Who are the sidemen and why do you need one to build an empire?

Jumanne Rajabu Mtambalike
3 min readSep 25, 2018


Online Definition | noun plural noun: sidemen, a supporting musician in a jazz band or rock group.

We can’t all be the lead singers. There are always those invisible guys who are capable of controlling their ego. They enjoy what they do and are okay with their role. They understand the number one mistake is to compete with the lead guy. These are what we call “Sidemen”. They were created to build empires without being known or even heard. The better they are at their job the lesser people notice them.

Image Courtesy | Alexandre St-Louis, UNSPLASH

Some are great midfielders in best football clubs, great guitar players on outstanding bands and some are co-founders of reputed companies. They believe in the vision of the leader and sworn loyalty to the mission. They are okay to be seen as sidemen because they were built that way. They are successful than any average lead man at any given time.

Nobody talks about Sergio Busquet at Barcelona FC they all focus on Lionel Messi but if he doesn’t play dirty, no ball is going to Messi. They talk about Jobs, not Wozniak. It’s always nice to watch Mbape running with the ball after Ngolo won the tackle. That’s life, Sergio can’t be Messi and Wozniak can’t be Jobs. It’s a fact and it will remain that way. Sidemen have a unique role that a lead-man will never dare to try to do.

We don’t have all to build our own dreams. Sometimes all you have to do is to contribute the right way in someone else dream and you can build your own empire within that dream. The issue is not the player, the issue is the game. Don’t lose focus, don’t get confused with your ego and know your role. Be so good at it that they just have to let you do it.

It is easy as startup cofounder to think your partner is getting it all. The publicity, the fame, respect etc. But always remember after the war has been lost history remember kings, not soldiers. The same fame and publicity they receive can be shame and disappointment if things go south. Your role as a sideman is to make sure shit doesn’t go south.

The sidemen are consigliere, the most respected advisors, they resolve conflicts and they get the lead-man in order. They see the game at the vantage point and they never got distracted. They keep the lead men in check. They can be a pain in the a$& but that is what they are paid to do. They rarely praise you, they appreciate what you do but constantly want you to do more. They believe in your inner strength and push you to your limit.

They say all great men had a sideman. They come in different shape and packages. Some in business and some in life. Your mission is to find your sidemen and hold them tight. Vice-versa if you are a sideman this is all that you need to do. Nothing more, nothing less. Ego is not your business, loyalty is. An important point, the stronger the loyalty the more painful the betrayal. No wonder disloyal sidemen dies a painful death. Always stay loyal to the mission, you are the mission.

Short advice, most startup companies die because some guy is tired of being a sideman. Always keep your ego in check.


  • The article was inspired by BBC Documentary, Rock ’n’ Roll Guns For Hire, the untold story of the sideman.
  • A friend who asked about what level of loyalty is too loyal for a co-founder.
  • Amazing people I’m working with to achieve our dream.



Jumanne Rajabu Mtambalike

Entrepreneur, TZ Patriot, Loves Tech, Founder saharaventures.com, Project Management Consulting firm, Co-Founded saharasparks.com and Sahara Accelerator.