4 Traits Perceptive Investors Look for in Tech Startup Founders

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Behind every successful startup are the people who had the vision and tenacity to build it. It seems that pundits and investors are on a never-ending quest to uncover an exact “founder alchemy”– a checklist of characteristics that will guarantee success. While there is no single formula for entrepreneurial success, the following traits are shared by the brightest and most successful founders I’ve worked with:

In my experience, diverse teams improve group thinking and recast ideas. Individuals who were part of the diverse teams were 58 percent more likely to price stocks correctly, while individuals in homogenous groups were more prone to pricing errors.

The founders were curious if a similar model could work for mobile payments between any two parties. They asked the right questions around reaching more people and improving their solution and consequently developed the mobile payment app that transmitted $9 billion in the last quarter of 2017 alone.

Bravery
The bravest teams I’ve worked with aren’t immune to fear; they believe the promise of their idea outweighs it. When I ask teams about success, they often talk about their failures instead. A culture of courage breeds resilient team members who see failure as a tool for success.

The annual Empathy Index ranks companies based on the level of empathy demonstrated by their internal culture, CEO performance, ethics and social media presence. Companies, and leaders, who demonstrate empathy are ultimately more successful.

Diversity
Not everyone can be a successful entrepreneur, but a successful entrepreneur can come from anywhere. An ideal founding team will have technical expertise and visionaries, designers and computer scientists, product leads and salespeople– in short, people who look at life through different lenses.

The co-founders of Airbnb– before they put the hotel industry in their crosshairs with an idea that many initially resisted– were tens of thousands of dollars in debt. Three years later, they had expanded into 89 markets, besting Marriott and Hilton in number of markets reached by several decades.

Empathy
The ability to recognize and share other people’s feelings creates not only effective products, but also powerful leaders. Teams put their trust in leaders who they believe have their best interests at heart. People are more open and honest to sharing challenges and wild ideas when they trust that their leader will listen without prejudice.

Curiosity
Entrepreneurship is always more about questions than answers. There’s a lot of prodding and poking of the status quo that’s necessary before an entrepreneur has a “eureka moment”– and the best entrepreneurs don’t stop there. Even after a goal is met, curiosity gives way to more questions, like “How am I measuring success?

Not every successful founder is inherently curious, empathetic, diverse and brave, but identifying and cultivating these traits can meaningfully impact their success. A brilliant idea doesn’t guarantee a successful entrepreneur. It’s the founder who never stops questioning, learning and evolving that is ultimately worth the greatest gamble.

The study, and others like it, concludes that diversity facilitates friction, which upends conformity, which is necessary when you are trying to challenge the status quo. In other words, diverse groups are more likely to scrutinize each other’s actions, which encourages critical thinking. An entrepreneur’s willingness to work with people who are different from him or her indicates a willingness to challenge his or her own preconceived notions in favor of an objectively better solution.

While there is no single formula for entrepreneurial success, the following traits are shared by the brightest and most successful founders I’ve worked with:

Not every successful founder is inherently curious, empathetic, diverse and brave, but identifying and cultivating these traits can meaningfully impact their success.

Not everyone can be a successful entrepreneur, but a successful entrepreneur can come from anywhere. When I ask teams about success, they often talk about their failures instead. A culture of courage breeds resilient team members who see failure as a tool for success.

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