Entrepreneurship comes close to the standing of a revered religion in the US and many parts of the world. In the software and hardware tech industries, starting up a new business is so common it’s really part of the fabric of the business. So many out there dream of starting a company and becoming a prominent tech entrepreneur with all the resulting material and psychic rewards along the way. But is everyone entrepreneurial material? Definitely not! Make no mistake, I don’t feel whether you are or not is a value-judgment on anyone, but some people are much better suited for the startup life than others.
While I lean toward the entrepreneurial side myself, I always say that good entrepreneurs need to have a screw or two loose! Starting a company is in most cases not an act of the completely sane. It has it’s rewards for those that succeed. And for those that are really suited for it, it can be a very satisfying career in itself, forgetting about the potential spoils of victory. But romantic notions of the successful entrepreneur aside, what are the actual qualities required to be a potentially successful and HAPPY tech entrepreneur?
Read on for my list of good and bad reasons to enter the startup world as well as qualities associated with success – and failure – of prospective entrepreneurs.
Worst motivations to become a tech entrepreneur
- Desire to be rich – this in rare cases can be a result; it isn’t in itself enough motivation
- Want to be famous- in even rarer cases also a result; again, not a sustaining motivation
- All the “cool kids” are doing it.
- For some reason you believe entrepreneurship is expected of you (your dad did it, etc.).
- Difficulty finding a job (this may not seem right as there are successful entrepreneurs who fit this profile; but it’s not motivation enough in most cases to enable you to be successful. During tough times, you’ll be continuously looking back at the virtual “classifieds”.
Best motivations to become a tech entrepreneur
- Love for all things technology
- You’ve worked in large companies and don’t really think that you “fit”
- Building things from the ground up provides a special feeling of satisfaction
- It’s important to you to go home at night feeling like you “made a difference”
In addition to the importance of motivation in potential startup success, there are many personal qualities that are critical as well. Many of these important personal qualities such as smart, hard-working, skilled, charismatic, likeable, etc. translate equally well towards success in either a large company or startup environment. But going a layer lower to more subtle characteristics can say a lot about whether or not an individual is particularly well suited for entrepreneurship.
Most important qualities for entrepreneurial success
- Above all, persistence. Not just normal persistence, but an almost unbelievable level persistence. Being a grinder who just doesn’t give up. Dog-with-a-bone stype of persistence; the type of persistence that might get you in trouble while working within a large company
- Resilience is the second most important quality after persistence. A successful entrepreneur MUST be able to take a hit -indeed, multiple hits – and still pick themselves up and keep on going.
- Have a passion for AND expertise in a particular market segment or technology
- A sense of urgency combined with patience. I know, these sound like conflicting qualities. But it’s important to have that special blend of pushing hard under normal circumstances, while still being able to recognize when it’s important to be patient with a colleague, partner or situation that just really needs time.
- you’re a self-starter who requires little support to excel
- Don’t really need the trappings of a big company (big salary, big title, halo of a big brand
- Comfortable with an underdog mentality
Likewise, all of us have our unique quirks, personal preferences and less than desirable qualities. No one is perfect, and therefore there isn’t a “perfect entrepreneur”. But some of these less desirable qualities are more damaging with respect to startup success or failure than others. Here’s my list of the type of things that can most easily detract from a successful startup experience.
Least helpful qualities for entrepreneurial success
- Put a high value on the prestige of being associated with a big brand and company
- Have a need or just want to leave the job at work outside of a “normal” work week
- Most comfortable as a contributing team member, as opposed to thriving with the personal accountability that brings a target to your back
- Lack of creature comforts makes you cranky; used to and have an expectation of “traveling first class”. I’m not just talking about airline seats, but all of the trappings of executive life
- Really need a high base salary to support your family or lifestyle
- The possibility of failure freaks you out
- Business setbacks or ultimate failure would in some way wreck your personal life
- Prefer to “move on” to other opportunities when things get difficult
The bottom line here is that succeeding as a tech entrepreneur is HARD. There is nothing easy about it. While it really shouldn’t be romanticized, entrepreneurship commonly is among both the press and technology industry workers. There is no “right and wrong” here; nothing about being an entrepreneur is inherently better (or worse) than working in a big company. But as I outlined above, I believe that there qualities and motivations that lend themselves to becoming a successful entrepreneur, and some that don’t. So before you take this leap, take an honest inventory of your own motivations and personal attributes. If your heart isn’t totally in it for the right reasons or you’re really just not cut out for it, it can be a truly miserable experience. Take that from a committed startup addict and huge fan of entrepreneurship.
So those are my lists of the most important – and most damaging attributes related to successfully becoming a tech entrepreneur. This list is curated from my own entrepreneurial experiences, as well as my years as a startup advisor and management consultant. But of course there is no cookie cutter entrepreneur or experience. So what does your list look like? Use the comment field below to let us know about your own views and experience with tech entrepreneurship.