Ask any Venture Capitalist, Angel Investor, Startup Accelerator Director, or Entrepreneurial Advisor what the number on criteria they use to forecast the future success of a startup is. You will be hard-pressed to get an answer other than “a strong founding team.”
There is no doubt about it, the founders of a startup will absolutely make or break the venture. They are the ones running the day to day operations. From consumer marketing to internal human resources- the founder(s) of a startup maintain a starring role in every department. It is crucial that the founding team is forward-thinking, bold, and objective. The qualities that determine a good founder vary depending on who you ask, but the general theme is the same: they need to be an expert in their field and they need to be constantly learning about the advancements of their industry.
This is why I believe that the hype over “product-market fit” is unwarranted in comparison to what should be considered the most important element of startup success: founder-market fit.
Start With Why
Contrary to most in the startup industry, I hate buzz words. When phrases like “industry disruption” and “social impact” are tossed around- I am the first to press the speaker to elaborate on these concepts. Many times, the founder can’t really articulate these values with passion and expertise and that is when I can tell that there is a problem.
The number one piece of advice I give to the founders that I advise is to really internalize the face that they are the only people who truly care about their company. Investors are interested in making a profit. Customers are looking to be served. Even employees have sorted reasons for being involved.
I never say this to scare the founder or hurt their feelings, but it’s important that the entrepreneurs truly internalize the fact that they have to act like they are the sole evangelist for the company- because they are.
This is where the “why” comes into play much more than the “what”. Before focusing every effort on…