The best entrepreneurs, at least the ones with whom we have worked, share the following traits. They are or have:
(1) mission driven — they aren’t looking to build a product, they are looking to address a very thorny, substantive problem that affects a large group of people. They are motivated to solve this problem because it has impacted them in a deeply personal way. Running a startup isn’t easy. The days are long, the problems numerous and the cash comp low. In other words, an entrepreneur must find motivation from a deep well inside their core to push on through the dark days of which there will no doubt be many.
(2) clarity of vision — they have an innate sense of what their target customers want and the truly exceptional ones know what the customers want even before they realize it. They know the gaps in the market they are looking to capture and are quick exploit the opportunities.
(3) player / coaches — we don’t subscribe to the Messiah Founder archetype (e.g., Steve Jobs). Building a company from scratch requires an enormous amount of effort and teamwork. If you can’t recruit and retain talent, you won’t scale your business as a founder.
(4) coachable — they actively seek advice and look for feedback both good and bad. They don’t hide from problems, but rather seek them out are open to a fault with stakeholders. Why — they want to tweak their strategies until they get it right. These are “learn-it-all” CEOs, not “no-it-all” types.
(5) relentless evangelists and networkers — if you’re going to create a new company, or better still an entirely new market, you need to effective at attracting customers, employees and investors.
(6) buy-in from loved ones — building a company is hard and if you have a family or a significant other, you will be signing the ones in your inner circle to a highly volatile ride in the years ahead. If the entrepreneur doesn’t have a good emotional support base it just makes getting going that much harder. This last point is often overlooked by founders. If you’re contemplating starting a business — make this the first item on your to do list to get right.