Entrepreneurship and startup ventures are inherently difficult pursuits. A founder must have natural creative instincts in problem solving to have a shot at success. After all, there are thousands of decisions ahead with ambiguous parameters that have to be made efficiently.
I tell my kids all the time that everything in life is working against us. That is true for school, sports and growing up. With a startup, all the odds are against success from the beginning. This is why a large weighting factor on investing in startups comes down to the quality of the entrepreneurs involved. If they are rockstars, then there are much better odds for getting to the next level of fundraising, scaling or even exiting.
If the entrepreneur is indecisive, foolish or inexperienced, then it’s hard to justify the investment when mismanagement, inaction or big mistakes can be foreseen. I think everyone has a different mix of success factors, and it’s important to evaluate entrepreneurs holistically. Everyone has flaws. Those shortcomings can be overcome or even beneficial in many different business situations.
So, I look at the whole person.
Here are some important traits I like to see that tell me that an entrepreneur can win in a startup pursuit:
The Entrepreneur Is Hardworking
Working a lifestyle business is one thing. That is great if you are simply maintaining a known business. But if you are starting and growing a business, you better roll up your sleeves, push hard, and put in the hours. There’s no excuse for working minimally. Sweat and blood are part of the deal to give yourself a chance. It’s about the goal, and that is what guides the clock.
The Entrepreneur Solves Problems
You can’t be discouraged and sit in negativity. You have to feel like there’s always a way and an answer is around the corner to everything that comes at you. Startup life is nothing but continuous problems, and problem solvers keep discovering insights and integrate working knowledge into systems, strategies and processes that resonate with the market.
The Entrepreneur is Humble
As Benjamin Franklin said, “Pride is a funny disease. It makes everyone sick except the person that has it.”
Pride is blinding. Humility can open you up to new ways of seeing problems and asking for help when you need it. Yes, be a rockstar with a lot of abilities, but don’t be afraid to ask experts and those who have the experience to help you and get involved.
The Entrepreneur is Creative
We live in a complex world. Being able to assimilate information and turn the massive amount of inputs into creative, often simple effective solutions is critical. Sometimes, getting creative means using conventional tried and true solutions in a new way. I like that kind of thinking.
Creativity can save thousands of hours by employing resources and solutions in newfound ways. It also shows enthusiasm and energy, which are wonderful traits for persevering through the mess.
A Fighting Chance
Just because an entrepreneur has the above qualities is not a guarantee of success. But, as partners, we have a chance at winning with a fighting chance when the odds are against us in an investment venture. Character and consistency with results in the real world tend to be repeatable with rockstars.
The idea, resources, market and many other factors are part of an investment decision. However, the founder who knows how to battle and overcome can usually be placed in different ventures and success tends to follow.