1. You can’t attract incredible people to your team unless you have something incredible.
2. You can’t make something incredible unless you have amazing people to build it.
This is a major dilemma that most small companies never end up solving. I think the best way around it is to actually do transcendent things, or begin to externally validate your ideas. That can happen in a number of ways.
Money. This is the most obvious. If you have money received through investment, you’ve likely obtained it because someone thought you were doing something incredible. This money, and especially that validation, goes to paying great people to work with you. It points to an opportunity. If you inherently had money, that works too — because it can speak to previous success — but it doesn’t work quite as well as direct validation.
Be completely incredible. Just go out and make the thing that nobody told you was possible. Design the billion dollar router by yourself. Write every part of the software yourself, then get fifty thousand people to pay for it. Compose the symphony alone. If you’re really good — you’ll take off a little bit (or a lot) by yourself. The validation from that success is attractive and indisputable.
Steal the team. Think of the groups at the original PayPal or people in Stanford’s grad programs. Both require an immense amount of vetting to be a part of, and the resulting groups are often incredible. The validation form getting into a prestigious college or onto an elite team can speak volumes for your credibility.
The interesting thing is that all 3 of these items require external validation — something that can’t easily be faked. Notice the almost equivalent statements like "raising money" and "having a bunch of free signups" don’t require any external validation — anyone can say or obtain that sort of thing, and they’re pretty weak things to say.
Doing, rather than saying, goes a long way.