This is What an Ideal Entrepreneur Would Look Like
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In my decade-long journey as an angel investor, first with Info Edge where we invested in several start-ups - duds, failures and rare successes and later my own, Choosing the right start-up was as much about the idea as about the team. How does one choose, from the pool of innovative and disruptive ideas spearheaded by enthusiastic entrepreneurs?
Here are the top traits to look for - in the entrepreneurs and start-ups.
· Wide Education and Experience: Founders whose education transcends disciplines such as technical skills with liberal arts, have a broader horizon and are able to face challenges head-on without getting disheartened.
Those having an inter-cultural or international experience are able to understand diversity better. As a result, they are able to work the differences in their team and take the start-up to the next level.
· Hunger to Succeed: ‘Fire in the belly and hope in the heart’. This trait is one of the key differentiators between those who succeed and those who don’t, as start-ups are fraught with pitfalls and it is easy to lose hope and give in.
· Independent Streak People who play by the rules rarely succeed. Independence of thought and action depicts an ability to question the status quo. Even questioning authority is fine as long as it is about the larger objective – the venture.
Founder: The start-up should have more than one founder. As they have the same goal, every brainstorming session generates more ideas and helps in taking a 360-degree approach to problems. However, the number should not exceed three.
· Complementary Skills and Attitude. Having said that they should share the same thoughts on ethics and have the same broad vision for the business. Many start-ups fold within a year because the founders have different visions and cannot find common ground.
· Quality of the Idea: While it is true that the idea, with which a start-up begins the journey, usually undergoes transformation (pivots), the quality of the original idea is important. It reflects the ability of the founders to think through problems, how they solve it efficiently and to make a business from the solution.
It is interesting to note that a new start-up trends emerge at short intervals. Some time back we saw a lot of the start-ups based on ‘idea arbitrage.’ Now, this is changing. The recent trend is start-up ideas are oriented towards Indian problems and Indian solutions.
At a broad level, the best start-ups are those that have a diversity of thought in the team. For example, an engineer paired with a businessperson who has a penchant for selling an idea, some domain expertise in a related industry but not an exact fit, a combination of risk-taking and caution.
The biggest assets to such teams are resources in quasi-founder roles - people who are not founders but have the expertise and are entrepreneurial in spirit. However, such resources are very difficult to find. The reason is that our education system tends to be single-dimensional. For example, engineers are good at problem-solving but not necessarily at the creativity and out of the box thinking.
So, in short, an entrepreneur one who has the traits listed above and can bring together a diverse team and resources in quasi-founder roles. That will be a winning combination.