How many people does it take to build a start-up?


It sounds like a bad joke doesn’t it? Unfortunately not, it’s something pretty important to consider.

Thinking about how many people you should talk to and get involved in your start-up should be a conscious decision and not something you leave to chance.

It could be easy to fall into the trap of thinking its ‘more the merrier’ when it comes to outside involvement in your fledgling business. The more people you speak to and the more people you get involved in your brainstorms, your product testing and your investment the better, right?


Getting the balance right between healthy input and noisy interference is a tight rope, but an important one to achieve. Too few people and you’ll remain irrelevant, too many people and you’ll be bamboozled by information overload.

It’s a problem I’ve grappled with — in fact my email tool tackles this very challenge — how you keep the important people where you need them. And most importantly, the distractions out.

Jocelyn K. Glei, a writer focused on how to make great creative work in the Age of Distraction, has addressed this in her book Unsubscibe. Her advice was to break people into groups, with VIPs at the top, the only ones who get real time responses from you. According to her ‘they are the people you depend upon for love and your livelihood… typically 3 to 5 people.’

For me, it’s taken just six people to help me build this business.

Surprised by the number?

Well the trick is, it’s not the same six people all of the time. The six VIPs change as my priorities change — sure my wife and my key investor are always top of the list, but the others change continuously.

When I started out, I needed interest and funding so investors were key. As my product has grown and I’m tweaking the final stages, engineers and product teams have all of my attention. As we go to launch, marketing will be my focus and my CMO and PR team will be in my top six.

This is how my email app works. It keeps the important ‘VIP’s at the top of your inbox, muting out the people that will distract you, taking you away from what’s most important.

It’s this single mindedness that will help all entrepreneurs on their journey to launching their product. In the words of Steve Jobs, ‘don’t let the noise of others drown out your inner voice.’