What skills does your team need to exhibit in order to have a good chance of creating something important? What goes wrong when you don’t have certain skills?

Product Design

  • visionary: accurately imagine the product’s impact on people before it exists. Without this, you will build a lot of things that are unnecessary and miss things that are important.
  • user experience: accurately model the end user to predict their expectations and reactions. Without this, the product will be confusing and users will be unable to figure it out.


  • asking for help: the courage to ask, and the habit of asking useful people to help you. Without this, you will fail to make use of the substantial combined resources of your friends and the people they know, leading you to miss important opportunities and move more slowly.
  • willingness to escalate demands: when a gatekeeper tells you that something you need is impossible, ignore them or go around them. Without this, you will get stuck in bureaucratic traps.
  • charisma: people that meet you tend to like you. Without this, you will be unable to do things that depend on social interaction, since people prefer to deal with people they like.


  • specification vision: accurately imagine what technical components are needed to execute the design and how they fit together. Without this, your product will take too long to build and iterate.
  • implementation: produce a functioning product from the design and specification. Without this, you have no product.
  • data stewardship: forecast future usage of data and protect data from accidents. Without this, you will not have data and thus not be able to get quantitative feedback on your progress.


  • persistence/determination: resist forces that tell you that the problem is too hard and you should give up. Since most startups are extremely hard, without this you will give up too early.
  • emotional resilience: resist being affected by bad news and good news. Startups tend to generate many emotional extremes, so without resilience, the highs and lows will distract you and prevent you from working on important things.
  • ambition: an urge to work on important problems and make an impact. Without this, you will probably not do anything important.
  • self-efficacy: you believe you can actually solve big, hard problems if you try really hard. Without this, you are likely to end up somewhere unimportant even if you start out working on an important problem.
  • most important thing: habit of asking whether what you’re working on is the best use of time. Without this, you will work on suboptimal things with most of your time.
  • impatience: urge to not be wasting time. This is the converse of “most important thing”. Without this, you will waste a lot of time.
  • obsession: urge to think about the biggest problems with most of your time and thoughts. Without this, you will get “stuck” on hard problems that require much thinking.
  • scholarship: instinct to learn learnable things by studying the experiences of others. Without this, you will make a lot of avoidable mistakes.

Team Dynamics

  • trust: belief that your teammates are trying to do their best. Without this, small errors will be magnified into team-destroying events.
  • competence: belief that your teammates will generally succeed at the tasks they’re working on. Without this, they are useless as teammates.
  • fun & friendship: enjoy spending time with your teammates. Without this, work is boring and you will forego lots of energy that comes from having work/social overlap.