If you ask any VC what they look for in an investment opportunity, they’ll tell you that the people are at the top of their list. Extraordinary companies can’t be built without extraordinary entrepreneurs, especially at the earliest stages. I’d argue that successful founders must actually possess real a superpower to make the nearly impossible task of getting a startup off the ground become a reality. But just like various superheroes have different superpowers, so do entrepreneurs – but all of them give them the ability to perform superhuman tasks. It’s quite often that I’ve remarked about a founder’s exceptional ability in one area, and I thought it’s worth noting a few of them in an initial list of “Founder Superpowers”:
• Seeing the Future (Precognition). Some founders, most typically those who have been working in a specific industry for a number of years, possess an uncanny ability to envision the future. They’ve watched a marketplace unfold for a decade or more, and because of this intimate knowledge, they’re able to position a new startup exactly as it should fit to capitalize on an emerging opportunity. Outside observers may comprehend or logically agree with this founder’s perspective, but he or she has a true unwavering conviction about the opportunity, as their superpower allows them to know how events will unfold so that their company can benefit exactly from what’s coming. It’s these entrepreneurs who have a steadfast vision from the beginning, stick to it… and turn out to be right.
• Heat-Seeking (Enhanced Senses). Just like missiles, some entrepreneurs follow heat. These founders surely have a degree of gut feel about how the future will unfold, but more importantly they’re in tune to be flexible to changing market conditions, feedback from customers, and reactions from competitors. When starting a company, these entrepreneurs don’t know exactly where it’s going, but they posses the astonishing ability to find the right initial spark and evolve the company over time in following the most lucrative path. Especially in a fast-changing marketplace, these heat-seeking entrepreneurs thrive.
• Walking through Walls (Teleportation). Some entrepreneurs are so persistent and so relentless that mere facts about the reality of obstacles they’re facing don’t get in the way. Period. They have the ability to literally transport themselves to the other side of problem walls, and then do it again and again. An observer looks back and wonders in disbelief how he got from one place to another, but he did.
• Super-speed (Speed). There are a set of founders who simply can go faster than anyone else, including their competitors. Usually you’ll receive 3am emails from these people, as they always seem to be working. They just get things done faster than it seems like is humanly possible, and it shows.
• Spontaneous creation (Animation). Some people have the aptitude to literally create something out of nothing. With extremely few resources, these scrappy founders are able to cobble together product, customers, and partnerships out of merely thin air. They can bring a company to life almost magically and with little investment, which is a testament to what they can and will achieve with additional resources.
• [I see this post as a live work-in-progress, as am curious to hear other’s suggestions on other founder superpowers…]
Just like the voluminous number of superheroes and corresponding superpowers in the comics, there are probably dozens of other superpowers that exceptional entrepreneurs employ. In fact, in looking at entrepreneurs in our own portfolio which have been successful, it’s not difficult to indentify at least one remarkable ability which each of them had. And because of that fact, pinpointing an entrepreneur’s one truly stand-out quality is a great litmus test for potential early stage investors to use as a screen when selecting among dozens of projects. So to prospective founders I ask: what’s your founding superpower?