11 Traits of Successful Startup Founders and Entrepreneurs

Elisa All Schmitz, Founder & CEO of 30Seconds.com, shares essential traits for successful entrepreneurship

Springboard Enterprises
Been There Run That


I often get asked the secrets of startup success. The reality is, there is no single secret to being a successful startup founder. It often comes down to a kind of “perfect storm” that includes elements such as having the right idea at the right time; the relevant skills, ability and attitude; the relentless work ethic, passion and focus; bolstered by the resources and team members that are crucial to success.

Throughout my entrepreneurial journey, including founding two businesses, going through several startup accelerator programs (including Springboard) and headquartering at the world’s leading startup incubator for tech entrepreneurs (1871 Chicago), I’ve crossed paths with many startup founders. Some of these entrepreneurs have had successful exits, others are running thriving businesses, while still others have pivoted (or returned to corporate America).

From my observations, as well as knowing what has served me, I believe the following 11 traits are key to launching and leading a successful startup:

1) Fearless — You know that pit you feel in your stomach when you’re about to do something risky? Entrepreneurs embrace that feeling because they believe the benefits outweigh the risks. This does not mean that we do not feel fear. It means that in spite of our fears, we move forward and take calculated risks.

2) Visionary — Successful entrepreneurs are creative thinkers with vision. They may see opportunities before others do, and move forward to capitalize on them. We look for what’s around the corner, anticipating needs and finding solutions that serve others.

3) Instinctual — Entrepreneurs rely on their instincts when moving forward with an idea. If we feel strongly that it is something the market needs, it’s very likely that we will trust our gut and go with it, no matter what the naysayers say. However…

4) Analytical — The best entrepreneurs do not rely solely on gut instinct. We use data to prove that our instincts are correct. Market research, testing, sampling, surveys — just a few of the tools we use to gather information about the market and idea before we invest too heavily.

5) Confident — The best entrepreneurs know themselves well — their strengths and weaknesses — and play to their strengths. Where there is weakness, they find others who excel and delegate tasks. This confidence allows them to make thousands of decisions that affect the viability of the business, and enables them to lead their teams. However…

6) Empathetic — The best entrepreneurial leaders are empathetic and authentic, allowing room for others’ perspectives, even if they are different than their own. They are great networkers and promoters. Empathy allows them to hear others, and by doing so, they fill gaps in their own knowledge and build relationships.

7) Passionate — Many entrepreneurs are driven by pure passion. Startup founders often start businesses in fields of their expertise or interest. We put our hearts into it, and this passion fuels the enormous energy that is required to run a business. When founders pursue their passions with purpose and intention, chances are good they’ll succeed.

8) Adaptable — If there’s one thing that is constant, it’s change. Surprises are around every corner. Entrepreneurs expect the unexpected. This enables them to keep calm in the chaos. The ability to be flexible and adapt to a constantly changing marketplace is key.

9) Resilient — Resilience allows you to experience adversity and overcome it. Being able to bounce back from setbacks is perhaps the most vital skill to being a successful entrepreneur. We all experience failure; it is often the best way to learn. It’s what you do after the failure that makes all the difference.

10) Focused — Successful startup founders need to be laser-focused in order to make their businesses flourish. The pursuit of excellence is a full-time job, which is why having a startup as a side hustle is extra challenging. We avoid distractions. In addition to our time and money, we give our sweat, blood and tears in order to make our startups successful.

11) Persistent — Even if you lack some of these qualities, as long as you have persistence, it may tip the scales. There will be stumbling blocks as you build a business. Successful entrepreneurs are determined, maneuvering around obstacles and creating new paths. They don’t give up, and that is why they succeed.

Elisa All Schmitz is the founder and CEO of 30Seconds.com, a digital media platform making life better in 30 seconds through inspiring content and community. Elisa previously founded iParenting, a “Best of the Web” dotcom that she sold to The Walt Disney Company, where she served as Director of the Disney Interactive Media Group. Elisa has been a newspaper columnist, magazine editor, radio and video host, and has created content and marketing programs for various Fortune 500 companies. She has a BA in Communications from University of Wisconsin-Madison, which awarded her its Entrepreneurial Achievement Award, and an MSJ in Journalism from Northwestern University, where she’s on the Board of NUvention Media Entrepreneurship program.



Springboard Enterprises
Been There Run That

Springboard’s mission is to accelerate the growth of companies led by women through access to essential resources and a global community of experts.