Patterns of Successful Founders

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Startup-ing isn’t for sissies. Period.

There are a few qualities that must be present in every founder or the road will be long and tumultuous, leading you back to crafting resumes for corporate headhunters. Over the last 10 years, I’ve worked with over 120 startups from all over the globe, and it doesn’t matter where you are, most of startup-ing is human and achievable. Sure, luck plays a part. Connections and money are important too. But three patterns seem consistent in all great founders, even if they lack everything else:

Pattern #1 – Heart

Like William Wallace—heart. If you truly don’t believe the world is in deficit of the thing you are creating, neither will potential partners, employees, or investors. In Braveheart, Wallace had vision of a better world and freedom for the Scottish people. Who are you freeing and why does that matter? No matter how much your product evolves over time, this will remain as the mantra for you and others when you need it most.

Pattern #2 – Hunger

Like Hunger Games—hunger. It’s true: hunger moves us to action. Humans have an incredible way of prioritizing what matters when they’re hungry. Hunger keeps an entrepreneur warm at night. Hunger is the sounding alarm in the morning. Hunger is our ambition and fuel that drive toward the vision we see with our heart. Katniss Everdeen had an instinct to survive in Hunger Games. She had limited resources and countless challenges, but her hunger to survive and free her people from tyranny and oppression kept her in the game. That’s the kind of hunger and instinct you hope exist when you’re starting up.

Pattern #3 – Hustle

Like March Madness–hustle. I love watching college basketball every spring. Like most other fans of the spring classic, I love watching the grit and grind every player brings to the game. If heart and hunger aren’t enough, the right amount of hustle can push a team over the top. It’s often the difference maker in the memorable triumphs and great upsets every year. Leave your pedigree at the door because the most talented teams are not always on top. It’s a blender chug of raw heart, hunger, and hustle. Mmmmmm, yeah. That tastes good.

Having these characteristics may not guarantee your success, but those who succeed are almost guaranteed to have them.

Do you have what it takes?

I think so. Even with all the risks—and there are plenty—according to the Kauffman Foundation, thousands every year still strive to be the next Instagram, Snapchat, or Uber, disrupting mammoth industries and making the cover of Fast Company. Maybe that’s you. We’ve certainly seen an incredible wave of entrepreneurship rise out of the millennial generation and it brings us hope for a brighter future. There is a freshness of new things that is so attractive—new ways of doing things or getting things done. But even with all that’s new and shiny, it’s heart, hunger, and hustle that remain true at their foundations and seem to transcend time.

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