The secret to a successful startup? A great idea being worked on by people with three characteristics you’ll not find on a resume

Through the MassChallenge Mentoring Program, I’ve been spending three hours each week advising RelayRides, a company with a great idea – peer-to-peer car sharing – that’s smack in the middle of a strong new movement, Collaborative Consumption as written about in The Economist and by Leigh Buchanan in Inc, Clive Thompson in Wired, and Jenna Wortham in The New York Times.

Late on Tuesday, the founder, Shelby Clark said, “Instead of just advising me, why don’t you just join us to accelerate our growth?” After a handshake agreement, I started that day as part-time interim COO.  By 9 PM I was reminded that what it takes to turn a great idea into a successful company is people with three characteristics you’ll not likely find on their resume.

Intellect: Whether fresh college grads or people who’ve been around the block a few times, I go with intellect over specific experience any time. I don’t want people who simply execute things the way they did when they were, say, VP of Sales at Lotus.  I want people who are smart enough to figure out the right way to execute this idea in this market.

Energy: A startup is a ton of work, requiring people with high energy.  But don’t equate “age” with energy; some of the most energetic people at Boston area start ups have themselves been around the block a few times.  Energy’s about inherent drive; whatever their age, find out if the person has this drive.

Caring: Yes, caring about the company is important, but caring about the customers – and the quality of their total experience – is critical.  At RelayRides we have two sets of customers – the car owners and the car borrowers – and our challenge is to walk the fine line that assures both sets of customers have a great experience!

Returning home after my first few hours at RelayRides, my wife asked, “Are you still as excited about the idea?”  My response, “Yes.  But what I’m even more excited about is that Shelby has pulled together a team of great people to execute the idea. This will be a success.”

For more on the subject of Collaborative Consumption, check out  Rachel Botsman, co-author of the forthcoming book, “What’s Mine Is Yours: The Rise of Collaborative Consumption.”

BTW, RelayRides is located at the Polaris Venture Partners great incubator, Dogpatch Labs.


One Response to “The secret to a successful startup? A great idea being worked on by people with three characteristics you’ll not find on a resume”

  1. Jeff Bennett Says:


    First, congrats on joining in on the fun @ RelayRides.

    Second, I cant agree more with our views on Intellect – Energy – Caring. I agree with these three legs to the stool wholeheartedly.

    Third, I would only add one more “C” to the equation … Commitment… to do whatever is necessary to make the venture happen. This goes for anyone in the organization from top to bottom. Commitment touches on energy and caring… but takes it to the next level.

    I love the RelayRides opportunity. Swapping, sharing & renting are all very important, necessary and cool elements of the collaborative consumption movement.


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