Everyone talks about how important the founding team is when VCs are looking at investing in start-ups but rarely do we VCs tell you founders exactly what we are looking for. This is because it is hard to say exactly — ‘I know it when I see it’ often gets thrown around. But the truth is that many of us VCs do have a list of traits that we are looking for in our founders.
Here is a list of attributes that that I look for, many of which I know are shared by my VC peers…
- Passion for what they are creating. The more creating the company is a calling vs. coming at it from a ‘what business should I start’ exercise, the better.
- Good people. I am fine with rough, direct, even some that others may call an asshole, if down deep, you have the right values and treat people with respect.
- Perseverance. Creating companies is hard sh*t — founders need to be able to get right back up after they are knocked down. Over and over again.
- Can sell — to customers, top recruits and to future VCs.
- Skills, background or insights that give you an unfair advantage. Why you?
- Clear and crisp thinker and communicator. It is too easy to get lost in the woods without this.
- Self aware and desire to constantly grow, learn and improve. No one is perfect except for the ones that accept they are not and seek help and wisdom when they need it. Play to your strengths and stay open-minded.
- Data driven.
- Works fast — VERY fast. Perfectionists need not apply.
- Works smart and hard. I like the founders that are not here for the party. Create a lot of value and then party as much as you like.
- Coachable. If confident, self aware and has a growth mind-set, you are probably in good shape here. I also like working with people who do not shy away from confrontation and hard conversations. Life’s too short.
- Strong team dynamics. The more history and complementary skills, the better.
Founders should also have a list of what they want in an investor. We VCs are so different in how we work with founders, how hard we work for our portfolio, and the value we can bring to a company. Stating the obvious, there is also the chemistry that exists between the VC and the founder — we need to be able to work well together and enjoy doing so. When the attributes, chemistry and interests align, the magic ensues. Or, that is the plan at least.