Top 3 Innate Traits of a Startup FounderBy Lluis Cañadell | Mon, 01/31/2022 - 10:48
Starting a company is extremely hard. Probably the hardest thing you will ever do in your life. According to Michael Seibel, Managing Director at Y Combinator, the fact that you could start a startup, does not mean that you should start a startup. Elon Musk once told a group of people: “Doing a startup is like chewing glass and staring at the abyss.”
It takes certain types of people to be startup founders. Starting a company is a very emotional process. If you do not have a good fit with the founder role, it can become unenjoyable to the point of being traumatizing.
So, what makes someone suitable to become a founder?
If you Google what traits make for a good startup founder, you will find articles upon articles that mention you should be fearless, creative, determined, disciplined, ambitious, modest, intuitive, deliberate, mature, thoughtful, confident, connected, intelligent, self-aware, resourceful, passionate, resilient, communicator, visionary, analytical, empathetic, persistent, goal-focused, humble … and the list goes on.
Sure, all of those will help. Do you require all of them? Maybe you can get by without a couple but you will probably need most. The good news is that most skills you will learn as you build and scale your startup. We tend to massively underestimate how much people can evolve with experience and positive habit formation.
However, there is a small list of three traits that you should have from the get-go to improve your chances of success and that will make you more suited for a positive startup experience:
Odds are stacked against you as a startup founder. To increase those odds, being generally driven, having a high work ethic or being conscientious will not be enough; you need to be the type of person who obsesses about things.
If you become obsessed with making your startup a success, this will be more likely. You will be thinking about it every waking (and sleeping) hour, you will work beyond extra hard, and you will keep going when the most rational thing would be to give up. This is perhaps the most common innate trait of successful founders.
Are you the type of person who finds out about something interesting, immediately Googles it to learn more, and gets a dopamine rush when you do? If you are, you could make for a great founder if you are able to canalize this appropriately.
If your startup finds early traction, soon you will find yourself with a never-before-experienced massive lack of time to do all the things that you need to do. If learning new things is not a natural need and a rewarding activity for you, it is very likely that you will deprioritize it. And if you do not learn continuously, you will jeopardize your startup in the long run.
When you are building a startup and especially when you are still early stage, it is more often much more preferable to be quick than to be right. This is because if you make a quick mistake, you can typically course-correct while learning more things. If you are a slow decision-maker, it is not clear that you will be right much more often and there will be less margin to correct your course.
I have found that decisiveness is a trait that is very hard to acquire within a short period of time and since it will be critical in the early days of the company, you should already be decisive before becoming a founder.