The DNA of an A++ Team

July 5th, 2007   |   by Frank Addante

The first few weeks of starting my newest company (Startup 6.0: the Rubicon Project) have reminded me of how critical it is to have the right team. I have been absolutely amazed by what an A++ team can produce in short periods of time. It has reaffirmed every thought I have ever had about my philosophy that great companies are built by great people.

To me, bringing together the right team has always been a product of trusting my instincts and my initial gut on people. So, I decided to spend some time trying to document what it is that I look for.

Here is what I came up with:

1. Trust
If you can’t trust someone 100%, don’t bring them on to your team. Period. If you do trust them, support them 100%.

2. Winners
Once someone has had a taste of success, they can never shake it. No one wants to do something less than their last win. So, those who have been part of a winning company have set the bar and anything less than exceeding that bar, in their mind, is failure.

3. Fire in the Belly
Hire people with an insatiable appetite for getting things done. You can generally tell who these people are because they can’t sit still in their seats.

4. Good Athletes (versus Good Resumes)
Things are constantly evolving at a startup. It’s more important to hire quick learners that can adapt versus deep experience. Smart people figure things out and will help evolve the business. Plus, they bring a fresh perspective.

5. No Egos
Strong egos will kill the culture of an early stage company. They will bring out the negative egos in everyone. Kill it fast, otherwise it will spread like a contagious, mutating disease. All for all and none for one.

6. Active Communicators
Communication is contagious. The more “in the flow” communication, the better.
Case in point: Our team at the Rubicon Project communicates so efficiently that our weekly team meetings have been averaging only about 40 minutes (covering all areas of the business).

7. Diversity
While it is good to have like minded individuals, it is equally important to balance that with people who have different perspectives and points of view.

8. Entrepreneurs
People who are driven to build something, will. Don’t be afraid to hire people with high ambitions to start their own company. These people will be your best leaders.
See my previous posting: “Hire Entrepreneurs!

9. Hard Working
Speed is one of the core strengths of an early stage company. Hard working people that are committed to winning will spend the extra time to learn. It allows them (and the company) to make more mistakes (on the path to finding the right answer).

10. Pride
You can’t teach people to take pride in their work, so find people that do. Pride trumps all other motivators to do a superb job.

11. Purpose Driven – Focused on Results, Not Methods
All too often, people focus too much on the methods and not enough on the results. Find people that are driven by the results and are bored by the methods.
Warning: Stay away from people who talk about things like planning and architecture before they talk about purpose (the end goal). The most productive people start every plan by clearly stating the purpose first.

To me, these are the minimum requirements; all are required without exception. This is not a case where 10 out of 11 is good enough.

Another thing to note, is when bringing a founding team together, ensure that you all share the same criteria and values in people. Great people attract more great people. I have seen this first hand here at the Rubicon Project. Craig, Julie and Duc (my co-founders) have set the bar high, and as a result, our first 5 hires have been A++ quality. They sacrifice nothing. We’ve been very fortunate to have received a flood of outstanding resumes for our open positions. With so much great talent available, and only one slot to fill per position, it really forces you to be disciplined in evaluating the intangibles in my list above. It requires discipline in hiring, focus and trust in your team’s gut to bring in the right people.

PS – We’re planning our first event at the Rubicon Project (scheduled for August 9). This will be the first of a series of industry networking events that we’ll be hosting. If you are interested in receiving an invite, please sign-up at

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