It takes a village

“Se requiere de todo un pueblo”

Almost twenty years ago, Hillary Rodham Clinton wrote a book entitled “It Takes a Village: and Other Lessons Children Teach Us.” Clinton’s story shared a vision for raising children which leveraged the support of family and a broader community.

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Hillary Rodham Clinton

This theme applies to startups as well. If you read the business press, it may seem that successful startups are built through the singular efforts of an extraordinary individual (Jack Dorsey at Square, for example). One reason is the media cherishes the story of the hero’s journey and continually seeks new heroes.

However, we believe that startups are built by a community:

  • Customers who provide early validation
  • Investors who believe in your team
  • Spouses who provide unconditional love
  • Friends who express faith in you

Interestingly, support from these parties may arrive at unanticipated times. Last year, Evernote CEO Phil Libin told the remarkable story how his company was saved from impending bankruptcy by a mystery user in Sweden.

At kernel, we’ve been disappointed by friends who failed to deliver on promises. Conversely, we’ve also been delighted by acquaintances who surprised us with unexpected support.

In one example, an acquaintance who leads marketing at Marketo shared an introduction to the partner of a Silicon Valley seed-stage fund without advance notice. In another example, a friend who runs Virtual Mobile Technologies made referrals to four potential customers, without my knowledge.

So if you can’t always anticipate when support will come, what should you do? The answer is to consider your customers, investors, family and friends as part of your extended team. Share the news of your progress — such as customer wins and recent hires — with your extended team, from time to time.

If you bring your extended team along for the journey, good things will come.


  1. I’ve definitely been surprised by the support we’ve received, from customers, family, friends, former colleagues and investors. The founding team is also critical, that’s the team that needs to believe, prioritize and figure out how to solve any problem. Plus it amplifies your “extended team”.

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