In startups, just as in basketball, one of the most important qualities to look for in a teammate is “feel for the game.”
I have the (mis)fortune of being a Los Angeles Lakers fan. But one of the joys of being a Lakers fan is getting the chance to watch Luke Walton play basketball. Luke has an incredible feel for the game. Basically, what this means is that he understands the rhythms of the action, and knows how to do the right things at the right time to help his team win, whether it’s rewarding big men who run the break by getting them the ball, or knowing how to space the floor to give Kobe Bryant room to operate.
Because of his feel for the game, Walton is a key player for the Lakers, despite the handicaps of
being slow, (relatively) short, and unathletic.
Similarly, some people have a feel for the startup game. They know when to raise money, and when to bootstrap. They can sense the right time to launch a product–not so early as to make a bad impression, not so late as to be a me-too competitor.
Working with someone who has a feel for the game is a joy. Progress can seem effortless, and wins just keep piling up.
On the other hand, working with someone who lacks a feel for the game is frustrating and unproductive. You can’t trust them to do the right thing on their own, and micromanaging them simply produces a time-consuming and unreliable robot.
Feel for the game may not be obvious from a resume–it’s not about going to the right schools or working at the right companies, just as basketball isn’t simply about obvious factors like height and athleticism. But once you’ve worked with someone, you’ll never be in doubt.