Choosing co-founders to start a venture is one of the most important decisions an entrepreneur has to make. It's common to see a founding team with two or three members, but at Therapia, an on-demand physiotherapy platform, we have chosen a team of six co-founders, all of whom have different backgrounds and skill-sets, which we believe gives us a strategic advantage. Here's why:
Everyone has a different area of expertise
One of our greatest assets as a founding team is that we each have our own strengths, and more important, that the others respect those strengths. We were careful when building our team to ensure that each founder had a diverse and specialized background. Two of our founders are physiotherapists who bring a combined 30 years of rehab industry experience. They understand the unique problems that physiotherapists, patients and business owners experience. Two of us are medical practitioners, so we're the ones prescribing courses of physiotherapy after surgery, and dealing with the ramifications of treatment that is cut short. We understand the value and challenges of physiotherapy from a referrers perspective so we can better tailor our platform to the medical community. We also have a technical co-founder who is the expert on the platform itself, and a finance-focused co-founder who handles financial projections and modelling.
Six founders with varied backgrounds mean that each person owns their area of the business, and decision-making becomes easier when you defer to the expert in that area. If a decision needs to be made related to physiotherapy, we know who to turn to for the final call; and the same is true of decisions related to tech, finance and medical.
Clear leadership is key
Most startups work for a long time with a flat management structure with founders being responsible for every aspect of the business. As a company matures, there comes a time for a clear leadership and organizational structure to emerge. At Therapia, in order to remain agile and responsive, we nominated a CEO early. He has been given the power to make decisions to move the company forward without delay. We think of our founders as a board of directors. They help set the big picture strategy, but leadership needs to be empowered and trusted to execute the strategy with speed and confidence.
Pods help categorize responsibilities
When it comes to execution, a team of six can be too many. At Therapia, we have created small working groups or "pods" that are responsible for delivering results in their key area. We have pods focused on marketing/analytics, funding/business development and platform development. We have found that given clear objectives, a group of two to three can move very quickly.
There is cross-over, just like a marketing team would talk to a sales team about priorities and plans, but this approach helps us to execute quickly on our core priorities within the company, and it's an approach that could work for any small business, not just one with multiple co-founders.
We stay connected around the clock
Since all of Therapia's founders are busy professionals, we needed tools to help us stay connected throughout the day. Like many startup teams, we are not always in one physical space together and we work around the clock, so we utilize tools such as Slack, Dropbox, Google Docs and Asana to collaborate and work together. Communication has been key for our founding team. We also do mandatory weekly in-person sessions so we can catch up face-to-face. Communication tools can help bridge the gaps, but nothing beats face time.
It's clear that large founding teams may not be the best option for every startup, but it works for us.
Jas Chahal is an orthopaedic sports medicine surgeon, assistant professor at the University of Toronto and co-founder of Therapia.