Heard about the terms Hipster, Hacker and Hustler? Let’s know more about it.
Regardless of the task at hand, the people you work with make all the difference. In the past five years, startups have adopted the idea of a startup dream team with a hipster, a hacker, and a hustler. This is the minimum team needed to deliver a new product to the market, and conventional thinking is that each of these people match up with traditional job descriptions.
Usually working their way into the mix as the designer or creative genius, they'll make sure the final product is cooler than anything else out there. But, not only that, they'll ensure the shade of blue used to accent the font really brings out the subtle homage to an artist from the '70's you've probably never heard of.
The ultimate Hipster: Jony Ive
Have you heard of Jony Ive? Chances are you’re reading this on a product he designed. Jony is the Chief Design Officer (CDO) of one of the world’s most revolutionary technology companies — Apple. Hailed as the creative genius behind Apple’s greatest products and the ‘spiritual partner’ of the late Steve Jobs, Jony’s artistic prowess has seen him net a cool $130 million.
The one most likely to sit quietly through a board meeting until uttering the three sentences that answers the all-important question of "how?" the new idea or initiative can be brought into reality. Resembling MacGyver with their ability to wield various lines of code or programming languages, you'll get dizzy trying to keep up with their keystrokes.
The ultimate Hacker: Sheryl Sandberg
As the Chief Operating Officer (COO) of Facebook, Sheryl Sandberg is both a business tycoon and an inspiring figure for young women. Starting her journey as an economics graduate (Harvard), Sheryl quickly climbed the ranks and was awarded placements in high profile institutions such as the US Department of the Treasury and Google. In late 2007, Sheryl met Facebook Co-founder Mark Zuckerberg at a Christmas party and was soon offered a position as the company’s COO. Now, how’s that for networking skills?
They have the tendency to be the most misunderstood member of this trio. The Hipster is likely to accuse the Hustler of having sold out to the man because of their constant question of "It's cool, but is it something our partners and clients want?" The Hacker is likely to do their best to avoid one on one conversations with the Hustler as a result of the jock vs. geek episode back in high school.
But, when the Hipster brings the creative design and cool factor, the Hacker brings their utility belt of technology solutions, and the Hustler finds the right way to package it all up and take it to the masses in the form of sales and partnerships, it is a combination that is tough to beat.
The ultimate Hacker: Bill Gates
Bill Gates was first introduced to computers at the age of 13, when a local mother’s club used garage sale proceeds to buy a Teletype Model 33 ASR terminal for his school. In what may be the nerdiest excuse for suspension ever, Gates, along with three other precocious teens, was caught exploiting bugs in the operating system to garner more computer time. Other noteworthy escapades include modifying computer codes to enroll himself in girls only classes, and hijacking an airport control panel when he missed a flight. His hijinks seem to have paid off though, as Bill Gates is now the second richest person in the world — falling shortly behind Amazon Founder Jeff Bezos. Rumor has it that if Bill Gates dropped a $100 bill, it would be a waste of his time to pick it up.
The only question is, does your team have all three?
But this is also not a complete picture for team building. If you try to talk to a start-up founder, a student, or a professional from industry, you will find that real people do not fit into these three neat categories. An engineer by training of course contributes code and technology, but he or she also needs to have a sensibility for user-facing design and for the market value of specific features. Designers these days use a whole range of technologies and digital skills – and code – to create experiences. Hustlers must understand their product at a fundamental level and must build empathy with their customers to understand their needs.
In an effective team, every single person, regardless of their specific title and responsibility, will play each of these three roles interchangeably. In this way, professional identity is quite fluid, and a functional team must be much more collaborative and less hierarchical than before. For these three people to work effectively, one of them needs to take a leadership role in a particular activity, but the other two also have to be engaged and provide support. The Hustler must participate in product reviews, and the Hacker must also visit customers and get their direct feedback.
To work in this way, you cannot follow traditional hierarchies where instructions are given from the top of the pyramid to the people underneath. Instead, the leadership baton switches from one person to the next according to specific situations.
This fluidity between hipster, hacker, and hustler roles is then only one dimension where we are starting to see that identity is a fluid spectrum. As society progresses, we are also starting to understand that other dimensions of identity, such as gender, age, and nationality, are also much more fluid and difficult to contain into simple categories.
Traditional advertising broke down markets in very specific ways: Cars are marketed to men, houseware to women, college education is intended for 18–24-year-olds, and anything you sell better has your country's flag on it because "we" are better and different from "them".
The right kind of team will encompass the skills needed for a hipster, hacker, and hustler, but depending on the type of business opportunity, you might actually need a founding team of one or two people with all three types of skills for a simple product or service. For more complex businesses, the founding team can even be four, five or six people collaborating in each of these three areas.
To build a successful company, we need to learn how to reach across these boundaries and work effectively in teams with multiple disciplines, and these teams must understand that the same complexity also exists in the markets they are trying to serve. Understanding such complexity and learning how to manage it is the first step to find the holy grail of a start-up: product-market fit.