Over the course of last week, during the launch of my book The Art of Startup Fundraising, I have been asked several times what was the type of profile that I found to be the most successful in entrepreneurs. For that reason I felt it would be interesting to dive a little bit deeper into this subject.
A recent study followed 700 kids since they were 12 years of age until these individuals were 52 years with the goal to examine characteristics that could predict success. The research concentrated on intelligence, behaviors as well as the parental socioeconomic status. This study concluded that those who gained the most success were those individuals that ignored both rules and parents.
Moreover, the University of Virginia published another study following 157 adolescents that also found that kids that argued regularly with their parents were better equipped to to deal with disagreements outside of the home. It is well known that entrepreneurs need to stand for themselves and that they would receive plenty of rejections along the way while building their business.
One thing is for sure, and that is both troublesome and stubborn kids have one thing in common and that is that all of these kids end up being more competitive and assertive than the average. Perhaps that is the reason why entrepreneurs decide to execute on an idea after seeing a gap in the market and feeling confident about executing better and faster than anyone else in the space.
I see thousands of entrepreneurs every month on the ecosystem that we are building at 1000 Angels, where we connect highly vetted startups with investors. The entrepreneurs that succeed all have repeated patterns which to certain degree remind me of what the studies above outline. In addition to stubborn individuals that are relentless with executing their mission and vision, I see other traits which are the following:
- Well Defined Purpose
- High Speed
- Good Management With Finances
- Social Skills
- Strong Determination
- Being Able to Adapt to Change
- Strong Focus
I wanted to reserve the most important trait for last and that is not respecting the status quo. When Steve Jobs returned to Apple in 1997 the famous ‘Think Different,’ campaign was launched which you can find pasted below. Most successful entrepreneurs strive for the freedom to do what they want and not be told that, “this is how things are done.”
“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.” – Apple, Inc.
The studies above introduce once again the question of wether entrepreneurs are born or made. Are entrepreneurs a special breed, born into this world with a drive or can they can be created through education, experience and mentorship?
In his 2010 book Born Entrepreneurs, Born Leaders, Scott Shane, professor of entrepreneurial studies at Cleveland’s Case Western Reserve University, suggests that genes don’t just influence whether a person will start a business; they may even determine how much money a person will earn.
According to James V. Koch entrepreneurs are different. They have the ability to deal with uncertainty, to take risks and tolerate ambiguity. They usually have a personality that is mercurial, and they have highs that are really high and lows that are really low. There’s good evidence that they have strong self-confidence but also tend to be overoptimistic. They rely extensively on their own intuition.
The entrepreneurial journey is a very long marathon. It is full of ups and downs and plenty of rejections. To take as an example, Pandora was rejected 299 times before securing their first significant round of financing. This tells me one thing, and that is entrepreneurs that succeed will never take a NO for an answer.