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While there’s no one specific quality that defines successful startup founder, like Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg, there’s enough successful founders in the world today that you can just group them together, put them under the microscope, and be able to extract and identify a collective set of traits that could be attributed to their success. If you’re an aspiring startup founder, knowing what these qualities are can be as equally important, if not more, as knowing the technicals of your startup. Here’s five qualities that may foreshadow a successful startup founder in the making.
Successful startup founders did not rise up to such feats by playing it safe. They risked everything they had in order to get their startup off the ground, missing out on a lot of sleep, meals, and parties in the process. Entrepreneurs who are comfortable with taking on risk tend to do much better when it comes to making high-stakes decisions under pressure compared to those who are risk-averse. Entrepreneurs who have the guts to stay in the path they’ve initially charted even when it starts to turn awry have better odds of making it than those who abandon ship and tuck tail every time there’s a setback.
The ability to make snap decisions is an overlooked trait in entrepreneurship, but can certainly determine the success or failure of a business. The most successful tech startup founders know that they don’t have the luxury of time to digest every piece of data to make the dozens of decisions they need to make. Instead, they learn what information to listen to, make an informed decision based on that, and then move forward without any regrets. There’s simply no time to dwell on what you could’ve possibly done better, especially in the startup world where your first few months grants a very short financial runway.
Having a vision of what your company should stand for and what it should look like 10, 20, 30 years from now is perhaps THE TRAIT that defines a strong startup founder. If you don’t believe in your vision, how do you expect other people to believe in it? As a founder, you’ll need to instill the vision onto other people and you’ll have to make them believe that your brand is a cause worth supporting. Entrepreneurs with a strong and unyielding vision will be able to propagate a consistent brand message to their customers.
People who don’t like losing or being wrong will never be able to build great startups. Failure is a key part of building any kind of business. Regardless of how meticulously you plan everything out, there are variables that you simply cannot control. Rejection is a common form of failure that you should get used to when you start a company. If you’re lucky and your business has real potential value, you’ll get one “YES” in a sea of “NOs” from investor meetups and bank loan applications. In a weird way, entrepreneurs who are slightly crazy and unorthodox can thrive as a startup founder since they care more about proving and validating their ideas than what other people think about them.
Your work ethic is what gets tasks done, piece by piece. Without a responsible and razor-focus work ethic, your business’ momentum and growth will suffer. There are simply no shortcuts when building a startup. You’ll need to grind night and day and clock in more than 40 hours a week if you have any chance of succeeding. Elon Musk, the founder of multiple successful companies including Tesla, PayPal, and SpaceX, attributes a huge part of his success to his 80-hour work week, which is basically like working two full-time jobs. In fact, while he was creating his first company, Zip2, he was working during the day and coding the scripts for Zip2 at night.
There is no one scientific formula for succeeding as a startup CEO. Each entrepreneur starts out with a different set of circumstances that they must traverse around. The five qualities mentioned above are what allows these people to thrive and overcome the personal and professional barriers that would naturally discourage regular folks from even trying.