Do you have what it takes to be a Startup founder?

I have met over 500 startup teams over the past year and it strikes me how important the personality of the founder is to the success of a tech startup. There is a strong link between the quality of the founder and their ability to attract other team members and to ultimately attract investment from angels or VCs. Founders come in many forms. Some are geeky techies, others are business people with amazing ideas. However, there are a number of key characteristics that I would highlight as essential to the ultimate success of the startup;

Passion – All great founders have a vision and a passion to fulfil it. Let’s face it, if you don’t believe in your idea, you can be sure that no one else will. Passion will normally come from the fact that you are solving a real problem that other people also face. Passion is infectious and will drive the business ahead through the difficult times that you will definitely face on occasions.

Hard working – I was recently told by a VC that they notice the times when their entrepreneurs are working. Brent Hoberman, founder of Lastminute.com would send emails at all times night and day. There is no getting around it. Founding a startup is not a 9-5 job and there is no such thing as work/life balance. There is a direct relationship between the level of work put in and the results achieved.

Attention to detail – The devil is in the detail. Successful founders have an eye for detail. It doesn’t matter whether it is the quality of the branding or the integrity of their code, good founders will always be striving for improvement. They will not accept second best and can be very demanding.

Willing to take risks – Founding a startup is a risky business. It normally involves giving up full-time employment and devoting 100% of your work-life to the new venture. If you have secured funding you will be facing a burn-rate and have a team to retain. There will be times when the situation looks totally bleak. Founders need to be prepared from the outset, to risk everything. It rarely works to mitigate risk by having one foot in a day-job and the other in a startup. Failing fast is an integral part of the startup process. Founders often have to be prepared to let go of their initial ideas, brush themselves off and start again.

Rational – Creating a startup is not simply about having a good idea. It is about following a series of logical steps. The Lean Startup by Eric Ries is the best guide to follow. A good founder will recognize how important it is to test that there is an appetite for their solution at each stage. Does it solve a real problem and will people pay to use it.

Open-minded to advice -Probably the number one issue. Defensiveness is a massive turn-off for investors. Founders will receive helpful feedback from investors, mentors or team members. This feedback is not designed to test your ability to handle objections. It is meant to test your openness to suggestion. Take this advice and decide whether it is valid or not. Be careful not to under-estimate the person giving feedback.

Strong-minded – The other side of the coin is that founders should not change direction with every last piece of advice they receive. They should be able to take advice from a range of sources and decide which to take on board. The buck stops with them.

Realistic – A lot of founders fail by over-valuing their own value and under-valuing others. It’s important to understand that your idea has little value. The value comes from your ability to engage with others to execute. The value of co-founders has to be recognized and rewarded accordingly.

Flexible – It is vital to respond to change. You may be facing competition or a new market conditions. You may have tested your product and hit a brick wall. It has been proven that startup founders who have pivoted a few times are more successful than those refusing to change.

If you are thinking about embarking on the journey to become a tech entrepreneur, I would recommend checking that you are able to develop these characteristics. Launching a tech business can be amazingly rewarding but it is not for the faint-hearted, and ultimately, for successful selling you need a lot of the above traits. Many of them can be developed, and you shouldn’t be put off if it doesn’t come naturally, but bear in mind that a lot of the most successful founders have personalities that closely match this list.