People are the key asset to any organization, and this concept applies to mega-corporations and startups alike. 

That said, building a successful business from the ground up begins with forming the right startup team. Without it, not even the heftiest capital or the most innovative idea would get you very far.

When choosing the members of your team, prior startup experience is an invaluable benefit. For one, having previous experience improves one’s intuition in spotting opportunities. Added to that, it can also help widen the resource pool, helping make the team more effective. 

But experience or hard skills isn’t the end-all-be-all of startup dream teams. Soft skills, such as having an entrepreneurial spirit and a shared vision, are also paramount to catapult the business. 

If you’re clueless about who should be (and shouldn’t be) in your initial lineup, here’s a list of people you need to build an all-star startup team. 

The Leader 

illustration by penji

The leader is usually the startup’s Chief Executive Officer, whom the team looks up to and get cues from. While the rest of the startup team focuses on their own fields of expertise, it’s the leader who orchestrates these efforts to achieve goals and power the ship forward.

Roles and Responsibilities

The leader must be on top of the following duties:

  • Set goals and identify opportunities. While the rest of the team works hard to row the boat, the leader looks on the horizon ahead, mapping out the team’s direction. In the same vein, leaders should spot a good opportunity when they see it. Otherwise, the startup will be stuck and will fail to adapt to the changing times.
  • Make hard decisions. Democracy is the core of most startup teams. After all, many people who chose to join startups do so because they’re tired of the top-down management approach in traditional companies. However, there will always be situations when controversial decisions need to be made so as not to compromise the venture. In such situations, it’s the leader’s job to step up and take charge.
  • Keep the team together. A leader ensures that everyone is right where they should be, doing what they do best for the good of the startup. In addition to that, caring and listening are also crucial parts of being a good leader. After all, a happy team is a productive team.

With these duties in mind, it’s impossible to build an efficient startup team without a leader to take charge.

A Leader vs. A Manager

The difference between a leader and a manager is a widely-discussed topic in management courses. Generally, the former is someone who leads the team to the future, while the latter is a person who manages the tasks required to get there. 

In short, being an effective leader involves having the soft skills to play the role. This includes having a strong connection with people, being transparent with everyone in the organization, and having a clear vision of the startup’s purpose and contribution to society.

Being a manager, on the other hand, relies on having hard skills or performing managerial tasks. To be an effective manager, one must know how to develop strategies, build the team, assist co-workers, and monitor progress.    

Bigger organizations may have the resources to hire a manager separate from their leader. However, most startups benefit from having a small team in the beginning. So, it’s almost required for startup leaders to be well-versed in performing managerial tasks, at least at the onset of the business operations.  

The Innovation Specialist 

illustration by penji

The innovation specialist is the person who comes up with the unique solution that the startup offers. Often, the idea person is the genius who has the skills and know-how to create the product or service that gets the business off the ground.

Roles and Responsibilities

Here are the tasks an idea person does in a startup:

  • Come up with a creative solution. The innovation specialist is in charge of perfecting the solution and using their creativity to offer something never before seen by potential clients. Usually, the idea person is well-versed in the industry and knows just what the market is looking for.
  • Innovate the original idea. Coming up with a creative idea on the onset isn’t enough. If the startup wants to thrive in the industry, the product or service must adapt to changing market needs. It’s the innovation specialist’s job to stay on top of trends and to improve the initial solution to keep in step with competitors and clients’ demands. 

Because the solution comes from the innovation specialist, this role is indispensable from the get-go. Added to that, this person offers unparalleled passion and expertise, given that the startup’s offered innovation is their brainchild. 

The Hustler

illustration by penji

There’s always that one person in a startup team who grinds non-stop to get as many tasks done as possible. Let’s call that person the hustler. As the name suggests, this person knows a thing or two about a handful of things. And more importantly, they’re up for just about any job – big or small.

Roles and Responsibilities

Here are the duties often assumed by the hustler:

  • Accomplish business-related chores.  If there’s anyone not getting their hands dirty, it’s the hustler. From securing permits to screening candidates for a contract, the hustler will do it, and they’ll do it with gusto.    
  • Keep the office running. Doing tasks related to maintaining business operations is second nature to this person. You can rely on them to order office supplies or create a shortlist of potential coworking spaces. They’d even volunteer to scout for restaurants to order the next team dinner from.

Though this role may not seem as crucial as the leader or the innovation specialist at first glance, the hustler is surely an integral cog. Having this person in the founding team allows everyone else to focus better on their jobs. In some cases, the person who assumes this part also holds another role within the team.

The Money Maker 

illustration by penji

The money maker focuses on selling the product or solution. Because a startup’s growth and sustenance can rely deeply on sales and performance, this is a crucial role in the startup team. 

Roles and Responsibilities

The money maker is in charge of the following tasks:

  • Know the market. The money maker takes the time to study the target market. Who is the startup selling to? What are their pain points? And what is the best way to appeal to them? Added to that, there’s also the task of looking at what competitors have to offer and pricing issues. That said, this role entails spending a lot of time looking at analytics and doing market research. 
  • Generate leads. Market research amounts to nothing if one doesn’t implement plans to generate leads. Whether it’s through email campaigns, social media marketing, events marketing, or any other effort, the money maker makes the most out of every channel to introduce the product and attract leads.
  • Close deals. It’s this person’s job to guide leads through the sales funnel, close the deal, and make money.

Some founders tend to think that sales and marketing don’t need to be a main concern from the start. After all, anyone can easily hire an agency to do the job later on, right? However, knowing the market is a primary factor in developing the startup solution. Think about it – it’s too risky to spend loads of time, money, and effort developing a product that you’re not sure who to sell to once it’s ready to roll. So, having a money maker on the team is definitely ideal. 

Related Post: 9 Marketing Strategies to Increase Sales in 2020

The Money Organizer 

illustration by penji

The finance person, a.k.a. the money organizer, handles everything to do with money. This person knows the books, keeps track of cash flow, and provides financial reports crucial to decision-making.  

Roles and Responsibilities

At the most basic, the money organizer is in charge of the following duties:

  • Handle financial transactions. The money organizer settles payments to suppliers and receives payments from clients. That said, they’re the ones to call for anything related to buying and selling goods and services related to the startup.
  • Keep financial records. From creating invoices and preparing the payroll to reconciling bank and credit card activity, the finance person deals with the numbers.
  • Do the financial reports. Since they know the startup’s finances like the back of their hand, they can create financial reports, including accrual accounting, manual journal entries, and tax reporting. They’ll also be the ones to rely on when it comes to fintech integrations.

Though keeping an eye on the cash flow is critical, you can easily add a financial suit later. Ideally, one of your co-founders would assume the role of Chief Finance Officer. But if no one has the skills or training to do so, you can always outsource the accounting and bookkeeping tasks in the meantime.

The Creative 

illustration by penji

Whatever industry you’re in, chances are, you’ll always need someone who’ll take care of the creative stuff. From the pitch deck you’ll need to attract investors to all the other branding assets, it’s crucial to have this facet covered.  

Roles and Responsibilities

The startup creative should be able to do the following duties:

  • Create brand assets. A startup needs a handful of visual assets even during the initial phase of its existence – from logo and wordmark to business cards and letterheads. It’s not enough that the creative knows how to make these assets; they must be able to do it in a professional capacity. Otherwise, you’ll risk making your startup look cheap and amateur. 
  • Execute brand identity through communication channels. Aside from the initial branding visual assets, the creative also handles the startup’s communication channels. This includes creating the design for the venture’s website, apps, and social media channels.
  • Produce audio-visual materials for campaigns. The creative powers the startup’s marketing campaigns by creating audio-visual assets that catch attention and spark interest among potential clients.

The Practical Alternative

Let’s face it – not all teams are blessed with a member who has the technical skills to do the duties above. Fortunately, you can do away with not having a creative person in your team, just as long as you have a reliable service provider like Penji. Since we offer unlimited graphic design at a flat monthly rate, many startups choose us as their creative partner. 

We have the top 2 percent of graphic designers, so our clients know they can trust us to do the design heavy-lifting for them. Doing so allows them to focus on improving the solutions that they offer and on other components of growing their brand.

In addition to that, we offer professional graphic design in as little as 24 hours. That’s an invaluable resource to have if you’re working on a strict campaign schedule. 

Here are the types of visual assets most of our startup clients request from us:

  1. Logos
  2. Pitch Decks
  3. Web Design
  4. App Design
  5. Social Media Content

Having us by your side means augmenting your startup team in the easiest way possible. The best part is, requesting a design from us only takes three easy steps:


penji platform

In the Penji dashboard, click New Project. Type in the title and description. At this point, you can also select royalty-free images you want to include in the design as well as a color palette you may prefer. Once done, click Create Project. It will be assigned to a designer who specializes in the graphic design you’re requesting.


penji platform

Within 24 to 48 hours, the designer will send you a draft. To view the design, simply click on the file within the thread. If you need anything revised, just click that part of the image and type in your comments. The designer will send you a revised version within 24 to 48 hours.


penji platform

Once you’re 100 percent satisfied with your design, click Download, and it will automatically be saved to your computer. Easy-peasy! 

With Penji, building a startup from scratch doesn’t need to be harder than it already is. Check out our packages and try any of them risk-free for 15 days.