We are about 4 weeks into our 12th cohort at Blue Startups — and things are going really well. Despite the challenges of an all virtual cohort, Covid-19 pandemic, a global economic crisis, and various other distractions — this cohort has been exceptionally easy to work with, responsive and engaged. It got me thinking…what makes for an ideal startup founder? After years in the accelerator business, we have gotten pretty good at pattern recognition regarding what makes a good entrepreneur. First, we weed out those who we think will be difficult to work with, unengaged, too demanding, not coachable, or just a jerk. Second, we select for the following attributes:
It can often be difficult to judge in an interview who is persistent, but it will be key to every entrepreneur’s success. There are a few ways we can tell this at the start. Does the entrepreneur hustle us to get in the program? This may seem like a negative, but in my book, it is always a positive if the entrepreneur is following up consistently, networking in on us through mutual contacts, making sure we have everything we need for due diligence, etc. These are all traits that will be necessary for sales and business success in their company as well.
In this cohort we have several serial entrepreneurs — I trust serial entrepreneurs because I know they have fallen down and gotten back up multiple times in their lives up to now and this persistence will serve them well going forward. Serial entrepreneurs know when to pivot and they will do so when necessary. Get to know the persistent serial entrepreneurs in Cohort 12: Alex Shah of Energy311 and David Summers of Lead Roommate.
We all respond well to a confident entrepreneur. If an entrepreneur doubts his own product or market opportunity — why would we believe it? Confidence is infectious. When an entrepreneur is confident, we want to believe in the story, we want to go along for the ride. Confidence is a double edged sword however, and can verge on arrogant. It is important to be confident, but still be open to coaching and feedback.
Industry insiders have an unfair advantage in startups, their personal industry experience, network and knowledge give them the ability to go after their market with confidence. Get to know the confident industry insiders in Cohort 12: Daylan Sunada of Liquid Presentation and Jessica Blotter of Kind Traveler.
Backing up your confidence with competence is the most important thing an entrepreneur can do. If you are confident, but lack the industry knowledge, customer insights, technical skills, etc. to actually execute on your business, then investors will lose confidence in you. Competence is hard won and requires going the extra mile. How well do you know your customers, market, competitors? If you cannot back up claims with facts and homework, then investors will no longer trust what you say no matter how confidently you say it.
Technical experts have the competence needed to truly compete in the startup world. In this cohort we have several entrepreneurs that know their business so well that they have convincing authority in their niche markets. Get to know the competent technical experts in Cohort 12: James Farrier of Appsurify and Lauren Roth Venu of 3R Water.
A good entrepreneur is always curious — to learn new things, meet new people, and acquire a new skill. They are never lazy or too busy to extract all the value out of every new situation. A life-long learner is a trait that all successful entrepreneurs share.
Entrepreneurs must be excellent students of their industry, customer, business, etc. Get to know the always learning, hard working, excellent students in Cohort 12: Alberto Gonzalez of Rendezview and Ifrah Khan of uSit.
Entrepreneurs have to be just the right amount of crazy. Startups are hard. Most will fail. If you are an entirely rational person, you would never start a company. Successful entrepreneurs have just the right amount of delusion to think they will beat the odds. We have seen when this delusion verges on real crazy — such as an inability to see stop signs that are right in front of you — that is not healthy delusion, just crazy delusion. Entrepreneurs have to walk that fine line — stay grounded in reality, but confident in their abilities.
All of the entrepreneurs in Cohort 12 are a little bit crazy, but just the right amount! We are fortunate to have this amazing mix of entrepreneurs in our program, each who bring their own perspectives and unfair advantages to their businesses and to each other.