A couple of months ago I started to play around with the idea of launching a bootstrap VC fund for early stage internet companies. Needless to say, with the launch of eType.com last week, I don’t see myself as having loads of free time to dedicate to this project any time soon. However, while I was mulling these ideas around in my head, one question in particular began to bug me: Assuming that raising money for such a fund would be the easy part (emphasis on assuming), how hard would it be to find the right entrepreneur for the job? Is there such thing as a “right entrepreneur”? And how would I recognize them as “right” even if I did find them?

O.K. fine, so three questions began to bug me.

Sure, you can always count on gut feeling, but try telling your investors, who just threw “X” amount of dollars your way, that your gut is now effectively in charge of handling their money. Yea, that doesn’t always go over so well, unless of course your gut has already made them significantly wealthier on prior ventures. For arguments sake, let’s assume your gut has yet to prove itself as the George Soros of gut investment decision machines, and you need a more concrete set of indicators that tells you when someone is the “right” man for the job. What would such a concrete list of criteria look like?

Taking some time to think about this, I came up with four characteristics or qualities if you will, that I believe are “must haves” for new aspiring entrepreneurs:

  1. Passion – Running a startup is like riding a rollercoaster with one big difference: No, it’s not funny pictures of the looks on your faces when the cart takes a crazy turn here or there. You have that in startups as well (Just check out eType’s Facebook pictures). The real difference is that in startups, there are no safety belts. If you don’t have a real passion for what you are doing, you’re never going to be able to get out of bed when things get ugly. Passion kicks into over drive when things get tough. It’s what gives you the strength to march on in the face of overwhelming odds and fight for what you most desire. And make no mistake of it, in the startup business, tough is just another day at the office. Just wait till things get impossible. That’s when things really get interesting.
  2. Hard working – There is no beating around the bush, Success = hard work, multiplied by talent. Talent is something that we have little or no control over, hard work is something anyone can do. Another way to think about it; the fastest vehicle (talent), can’t move an inch without fuel (hard work). Don’t expect to hire a huge team of developers, marketers and office staff, and then go kick back on the golf course thinking that everything’s in good hands. Do the work yourself at first, and get your hands dirty. Trust me; you’ll understand your business that much better for it.
  3. Failure – The majority of people who have succeeded (and I’m inclined to write 99.9%) – have experienced failure, at one time or another, during their careers. Being able to cope with failure is paramount, as the road to success is filled with it. Howard Jonas wrote in his book that he loves to hire people who have already failed, because he gets their “failure points” and experience gratis.
  4. Pivot – Pivoting is the ability to switch gears in mid stride should the situation call for it. Being able to take your business, and turn it around in lieu of customer validation concerns or market shifts , is an ability that even people possessing the three qualities I mentioned earlier, still find incredibly difficult to do. In fact, this is so, in large part, due to possessing these three former qualities. What separates good entrepreneurs from excellent ones, is the ability to spot the difference between passionately following dreams, and knowing when to pivot the business into some other direction. For a passionate person, this is like asking a parent to stand down and let their child grow into their own, even if it’s not quite what the parent had envisioned for their child at first. Sometimes though, we have to let go in order to do what’s best for the things that we love.

Can you succeed without these qualities? Probably… maybe… I don’t know. Despite what many authors would have you believe, there are no hard and fast rules for guaranteed success. The above compilation is based on my own hard won experience.

Agree /Have something to add/feel like shaking your computer and screaming “lies, it’s all LIES” – In any case, I’d love to hear it, really. Leave me a comment below.

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