Getting into the Adams Apprenticeship at UNC was a dream come true. I founded my first startup, In-Form Athletics, in February 2016. Our team was growing and we were making a lot of great traction, hitting our milestones and getting closer to our launch date.
Leading up to the San Francisco trek with the Adams program, I was sure that this was going to be the opportunity that our team needed to take our business to the next level -whether networking with the right VC, meeting a potential employee or even bumping into Mark Zuckerberg, co-founder of Facebook, in Silicon Valley.
Unfortunately, I did not meet Mark Zuckerberg, but I did learn valuable lessons that are more important than meeting any VC or Valley tech superstar. The one that resonated most with me was the importance and value of team formation and culture.
Walking into 500 Startups was an unbelievable experience. Staring into the different co-working spots, I imagined my team in our own office. Mitch DeForest, head of sales and growth at YayPay and alum of the Adams program, led a panel with three startup representatives who are working out of this accelerator. The panelists’ backgrounds varied immensely, ranging from their current venture being their first to their fifth business, but I realized they share a similarity. Relatively small in size, they talked about their co-founders and team the same way that I talk about my family members or best friends. They were so close and clearly shared the same vision and goals for their companies.
Leaving 500 Startups, I reflected on my business and our team culture. I realized I had some serious work to do. I was so focused on trying to grow in size and maximize our team’s efficiency, I had forgotten about the importance of personal connections and the value of camaraderie within a team. Without sharing the same vision and commitment to the business, our team culture is bound to have some problems in the near future.
On the plane ride back to Chapel Hill, I scheduled an in-person meeting with everyone on the In-Form Athletics team for the next day. We all talked openly and honestly about our collective vision for the company and how we were going to unite and get there together. Without hearing personal stories from pre-revenue startups, social entrepreneurs, international companies and many others, I would have not been aware of the importance of what I learned and had the inspiration to make that change!
Thank you UNC, the Adams Apprenticeship and countless others involved!
By Luke Lechner (BA ’18)