1. Tenacity – the most important attribute of an entrepreneur is never being willing to give up.
2. Street Smarts – getting out and understanding customers is far more important than book smarts or computer research.
3. Ability to Pivot – it’s not good enough to be tenacious and smart. You also need to be sure you have a great product/market fit and that it is a big enough market to make money. The best entrepreneurs fine tune their product and their business model until they find this groove.
4. Resiliency – being an entrepreneur is sexy … for those who haven’t done it. In reality it’s gritty, tough work where you will be filled with self doubt. Entrepreneurs are survivors.
5. Inspiration - Tenacity + street smarts is not enough without inspiration. You need to lead teams and convince others to move mountains when by all means they shouldn’t believe they can.
6. Perspiration - We all know people who can stand up at a conference and deliver a rousing speech or who sound awesome in front of customers. But it takes more than inspiration to build a successful business. It takes perspiration also.
7. Willingness to Accept Risk – I’m not talking about crazy risks, but entrepreneurs are people who are willing to start a business on a leap of faith. They don’t wait on the sidelines forever doing “side projects” until the day when they’re ready to start a company. If you aren’t willing to take a shot by going full time on your startup it tells investors you aren’t confident enough in the idea or in yourself.
8. Attention to Detail – If you’re going to lead an early stage business you need to be on top of all your details. You need to know your financial model. You need to be involved in the product design. You need to have a details grasp of your sales pipeline. You need to be hand on.
9. Competitiveness - The best entrepreneurs hate losing. Whether in person life or business they play to win. It consumes them. Sharing the market is not enough – they want to win every deal, hire every great employee and sign-up every partner. And they want to do it at the expense of the competition. As Leo Durocher famously said, “nice guys finish last.”
10. Decisiveness / Gets Things Done – Entrepreneurs don’t “noodle,” they “do.” This is what separates entrepreneurs from big company executives, consultants and investors. Everybody else has the luxury of “analysis” and Monday-morning quarterbacking. Entrepreneurs are faced with a deluge of daily decisions – much of it minutiae. All of it requiring decisions and action.
11. Domain Experience – Domain experience is not an absolute requirement. In fact, some people would argue that the uber successful ventures come from people outside the industry willing to challenge the conventional wisdom. But I believe that having domain experience and relationships gives you an unfair advantage. Better that you start with this than from scratch.
12. Integrity – I believe that integrity and honesty are very important to most venture capital investors. Unfortunately, I don’t believe that they are required to make a lot of money. This post talks about my views on this attribute.