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Startup's holy trinity: a hipster, a hacker, and a hustler

A company’s success or failure has never been determined by the exact right shade of blue as part of a company’s logo or a clever welcome video. It all comes down to the problem it tries to solve, the financial management and the composition of the team. But how do you build a team? How do you find the holy trinity to build your idea?


Recent statistics say that amongst top 3 reasons startups fail, the composition of the team plays an important part. How many times did you hear people focusing on things that seemed important instead of things that are important? It is easy to argue about logo options, office space and 10 years objectives but paying attention to the essential components can make or break your whole project.


After analysing more than 100 start-up post-mortems, CB Insights determined top 20 reasons why so many start-ups fail. If the lack of demand for their products or the lack of founds are not so surprising, what’s more shocking is the finding that nearly 25% of all start-up failures can be attributed to the lack of a strong team.

Top 5 reasons why start-ups fail

How to build the dream team

Firstly, we all have to agree that a group works better than an individual. In a team, everyone brings their own skills and superpowers. Finding the right mix since the beginning is crucial.  

According to a much repeated common phrase in startups environment, every successful team needs three key characters to succeed: a hipster, a hacker, and a hustler. The hacker builds the product (engineer), the hipster makes it look pretty (designer), and the hustler gets in out there in the world (marketeer).

The phrase ‘Hipster, Hacker and Hustler’ was first coined by Rei Inamoto, the Chief Creative Officer for AKQA at SXSW in March 2012:

“To run an efficient team, you only need three people: a Hipster, a Hacker, and a Hustler. When I look at the better teams I’ve been a part of, this has absolutely proven to be true.”


Are there ideal traits for the startup Holy Trinity?

Each of the individuals in the composition of the team has its own tasks and responsibilities. The hacker is responsible to find answers to the all important question of “how?” the new idea can be brought into reality. Their ability is to tie in various lines of code or programming languages and most of the times you will be unable to keep up with all his explanation.

Personality traits:

  • Analytical
  • Structured
  • Reliable
  • Focussed

The hipster is usually the creative genius behind the cool factor of the product, making sure that the final output is something that people would pay enough money to have.

Personality traits:

  • Creative
  • Good taste
  • Empathetic
  • Thoughtful
  • Minimalist

And of course, the hustler, the one who is usually the most misunderstood member of this trio. The Hustler or the marketeer is responsible to tell the others: “Ok, the product is cool and it works, but is it something our partners and clients want?“. The Hustler is responsible for what all non-marketing people think of as marketing (ad campaigns, trade show booths, email blasts, product placement, media placement, etc), but they are also responsible for the business model of the product and making sure that the product makes money. This means setting pricing, and if this is a freemium product, that is far more complex than you can ever imagine.

Personality traits:

  • Go-getter
  • Disciplined
  • Extroverted
  • Growth mindset
  • Networker
Mark Zuckerberg

“The most important thing for you as an entrepreneur trying to build something is, you need to build a really good team. And that’s what I spend all my time on”.

Mark Zuckerberg

But no matter the skills and the responsibilities you choose when you decide the composition of the team, despite all their differences, all the members of your starting team should share one basic trait: trust. Having trust among co-founders, even though things might probably work without, brings a lot fun and satisfaction with every milestone you reach.

Sources of inspiration:

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