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Building a Successful Team

Why A Team?

In 2019, a mentor presented an opportunity to me to run a start-up. Let me set a foundation for this story. I was a fourth-year student when Dr Tonny challenged me to be a project manager for a project he had started a few months prior but had to shelve due to lack of time. He arranged a meeting for me to meet two of his former computer science students who had helped him create a minimum viable product. I knew both developers before this introduction. I had known Jess, not her real name, in a church set-up, and I had met Peter in the office where I interned. Both of them were seniors; they had graduated a year earlier.

After being briefed about the project, I was charged as the project manager to bring this project to life. That included shaping the project's vision and managing a team of three. Well, I was so confused and felt insufficient. During the first six months of my role, we achieved nothing. My emails went answered or replied to at will. I felt disrespected and so helpless. Bafunde is a tech start-up, but I'm a biochemist, which meant I had zero technical skills to write a single line of code. My success depended on my team's effort. I share my experience on team creation, lessons I learnt, and how you can apply these lessons in your own business at an early stage in this blog.

At Warwick Enterprise, we have realised that most students who come for one-to-one consultations work on their ideas as solos. Data shows that two or more people build successful businesses. But building a team is a science and an art, and team formation is one of the critical determinants of the success of a business. Firstly, when creating a team, it's important to consider skills and dynamics. One major problem I have seen in Kenyan start-ups is that most of them are comprised of computer science students. An ideal co-founding team includes someone with technical skills and other co-founders possessing complementary skills such as design or people skills.

Consider Microsoft and Apple, individuals with unique skill sets and complementary strengths founded both companies. Steve Jobs had a creative vision and design sensibility, while Steve Wozniak had the technical expertise to bring those ideas to life. Similarly, Bill Gates had strong business acumen, while Paul Allen had the programming skills to turn their ideas into reality. They created two of our most successful and iconic companies by combining their talents and working together. Finding individuals with different perspectives and skill sets to work collaboratively towards a shared goal is essential when forming a start-up team.

Team Dynamics

You must become aware of team dynamics when you create or find yourself part of a team. When you form a group, it goes through several stages of development. The first stage is usually storming, where team members may clash and have disagreements. The forming stage follows, where the team works together and establishes goals. The next step is norming, where the team exhibits clear communication and roles. Finally, the performing stage is reached, where the team can work seamlessly towards achieving their objectives. Good team dynamics are essential for success in any project. Please note that this is a normal process. Remember when my emails were not being replied to? We were simply in the storming stage.

Creating a Team Vision

Many people are motivated by a sense of purpose and a desire to work towards something bigger than themselves. They want to be part of a team passionate about a particular vision or mission and are willing to work hard to make that vision a reality. Others are purely driven by compensation. Of course, start-ups must offer competitive packages to attract top talent. You must know what drives every team member initially. In 2021, Dr Tonny decided to opt-in the team as co-founders. Remember, we were being paid. It happens that three of the developers didn't want that arrangement because it meant they wouldn't get paid. So, they partially acted as co-founders but neglected their duties. It took us a whole year to establish what they wanted. Everything that is meant to fall when the wind blows will fall; only three of us are left as co-founders at Bafunde.

Hiring New Team Members

I made so many mistakes when hiring. Having reflected on the lessons I learnt, I may need to engage a recruiting body in the future due to the weaknesses I may not express here. One common mistake that people make is focusing too much on a candidate's technical skills and not enough on their cultural fit with the start-up. It's essential to ensure that a potential new hire aligns with the values and goals of the start-up.

When we started, being the lovely, wonderful gentleman I am, I gave jobs to my friends. Some could not deliver, some produced mediocre results, while others talked too much and did less. In another instance, I met some students and offered them a paid attachment and three months ended without them having delivered anything. Chest pains! A clear and well-defined job description and deliverables are vital to ensure expectations are appropriately set. Avoiding these pitfalls will save you from disappointment.


Team creation is just one part. To be successful, you need to foster and encourage teamwork through collaboration. I must warn you that this is easier said than done. But as a leader, you must develop the patience and strategies to ensure that team members work together as a unit. You must also provide feedback so your employees know how they're doing and can improve their performance. You should have regular meetings with the members of your team where you can discuss what's going well, what needs improvement, and how everyone can work together better in the future.

Accountability and Evaluation

Establishing accountability is the first step in building a successful team. Your team members must know they are responsible for their performance and will be held accountable. Evaluation can be done through regular check-ins, where you ask them how things are going and what challenges they're facing to help them get unstuck if necessary.

It would be best to establish clear expectations of what constitutes "good" or "excellent" work on your project and then measure those expectations against actual performance over time. This way, if someone isn't performing up to par after some time has passed (say, three months), you'll have data showing why this might be happening so that both parties can come up with a solution together before it becomes an issue later down the road when more money or resources may be needed.


In conclusion, please do not create a business as a single cell is a huge task that is nearly impossible. You need people around you, otherwise, the camel’s back will be broken too soon. While building a team, remember that a victorious team is not an overnight process, and it takes time and dedication, but the fruits are well worth it. I hope you have picked one or two lessons from my experience. If you have further questions, do not hesitate to contact Warwick Enterprise.