Mental characteristics founders need

Generally people identify courage, appetite for risk, charisma, vision etc as essential traits for entrepreneurial success. Matt Clifford, co-founder of Entrepreneurs First has written a very good article about the mindset founders need to succeed. Building a business is hard work and certainly a roller coaster. These three behaviours struck a cord with me-

  • Growth mindset: viewing oneself and their capabilities as fluid rather than set in stone is vital. Thinking this way means one is able to identify and act upon improvements required in oneself to face a variety of challenges. Attracting investment, motivating staff, recruiting well, understanding customers etc are all examples of things founders will have to do well, but cannot be expected to be great at on day one.
  • Personal exceptionalism: Michael Dearing of Stanford explains this is a deep belief that your work is “snowflake special”! While that might appear somewhat pompous, it’s not arrogance and certainly does not mean that you don’t take feedback. To me, it’s the opposite of “who am I to do xyz”, which is the form of fear that restricts people from taking any action towards their dreams. Having conviction that you and your work is special is an essential impetus needed to overcome this fear.
  • Honey badger-ness: no difficult, worthwhile task can be achieved without perseverance. Particularly things that require change. The world in general is resistant to change. Whether you’re selling enterprise software or a shoe shopping app, you will have to overcome this inertia to get people to use your product. Founders will need to try and try again to win. Having said that, honey badger-ness is not the same as plain badgering. Don’t annoy people with the same product or the same pitch over and over again. If they don’t respond, it’s time for introspection – revise the product, change your key message or pivot, and try again.

Read Matt’s thoughts and original article on the subject here.

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Making better predictions

This is a very interesting study on making better predictions. The 3 key takeaways are-

  • Change your mind a little bit, frequently. It suggests that you should be open to change and use new information to adjust your thinking slightly and do that often.
  • Diverse ideas and perspectives make predictions better. That is why working as a team or at least consulting others is always a good idea.
  • Make specific predictions. For example, when investing in a start up, predict whether a company can reach £100 million of annual revenue after 10 years rather than predicting whether it could become a great successful business. This creates accountability and forces one to adjust their thinking about how things really work.

Read the original article at This study tried to improve our ability to predict major geopolitical events. It worked.

Interesting posts on investor decks I read this week

In Defense of the Deck

My partners and I have noticed an interesting trend over the past few years: an increase in the number of entrepreneurs who prefer to pitch us without the use of a presentation deck. On one…

People love stories, not decks

Jason Calacanis recently invited me to speak on the topic of presenting to potential angel and venture investors at the Launch Incubator Spring 2015 class in San Francisco. In preparation,…

Why we like investor decks

When we are introduced to promising entrepreneurs and ideas our first response is to ask for information about the company or project, usually an investor deck. The extra information helps…

The Simpsons First-Impressions Matrix

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“If you’re high in warmth … and you’re high in competence, you’re like Lisa Simpson,”

We all know people who are congenial and affable. We also know people who are freakishly intelligent and capable. How many do we really know that are both? Very few I’d imagine. Surely we all want to be in that top-right quadrant. The interesting thing is, we can if we pay attention to a few details.

“What people tend to do is really try to show how competent they are — they try to talk about their skills and abilities and what makes them awesome — and they neglect to send warmth signals.” In the absence of these signals, “you end up appearing cold. And cold and competent is Mr. Burns.”

We tend to over emphasise qualities such as intelligence, courage, appetite for risk, ambition, drive etc as reasons for success and forget the so called soft skills. I think we must consciously aim to connect with people as much as we try to impress them. All we need to do is:

  • Have genuine interest in others
  • Try to relate and see from their perspective
  • Not be judgemental (on others and ourselves!)

Just be careful not to flip over into the Homer quadrant!

Read the original article on nymag.com

Fabrice Grinda’s investment strategy

Fabrice recently posted a summary of his investment strategy on his blog here

He defines 9 business selection criteria. These three resonate most with me:

4. A business where you have a real shot at being one of the top players – at least in the region you are targeting

There is great value in being the #1 player in a market, particularly one that naturally resists fragmentation. Top players enjoy brand and scale effects which often translate to better profit margins.

6. A business with a little or no risk of disintermediation and/or margin compression by suppliers and/or customers

Occupying a strong position in the value chain by being extremely valuable to both your suppliers and customers and developing a unique product with few substitutes will help companies achieve the above criterion.

7. A business that is in a rapidly growing market

Rapidly growing markets create plentiful opportunities and can be more forgiving for start ups. But disrupting large, mature (not so fast growing) markets is also a good place to be if you have a product or business model innovation that is truly disruptive.

Why videos go viral

Kevin is a trends manager at YouTube. In this TED talk he says videos go viral because-

  • Tastemakers i.e. people with an audience and influence spread the word by tweeting, blogging, mentioning on TV etc
  • Communities of participation form around it. This is when others add to your creation by creating their own versions, parodies etc
  • Unexpectedness – I suppose by this he means originality with an element of surprise

Interesting observations. What strikes me is that all three are inherently outside the control of the original creator. You could get (read pay) tastemakers to tweet it, but I’m pretty sure it will not have the same effect as if they did so out of their own volition.