It takes a special kind of person to be a successful founder of a successful business. In this StartupGrind video, a few founders who’ve been there and done that share what they think it takes to bea great founder.
According to Startup Owners Manual’s Steve Blank, the most important thing to remember is that, â€œEntrepreneurship is not a job. It’s not a job. It’s a passion.â€ You can, of course, be passionate about your job, but that’s in an entirely different spectrum than entrepreneurship. â€œThis is like being an artist or a composer,â€ says Blank, â€œbecause you’ll be living some of the world’s most miserable days.â€
The odds of a founder’s day going â€œrightâ€, from the early days until retirement, is slim to none. People quit, money runs out, sometimes even lawsuits happen, and â€œYou’re the janitor as well,â€ says Blank. Being a founder isn’t a prestigious job by any meansâ€”even if you end up with a multi-million dollar company. â€œUnless you’re driven to make something happen out of nothing, you’ll go, â€˜What do I need this for?’â€ However, to a true founder and entrepreneur, â€œthose are just obstaclesâ€ says Blank.
Got What It Takes?
Google Venture’s Bill MarrisÂ says he’s notÂ sure if entrepreneurs are born. â€œI don’t know if I was born an entrepreneur, I was born the kind of person who really wanted to control my own time.â€ That’s a sentiment shared by many founders. Time is the most valuable asset any person has, and nobody knows how much they have left. Some people are rich in time, others are poor, but the nature of time makes it so nobody knows where they or anyone else stands. A founder understands the value of time.
â€œI really didn’t enjoy reporting to someone else,â€ recalls Marris, â€œso I found ways to do my own thing.â€ Working for yourself is the American dream, but don’t get caught up in the â€œdreamâ€ aspect of it. There’s a reason so many founders of major companies seem to have humility by the bucketful (and it’s not a surplus of public speaking coaching): They plowed a tough road, and it’s stayed with them.
Mike Maples of FLOODGATE Ventures says the one thing he’s seen in every successful entrepreneur is â€œexponential insightâ€. If he were to sum up the task of a tech entrepreneur in one sentence, it would be: â€œHow am I leveraging a current change in technology that follows Moore’s Law to create an exponential outcome?â€
All the Right Stuff
For George Zachary of Charles River Ventures, a founder is someone who has a â€œpsychological need to win.â€ It can’t be a wantâ€”it has to be a need. â€œThese are the people who drive things further,â€ he says. â€œAnd they cannot stop workingâ€, psychologically. Being relentless and making sure everyone around you is exhausted, including yourself, is a sign of a founder.
However, you can’t do this without one key trait: Confidence.
That’s the golden ticket according to Mark Suster of UpFront Ventures. â€œConfidence in a sense of purpose,â€ he says. However, for FLOODGATE Venture’s Ann Miura Ko, an â€œauthenticity of the entrepreneurâ€ is what she watches out for. She notes that especially in Silicon Valley, there’s idealism and romanticism around entrepreneurship. Some people try to get into the game for â€œentrepreneurship hero worship,â€ and authenticity is a rare yet under-appreciated trait. â€œThere’s nothing romantic in working 100-hour weeks!â€ she says. However, for a real founder, it’s not the romanceâ€”it’s the grind that pulls them in.