Vision, passion, innovation, humility, and persistence.
The most successful tech startup founders are driven by these key characteristics. The need to create, accelerate, and achieve success fuels their motivations. Why do they need to create? Often, the idea for a new business or product spawns from personal experience which resulted in a new idea that was just too exciting (or profitable) to ignore.
“The best companies are usually not started by people who want to ‘be an entrepreneur.' They are started by people who are knowledgeable and passionate about a specific problem, are driven to solve it, and then get busy building a company to bring to life,” says Michael Wolfe, co-founder at Gladly.
For example, Airbnb founders Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia noticed the majority of their neighborhood's hotels were frequently booked to capacity. The pair quickly rented out their apartment and invented what would eventually become a multi-billion-dollar company.
What characteristics do the world’s most successful tech startup founders share? In this article, we’ll look at the top five traits every tech entrepreneur should have to rapidly scale their tech startup.
5 Traits of Successful Tech Startup Founders
"Do you want to sell sugar water for the rest of your life, or do you want to change the world?"
That's what Steve Jobs said to then Pepsi Executive John Sculley when trying to convince him to work for Apple. Vision is what most separates ordinary founders from the extraordinary. Successful tech startup founders know when they’re building a next-generation product to revolutionize the marketplace. It’s these products that create real value for consumers.
The most successful tech startup founders are selling more than a product. For instance, Adobe didn't just sell us Acrobat. Rather, they sold us a universal file format that has changed the way we exchange, experience, and interact with digital documents. Similarly, Elon Musk doesn’t just build cars. Instead, he's reducing our dependency on fossil fuels. Put simply, vision matters, and it isn't something you can fake — you either have it or you don't.
If vision is about knowing where you want to go, passion is about enjoying the ride along the way.
Considering the average early-stage founder clocks 60+ hours per week, it's not an overstatement to say you must love what you do. Knowing what needs to get done and having the drive to do it are two different things entirely. Poll any of the unicorns who have called RocketSpace home and they will likely tell you that passion was a key ingredient of their ultimate success.
Is RocketSpace right for your tech startup? Download our Silicon Valley Startup Guide to learn more about our curated tech ecosystem for tech entrepreneurs and innovators.
The most successful startup founders are also at the forefront of the latest technologies and they are not afraid to push boundaries. For example, uBeam innovator and founder Meredith Perry has received strong criticism for her intention to build the world's first wireless energy solution.
uBeam’s device will convert electrical energy into ultrasound waves and then back into electrical energy through the power of traducers. Perry responded to skeptics at Fortune's Most Powerful Women Next Gen Conference:
"When we think about sound we don't get scared, but when we think about sound as wireless power, people get scared... suddenly, people are talking about, 'What's it going to do to me?' Wireless power is this mystical, scary thing that we're unfamiliar with."
Whether or not Perry succeeds in disrupting the multi-billion dollar CE industry is yet to be seen. However, it's safe to say she is in good company when it comes to other technological leaders who have ruffled some feathers on the road to innovation.
Founding a tech company requires a curious balance of intent focus and humility. On the one hand, you must believe in your idea enough to push past the naysayers. On the other, it's important to know when to step back, seek counsel and change course.
Fast Company contributor Jeff Booth calls this ongoing dilemma the “arrogance-humility cycle.” It's when the same confidence that supported you through early growth prevents you from adapting later on. Once your startup has gained traction, it's essential to slow down and challenge your assumptions. So, how do you know when it's time to "get humble?"
"The moment where success is knocking down your door and everyone starts telling you that you’re right—that’s the time to get humble, fast," says Booth. Maintaining strong relationships with outside investors, angels and mentors you can call upon during such times is vital."
Finally, successfully scaling a startup requires tackling unfamiliar situations on a regular basis. You might not initially know what to do in the face of a setback, but do you persist until you find the answer? The greatest entrepreneurs don't always hit home runs. Instead, they allow their vision to propel them forward in the face of adversity.
Indiegogo's Slava Rubin was rejected by more than 90 venture capitalists when he first began presenting his vision for a crowdfunding platform. The company has since raised millions in both a Series A and B, proving that persistence pays off.
Want a Launchpad for Success?
Though it may be obvious, it's worth mentioning: there is no formula for entrepreneurial success. In addition to these characteristics, founders must make sure their startup also possesses a variety of tangible requirements including product-market fit, top tech talent, and a unified company culture.
How do entrepreneurs cultivate the characteristics, tools, and strategies needed for success? Many choose to work within a tech ecosystem. RocketSpace provides Seed to Series-C funded tech startup founders with curated resources designed to accelerate success. RocketSpace has supported some of the brightest minds in tech including Spotify, Uber, and Domo.
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