What the Best Founders I Know Have in Common

Hi everyone, hope you had an awesome weekend! Today, I want to talk to you about some of the smartest people I know.

As an angel investor, I meet with a lot of startup founders. As I took a walk on the Hudson today, it occurred to me that the most successful ones all remind me of each other.

So what distinguishes the best founders from the rest? Here are a few thoughts:

1) They have all the facts at their fingertips. Whenever I ask them a question, they tend to know the answer cold.

I could be asking about a product feature, customer acquisition strategy, or a metric like gross margin. Whatever it is, they’ve thought about it already and know all the relevant facts.

2) Strong customer focus. The most successful founders I’ve seen are obsessed with their customers.

They know everything about them and what they need. And they tailor their product ever more carefully to those needs as time goes on.

What are the less successful founders focused on? Often their competitors, someone “stealing their idea,” or endless fundraising.


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We should always remember that the business’s goal is to serve the customer. Don’t let distractions take you away from that.

3) Openness to questions and criticism.

The best founders I’ve seen gladly answer any question an investor asks. They’re eager to show off their awesome product and happy customers!

The less successful ones evade questions and try to convince investors the business is going better than it really is. I sometimes suspect they’ve convinced themselves too, at their peril.

If we’re forthcoming with information and open to constructive criticism, we can learn from others and improve!

One of the most exciting moments for me as an investor is when a new founder reminds me of one of the best I’ve met. That’s when I start to salivate and reach for my checkbook. 🙂

The good news is that the best founders have a lot to teach all of us about how to up our game, if only we’re willing to listen!

What do you think makes a great founder? What did I miss?

Leave a comment at the bottom and let me know!

More on tech:

The Startup Pitch Checklist

Amp It Up

How to Write a Deal Memo

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Photo: “A Street Called Awesome” by moonlightbulb is marked with CC BY 2.0.

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