The 6 Patterns Of Uncommonly Successful Teams

Written by Gigi Levy-Weiss
Gigi is a General Partner at NFX, a seed-stage venture firm headquartered in San Francisco.

Similarweb & Global-e

It’s a highly uncommon event in VC and investing that two tech companies you invested in many years ago wind up IPO-ing on the same day.

I was an early investor in both Similarweb (founded in 2007) and in Global-e (founded in 2013). Today, and by sheer coincidence, they both go public in unicorn-valuations IPOs.

It’s clear that these are two quite different companies in different industries. Similarweb is a data and insights platform measuring traffic in the digital world. Global-e is a cross-border ecommerce solution helping retailers and brands boost their global online sales. Different fields, different go to market, different business models.

But instead of analyzing their differences, the co-occurrence of their IPOs today made me reflect on what attributes are the same. In success as in failure, every performance must be debriefed. It’s high-leverage learning to map out the shared strengths of these two companies, in order to uncover patterns that might drive the next startup’s success — maybe your own.

These are proven characteristics of top Founders, and in this event, we can connect their (often unmeasurable) mindsets and habits directly to measurable — and sizable — outcomes.

 

1. Always focus on people

  • Both companies have amazing Founders, people I would back again and again.
  • Talent, skill, and grit don’t stop with the Founders. They have built world-class leadership teams around them.
  • The Founders focused on hiring stars and made them feel as if they were Founders themselves. Fully bought into the mission and growth, and committed to level up as the company scales.
  • And encouraged them to recruit strong people under them.
  • At both companies, this resulted in a culture of excellence and commitment.
  • As we wrote before, recruiting the best people, letting them work, and creating a healthy culture are the basic building blocks of any successful startup.

 

2. See the competition, but don’t blink

  • Both of these companies had long journeys from idea to IPO. Similarweb started in 2007, Global-e in 2013.
  • Both faced fierce battles from existing competitors with good products.
  • Global-e went against Borderfree (which was acquired by Pitney Bowes), while Similarweb went against giants such as Alexa and Comscore.
  • But neither Founder viewed the incumbents as a reason not to build a company – but actually as proof that there is a big market to serve.
  • They were always aware of what competition was doing – to the tiniest detail – but that never led to stagnation, just to moving faster and becoming better. Competitive fire + grit is a powerful combination.
  • By leveraging their advantages as younger startups with new points of view and less weight, both companies managed to beat their competitors and become the leaders in their fields.
  • Being aware of competition but not letting the fear of competition slow you down is critical for any startup’s success.

 

3. Focus on building a great product

  • Founders of both companies are very product-obsessed.
  • From day 1, both companies focused on bringing a better product to market.
  • A better product lays the foundation to be a better company and the Founders knew that product advantage will be the basis of their ongoing success.
  • Even as the companies grew, the Founders kept close to the product and the value it brings their customers
  • Being product obsessed is a must for any Founder looking to disrupt any market.

 

4. Never stop hacking your go-to-market

  • Both companies reached a decent go-to market early on, with good results.
  • But there was no complacency. No “we have product-market-fit and now we’re done.”
  • Both continued looking for faster, better go to market.
  • Similarweb focused on their free product, and on insights from their vast data as ways to hack the top of the funnel.
  • Global-e added Shopify-sellers go to market as a way to not only win huge customers in long processes, but also add a bottom-up sales motion that brought many customers.
  • Constantly searching for a better, faster go to market will lead your startup to grow much faster than competition and eventually win the markets.

 

5. Strategy is born of details

  • While a bit counter-intuitive, the Founders in both companies are super detail-oriented and know about their companies a lot more than most Founders.
  • While this creates the risk of micro-management, knowing what’s happening in the company has a huge advantage as you can find out early enough when things are going the wrong way and you can get involved early.
  • This also gave the Founders enough bottom-up data to make aware, smart decisions.
  • In both companies, Founders established the right zone that let them be strategic while also be in the details.
  • The ability to be more strategic and less in the smallest of details accelerates your company growth — and jump back into the details whenever any challenge required it — is a key success factor for any Founder leading a fast-growing startup.

 

6. Don’t be fast. Be the fastest.

  • The bedrock principle for both companies is speed.
  • These are two of the fastest teams I know. And I know a lot of fast teams.
  • Never relaxed, never content with the speed in which the org is progressing. Always striving to move faster and be better. Even when they became super successful — they kept pushing everyone to innovate and keep growing.
  • Focusing on speed even as your startup grows is the key to winning your market.

 

I have observed these 6 patterns over the years of having a front-row seat to these two phenomenal companies IPOing today, working closely with the Founders and sitting on their boards. These characteristics started with the Founders themselves in the earliest days, then expanded to the teams they built around them, which in turn grew into the values and success secrets of the entire company. These are great patterns to implement in any startup looking to win!

 

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