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Five Traits We Look for in Startup Founders

suitThere are a number of well-known qualities that make an entrepreneur successful – things like intelligence, creativity, ownership, confidence, and integrity. Those traits will take anyone far, but when it comes to selecting startups to fund, we look for even more in the founders we meet. Here are five traits we especially want to see:

A Personal Motive
We invest in people every bit as much as their ideas. So why are you doing what you’re doing? What’s your motivation? And please don’t say “To make money.” Ideally, you’re solving a problem that you understand on a personal level – something that matters to you and that you’re passionate about solving.

Building a successful company takes time, and it can be a grind. Airbnb was not an overnight success – it took years of hard work and dedication while no one was looking before it really took off. Building a company is a long haul, not a quick flip. You have to be committed to your vision and not get distracted by the next big idea.

Nothing breeds confidence like a founder’s willingness and ability to make adjustments. We don’t expect you to be perfect, but we do want you to recognize mistakes early, learn from them, and correct course. We don’t expect you to know the future, but we do want you to anticipate obstacles and counter them proactively.

Delegation Skills
A leader is not someone who can do it all – a leader is someone who can delegate the right tasks to the right people. Effective delegating ensures that you get maximum return on everyone’s time, including your own. It’s a quiet but crucial skill for a founder to have, and your company won’t be able to scale without it.

Willingness to Listen
Pitching your company is exciting, but at some point, you’re going to start getting feedback. Do you stop and listen? How much do you take in? And what do you do with that information? For founders who are willing to listen to it, thoughtful feedback can be used to improve your pitch, your team, or – even better – your product.

Some of these characteristics are difficult to discern, but we look for clues wherever we can, from your work history to your product development process. We’ve found it’s well worth our time to find out as much as we can about what makes you – and your company – tick.