Symmetry in a Startup

Ever heard about symmetry in a startup team, seems to be a new topic and very little have ever been researched on it. I was reading an article by Michael O’ Donnell on ‘Startup Team Symmetry’ and I must admit I was quite influenced by this approach. My personal experience of working in startup enhances this belief and I am sure it will represent a perfect harmony for the startup and an essence of its success.

Just like in case of symmetry in mathematics each side of the shape is proportional, equal and inseparable. Similarly, a symmetric team member is equal and none is considered to be greater or better than the other one. They function together for a common vision and thereby make a venture successful.

In this ego driven human world, it is something quite a challenge to achieve team symmetry where one wishes to gain more power and control over the other. But this attitude can topple a startup. Some familiar symmetry are: Hewlett – Packard, Microsoft (Gates – Allen), Apple (Jobs – Wozniak), Google (Page – Brin), Infosys (Narayan Murthy, Nandan Nilekani, Gopalakrishnan, Shibulal) and Flipkart (Sachin Bansal-Binny Bansal).

This is the reason why most startups will like to hire a partner (and not as an employee) first since that will likely make or break a company. Ideal startup team symmetry is believed to be a hexagon (six sides). It resembles a honeycomb that has the smallest total perimeter. It has no gaps, wastes no time or energy and it produces the maximum amount of “honey” (success in our terms)

A startup may start with one founder (circle), two founders (semi-circle), or three founders (triangle), but it must eventually evolve into a symmetrical entity in order to maximize its chances for survival and success. Here I will like to stress that while deciding on symmetry to be built, it should be on the basis of roles (like Operations/Finance/Marketing/etc).

Its amazing that the bees figured it out first and which we now think as one of the best model for a startup. Ideally an ideal startup is a hexagon and fulfills six equally-important roles like:

  • CEO (Chief Executive Officer)
  • CTO (Chief Technology Officer)
  • CMO (Chief Marketing Officer)
  • CFO (Chief Finance Officer)
  • CSO (Chief Sales Officer)
  • COO (Chief Operating Officer)

To maintain a harmonized symmetry, it is essential not to bring two roles together under one side (i.e. a team member), this may distort the shape and rather make it dysfunction.

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