wilson or Brad Feld why they backed Mark at Zynga, a lot of the reasoning would be around knowing Mark, and knowing he could pull a great team together around him.

There are lots more examples: Mike McCue at Flipboard, Chris Dixon when he put together Hunch, our partner Doug Camplejohn at his current company Fliptop (where Raptor is an investor), or Linkedin when Reid Hoffman started it.

The harder route is to invest in unproven builders - and yet some of the largest wins have come from exactly these people. Steve Jobs never had a company before Apple, nor did Bill Gates before Microsoft or Mark Zuckerberg before Facebook. I was lucky enough to be involved with Tim Westergren at Pandora - another start-up neophyte.

Most Rangers fans would have written off a large part of this season - yet here we are almost to Christmas - and the Rangers have the fewest losses of any club in the league. Most people can't name the stars on the team - but as a unit they are playing well together and getting the job done effectively.

I recently had dinner in Palo Alto with a team of 6 guys who all worked in one small room. What struck me the most was the level of camraderie among them, built through long hours of work in tight quarters, and their ability to joke and get along with each other. They were a tight unit and I believe they will do great things - even though there is no track record to point to.

Truth is, you never know which team is going to gel to get you to the promised land. There are signs along the way (hard work, great inter personal skills, ability to lead or inspire etc...), but none scream - this is the team: invest here.

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