The A-founders’ genome

7 criteria for the assessment of a founding team

All investors agree that only A-Founders build great companies. It is the essential ingredient of success. Identifying an A-Team of founders is a pretty tough mission, especially when they are young. Am I looking at a rough diamond, a good, soon to be great leader, or am I mistaken?

There is certainly no foolproof recipe, but here are some of the criteria I use to assess a founding team.

1. Cohesion. I make sure the team is solid.

The number one factor in any company failure is a lack of cohesion amongst the founders. Each of them must be aware of their own personal strengths and weaknesses and be fully aware of their place within the company. Stonewalling, inflated egos, and irrationality must be avoided.

2. Profiles. A company needs honest Leaders, Managers, and Doers.

I try to assess each founder. I need to make sure that they are honest, understand their mindset, and know their strengths and weaknesses. Then I sort them into: Leaders, Managers, or Doers. I expect to find at least two out of those three in any founding team, including the all-important Leader.

3. Story. Spot the key facts.

Often, the story of a company includes key milestones or facts. I tend to analyze them in order to better understand the kind of team we’re dealing with.

4. Execution. Strong product and customer focus.

I believe in teams with a strong focus on the quality of their product and the satisfaction of their customers. They must understand their target market, not some woolly idea of what that might be.

5. Strategy. I look for a mix of flexibility and determination.

Founders must execute many strategic decisions. The most remarkable founders have the ability to listen and consider options but they don’t compromise once they take a decision.

6. Learning Curve. They have learned from their mistakes.

The Founders’ journey is strewn with mistakes. I need to know about them, understand their impact, how the situation was handled, what the founders learned, and how they managed afterwards.

7. Friendliness. I despise two-faced people.

The best founders are actually friendly. Two-faced people, even if they are brilliant, need to keep their negative vibes to themselves and out of any company I’m thinking of dealing with.

These are the criteria that I always use to assess people when I meet up with a team. What are yours?