There’s a meme that says when it comes to funding startups, “it’s all about the team”. And I believe that’s true.

I’ve been thinking more and more about the people and skills that comprise an effective team. There are a lot of great developers, great sales people, great product designers, great business developers, great systems architects and great operations managers. But individual skills and pedigrees rarely capture what makes a truly great team.

There are plenty of dysfunctional teams stacked with exceptional people.

Over time I’ve come to appreciate one attribute that makes for really great teams:

Chemistry. 

Chemistry is the thing that turns a Saturday lunch date into an 8 hour (and sometimes life long) conversation. Chemistry is the thing that let’s people with opposing views focus more on learning and understanding than being right. Chemistry creates a very real place that compels teams to exchange, collaborate and win together rather than simply keeping an eye on the clock.  

This video of Jony Ive’s tribute to Steve Jobs reminded me of this.

In it he described countless interactions with Steve that began simply as “hey Jony, here’s a dopey idea…” Many of those ideas didn’t make it out of the ether, but a few of them that may have started out truly dopey were nurtured and developed until they emerged as breathtaking. It’s clear these two shared a special chemistry. One that allowed them to handle the most fragile of ideas with care:

And just as Steve loved ideas, and loved making stuff, he treated the process of creativity with a rare and a wonderful reverence. You see, I think he better than anyone understood that while ideas ultimately can be so powerful, they begin as fragile, barely formed thoughts, so easily missed, so easily compromised, so easily just squished.

I see so many teams stacked with skills and talent without any chemistry. Going through the motions of talking, planning and building without the passion, energy and understanding that chemistry captures. 

Jony’s talk is a reminder to me of just how powerful the right chemistry within a team can be. I believe it’s this chemistry we’re talking about when we say “it’s all about the team”.

PS- I planned to post this as required weekend viewing on Saturday night, but fell asleep on my laptop. Belatedly posted now. I hope you’ll find time to watch it.