Ep. 10 - The Importance of Talent and Team to Cross the Chasm

June 30, 2021

PUBLISHED BY Wildcat Venture Partners



Crossing the Chasm is a framework that is valuable to driving early stage venture investment decisions while also serving as an operational guide for companies throughout their duration with Wildcat. Yet having a framework isn’t sufficient enough to build and scale a category-disrupting business. 

Jennifer Trzepacz, COO and Partner at Wildcat Venture Partners says that it’s really the talent that makes a company come to life. So it’s necessary to deeply evaluate these entrepreneurs and their teams to determine who will have a higher likelihood of success in crossing the chasm. 

In this episode, Jennifer, also known as JT, dives into critical talent characteristics that drive a higher likelihood of success in crossing the chasm. 


The Attributes – What to Look for and Why

Not everyone is cut out to be an entrepreneur. When it comes to early stage investing, there are unique attributes that Wildcat looks for in their entrepreneurs, based on their experience as operators, executives and investors:

  • Meaningful experience with the business model, the target customers and ecosystem they are looking to serve
  • Contrarian mindset and demonstrated resilience that’s determined to deliver a better solution around the problem they want to solve
  • Leadership confidence along with an open-mindedness and flexibility to receiving inputs necessary to achieving their goals
  • An ability to attract and motivate talent that will have the necessary expertise at various stages to cross the chasm – It’s about building the whole team, not just the whole product  

This whole team concept, just like delivering the whole product, isn’t limited to the core operating team that the entrepreneur has brought on board. It includes the extended team ecosystem such as board members, partners and advisors who will inevitably have an impact on the company’s effectiveness. 

Solely relying on the expertise and grit of the entrepreneur isn’t enough to successfully execute the Crossing the Chasm framework, contrary to what some may believe or perceive. It’s the entrepreneur’s ability to not only bring on the right talent in realizing the whole product experience, but also to garner shared commitment in implementing the framework that leads to success.

“Like your minimum viable product, you have your minimal viable team…The team is just as important as the whole product, because that whole product, you need to execute it through your existing team, partnerships, vendors, your board -they are representative of your capability in your offerings.”


Team and Talent Dynamics – What Creates and Inhibits Traction

Team alignment on the what and how is critical to creating that focus in order to cross the chasm. Further, those relational dynamics within a company, and among their customers, can serve as key differentiators for an early stage company. 

Yet there are factors that often inhibit them from crossing the chasm. From team members choosing not to listen to the market or their customers’ needs, to getting distracted when the “next shiny object” comes along, this common product/engineering-centric mindset, coupled with a desire for optionality, can result in taking the entrepreneur and their team fundamentally off course.

Another area that has a significant impact is a company’s approach to hiring and firing its talent. What JT and the team commonly see is a situation of moving fast to get talent in, but when people don’t fundamentally fit these start-ups are too slow to move them out. 

Having that warm body vs.the right body with the right skills can often contribute to an entrepreneur and their team’s failure in crossing the chasm. 


Company Differentiators – People Who Know How to Apply the Tech vs. the Tech Itself 

JT believes that a company’s differentiation isn’t the tech because today, technology is actually cheap and commoditized. The differentiation in fact comes from the talent that knows how to leverage the tech in a way that is unique and disruptive such that it solves a real pain point for the customer in a market that’s big enough. That also involves having the right people who know how to sell the customer, grow and scale the product while also working together to build the right team.  

It’s this whole formula around people that ultimately fuels company growth. Every team member has a contribution and a place of importance and without the right talent, the product won’t resonate with the market.

Traction and Trapped Value is produced by Flywheel Associates