Five qualities every founder needs

12 February 2019

You have a vision. But what are the other qualities that will get you over the finishing line in the startup game? Here are five we think you can’t do without.

1. Mental stamina

We hear a lot about resilience and ‘grit’ these days. As a founder of a startup, you’ll need all that and more. It’s not just about being able to carry on through thick and thin, it’s about remaining mentally agile and keenly aware of the market, no matter what else you might be handling. Launching new products is a rollercoaster. The day you win a new customer could also be the day a competitor deals you a low blow. You’ll need mental stamina to keep thinking on your feet and solving problems.

2. The ability to collaborate and find the right people

As a founder, you need to be able to find and work with people who complement your skill set – people who are different from you. A team full of people like you might feel more comfortable to work with, but investors will be less interested in a company that can’t demonstrate a diverse skill set. If you are primarily technical, you’ll need someone else with in-depth knowledge of the market you are entering, and vice-versa.

3. Fully understand the problem your product solves

Someone in the founding team needs to be able to demonstrate an authentic connection to the problem they are solving. If you are a more mature founder, you may have worked in a particular industry yourself. However, that isn’t the only way to forge that connection.

You may have an understanding of a specific demographic, or be a leader in a community, an engineering forum, for example. If you don’t have this, you need a co-founder who does. Read our article on what investors are looking for in startups to find out more about great founding teams.

4. A keen eye for the competition

You may have a vision and leadership skills. But if you allow yourself to become too focused on your idea, you’ll underestimate the competition. These days, the market is saturated with new technology-led solutions. The likelihood that your approach is so unique that there’s nothing else similar out there is slim. Even if it is, you will still be disrupting an existing market and will have to deal with the incumbents. If you are going into a pitch, make sure you can reel off your competitors. Because you can bet your bottom dollar that an experienced investor you are pitching to will be able to.

5. Know your numbers

If you’ve ever watched Dragon’s Den, you’ll know what happens when an entrepreneur can’t do their sums. It isn’t pretty. No matter how good your idea, your startup will succeed or fail based the ability of you and your team to balance the books. Get financially literate. You don’t need to be a chartered accountant – reading a good book on the subject will be enough.