Startup Referees

If I told you there was a match including Manchester United Vs Liverpool or the Dallas Cowboys Vs the New England Patriots and I asked you who would you pick as the most important contributors to the game, I think most of you would pick your favorite superstar players from either team. The players worth multi-million dollars, and with the best stats, of course.

If I asked you also to pick the most important contributor for a startup team to be successful you would probably come up with a picture similar to this one below.

Important contributors to a startup’s success

But what if I told you that the most important contributor in these matches are the referees not any of the team members?

It’s the referees dummy!
Without these referees the match would be a total chaotic mess. And yet, as important as they are to the success of the game and both teams, they are usually taken for granted and overlooked as THE most important contributor to the game. And that the same referees seem to be overlooked with startup teams.

“WHAT REFEREES are in a startup team?” I hear you say. I am glad you asked grasshopper. Here is what I believe the diagram should look like:

The forgotten contributor to a startup’s success

The referees (refs) are the moderating tools that we use when a disagreement arises during difficult conversations. The very conversations that we need to have when making important decision for the success of the startup. These are usually pivotal decisions in the life of a startup and can make or break it. So they usually are intense conversations and disagreements. So every team will have these referees, however they usually are implicit and team members are not usually consciously aware that they even exist until they fail and a heated dispute arises. Other teams may have more explicit referees and we usually refer to these referees as “culture” or “principles”.

Now that we understand what Culture or Principles are explicitly for, maybe we could actually design a series of referees that can take a team and “game” to the next level. is such a referee system designed to take culture to the next level for moderating a team during the most extreme decision making disagreements.

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