Richard Feynman and FoundationDB

David Lee

Truly gifted, passionate people often have the ability to make the complex simple and almost fun. It’s an infectious quality. I’m a sucker for this. When a founder can clearly, articulately and plainly explain complex and mind-numbing topics, I’m almost 80% of the way towards investing. It’s probably not the most helpful bias but I have it.

 



Filed Under:
Collection: Personal
Category: Entrepreneurial Qualities

Nature vs Nurture and Entrepreneurship

Fred Wilson 

I believe that there are "unique and defining characteristics of entrepreneurs." Here are some of the ones I observe most frequently: 1) A stubborn belief in one's self; 2) A confidence bordering on arrogance; 3) A desire to accept risk and ambiguity, and the ability to live with them; 4) An ability to construct a vision and sell it to many others; and 5) A magnet for talent.

 



Filed Under:
Collection: Personal
Category: Entrepreneurial Qualities

I Would Only Fund an Entrepreneur with High Integrity

Mark Suster 

If I thought I could make a lot of money backing somebody that made money through low integrity I would personally pass. I know that sounds trite but that is exactly how my firm talks about things in partner meetings.  If we’ve seen a company present where we feel that the CEO is shady.  It becomes a large part of the conversation in our partners’ meeting afterward. 

 



Filed Under:
Collection: Personal
Category: Entrepreneurial Qualities

Domain Experience Gives Entrepreneurs an Unfair Advantage

Mark Suster 

“Domain experience” means that the founders have worked in the industry before.  It isn’t a “must” for me but it’s certainly a huge positive when entrepreneurs have it.  When you’re researching a market you can spend a year putting your hypotheses on paper but you somehow never really have a handle on the minute details of the industry until you’ve lived in it.  It’s not an absolute requirement for me that you have domain experience but if you do it’s a HUGE plus.

 



Filed Under:
Collection: Personal
Category: Entrepreneurial Qualities

Entrepreneurs Don’t "Noodle" They Do

Mark Suster 

As I’ve said previously, being an entrepreneur is about moving the ball forward a few inches every day.  What astounded me when I switched from being a big company executive to being an entrepreneur was the sheer amount of decisions I had to make on a daily basis.  The minutiae.  Some of it incredibly important.It never ends.  And there is no such thing as a startup decision with complete information.  The best entrepreneurs have a bias for making quick decisions and accept that at best 70% of them will be right.  They acknowledge that some decisions will be bad and they’ll have to recover from them.  Building a startup might be a game of inches but you don’t get timeouts to pause and analyze all of your decisions. 

 



Filed Under:
Collection: Personal
Category: Entrepreneurial Qualities

What Makes an Entrepreneur (8/11) – Detail Orientation

Mark Suster 

One of the easiest ways to rule out people who are pitching to me is when they don’t know the details of their business.  There are easy tell-tale signs.  I’ll start with an obvious one – I talk with the entrepreneur about competitors.  You can always tell during this discussion whether the entrepreneur has logged into their products, talked to their customers, read all the news stories and gotten all of the back channel info on the competition.  You can tell if they have a deep-seated competitive spirit.  Can’t go a mile deep on competition?  Buh-bye.



Filed Under:
Collection: Personal
Category: Entrepreneurial Qualities

What Makes an Entrepreneur? Cojones (7/11)

Mark Suster 

Entrepreneurs are inherently risk takers. Not wild speculators, but pragmatic risk takers who have a blind belief that they will find a way to make things work. If you put on paper what it would take to be successful in your company, you’d never take the first step, which is why most people don’t. It is often called a “leap of faith” because you jump from safety into the abyss with only the blind faith that you’ll find a way.

 



Filed Under:
Collection: Personal
Category: Entrepreneurial Qualities

The Best Entrepreneurs Are Hyper Competitive & Hate Losing

Mark Suster 

One attribute that I believe most VCs look for in entrepreneurs is competitiveness.  I know I do.  I like to work with people who hate to lose.  Anyone who has ever been around me when I’ve lost at anything I care about will tell you I’m not pleasant.  I’m not a poor loser at all.  It’s just that I stew on it.  I don’t recover easily.  I lose sleep.  If I have any angle of changing the outcome I will.  I replay things in my mind about why I lost and I try to correct my mistakes.

 



Filed Under:
Collection: Personal
Category: Entrepreneurial Qualities

What Makes an Entrepreneur? Perspiration (6/11)

Mark Suster 

The most poignant quote for this attribute comes from Thomas Edison, “Genius is one per cent inspiration and ninety-nine per cent perspiration.”  Well for entrepreneurs it’s probably a healthy dose of both.  I know you think a VC would take for granted that all entrepreneurs work hard but you can tell the difference between those that see this as merely a slightly longer version of their last big job and those that are maniacal about what they’re doing.

 



Filed Under:
Collection: Personal
Category: Entrepreneurial Qualities

What Makes an Entrepreneur (5/11) – Inspiration

Mark Suster 

Whenever I’m watching someone present to me I’m often thinking to myself, “Can this person inspire others?  And inspiration is so important because not only is it required to hire and lead your team but it’s required to get customers to work with you when by all means they should not.  You’ve got less than 6 months’ cash in the bank and your product isn’t really fully baked.  But they have confidence that you’ll get there even if they don’t acknowledge this to themselves.

 



Filed Under:
Collection: Personal
Category: Entrepreneurial Qualities

What Makes an Entrepreneur (4/11) – Resiliency

Mark Suster

I like to say that “being an entrepreneur is really sexy … for those who have never done it.”  The reality is that it’s lonely, hard work, high pressure and filled with mundane tasks.  It’s a gritty existence.  In the grand scheme of things no matter how hard you work and despite your appearance on the TechCrunch50 stage no one seems to really care.  That next round of investment is proving difficult.  Customers are harder to sign than you want.   Journalists have just written an article that wasn’t favorable.  Your competitors just announced positive news.  You’ve got 8 weeks of cash left and one of your employees just asked you to fill out a form so she can buy a house. Tenacity is about pushing forward every and not accepting “no’s” while resiliency is about taking punches every day and not falling down.

 



Filed Under:
Collection: Personal
Category: Entrepreneurial Qualities

What Makes an Entrepreneur (3/11) – Ability to Pivot

Mark Suster 

VCs often tell entrepreneurs that they want to see “traction” before they’re ready to invest.  What I believe they really want is longer to get to know you.  And part of what they’re looking for is how you adapt to the business you’re building over time.  Every entrepreneur starts with an idea that they believe makes sense.  But then your customes start using your products, your competitors come out with new offerings and your business partners decide to launch a similar product rather than working with you.  You’re forced to “pivot” on a regular basis.   The best entrepreneurs get market feedback regularly and change their approach based on the latest information.  The best entrepreneurs seek advice from everybody they need, learn lessons and make minor adjustments on a monthly basis.

 



Filed Under:
Collection: Personal
Category: Entrepreneurial Qualities

What Makes an Entrepreneur (2/11) – Street Smarts

Mark Suster 

I don’t think it takes book smart people to build great companies – sometimes it’s a hindrance.  But you do have to be a smart person and I personally prefer street smarts.  I’m looking for the person that just “gets it.”  They know instinctually how customers buy and how to excite them.  They have a sixth sense for the competitors’ weaknesses.  They spot opportunities that aren’t being met and the design products to meet these needs. 



Filed Under:
Collection: Personal
Category: Entrepreneurial Qualities

What Makes an Entrepreneur? (1/11) – Tenacity

Mark Suster 

Tenacity is probably the most important attribute in an entrepreneur.  It’s the person who never gives up – who never accepts “no” for an answer. Some founders have that extra quality that makes them never give up.  At times it goes as far as being chutzpah.  And I see this extra dose of tenacity in only about 1 of 10 entrepreneurs that I see.  And if you’re not naturally one of these people you probably know it, too.  You see that peer who always pushes things further than you normally would.  What are you going to get further out of your comfort zone and be more tenacious?  It is really what separates the wheat from the chaff.

 



Filed Under:
Collection: Personal
Category: Entrepreneurial Qualities

What Makes an Entrepreneur? Four Letters: JFDI

Mark Suster 

I believe that being successful as an entrepreneur requires you to get lots of things done.  You are constantly faced with decisions and there is always incomplete information.  This paralyzes most people.  Not you. Entrepreneurs make fast decisions and move forward knowing that at best 70% of their decisions are going to be right.  They move the ball forward every day.  They are quick to spot their mistakes and correct.  Good entrepreneurs can admit when their course of action was wrong and learn from it.  Good entrepreneurs are wrong often.  If you’re not then you’re not trying hard enough.  Good entrepreneurs have a penchant for doing vs. over-analyzing.  (obviously don’t read this as zero analysis).

 



Filed Under:
Collection: Personal
Category: Entrepreneurial Qualities

Good Judgment Comes with Experience, But Experience Comes from Bad Judgment

Mark Suster 

Seeing how entrepreneurs handled adversity and difficult decisions tells me a lot about who I’m going to be working with if I invest.  I learn much from hearing whether they have humility, understanding what they learned from their failure (or success), gauging the speed of decision-making and willingness to admit when they were wrong.  I also look to see whether they can make the really difficult decisions (like firing all of your friends – this is no fun.)

 



Filed Under:
Collection: Personal
Category: Entrepreneurial Qualities