The Pros And Cons Of 3 Common Startup Founder Character Traits

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Conviction, high risk tolerance, and resilience is something most startup founders share. Even … [+] though these qualities are extremely valuable, in certain circumstances they could create problems.


When it comes to personality, there’s no good or bad – there are only pros, cons, and tradeoffs.

There are a lot of things in common in the type of people who are inclined to start a high-risk venture. You’d often see highly intelligent, hard-working, ultra-ambitious people in the startup world.

Even these kinds of people need to know their own strengths and weaknesses, however, if they want to be successful.

1. Conviction

You don’t embark on a journey to create something entirely new and innovative if you don’t have a clear vision of its potential. Holding onto your vision when it gets assaulted by the opinions of other people and sometimes even contradicting evidence requires a lot of conviction.

While this is good – you certainly shouldn’t throw your vision out of the window at the first sight of adversity, it also hides a danger. If your conviction is too strong, you wouldn’t have the needed flexibility to adjust your vision and idea when you receive feedback from the market.

It’s important to be a visionary as the head of a new innovative venture, but it is also important to balance your conviction with scientific skepticism.

So, while having conviction is vital, it is also something that you need to be able to suppress when you are going through the process of validation experiments, iterations, and pivots. When clear evidence materializes, you need to be willing to kill your darling.

2. High risk tolerance

Startups are the extreme sports of entrepreneurship. As a founder, you need to be comfortable with the thought of losing your time and money due to the extremely high failure rates of innovative new businesses.

While being a measured risk-taker is good, it is important not to become a compulsive gambler.

While startups are risky, being successful requires you to act strategically and to manage your risks accordingly. Impulsively jumping on new risky opportunities just because they might hold potential is not a winning strategy.

To be successful you need to be able to say no to a lot of opportunities in order to focus your efforts on your main goal. In fact, lack of focus is one of the most common startup mistakes of new founders.

3. Resilience

If there is one quality that is a prerequisite for startup success, it is persistence. The professional journeys of many startup founders are rife with failures and unsuccessful ventures. Having stamina and being very resilient is a must if you want to last in the game for long enough to find success.

Yet, at the same time, relying too much on your resilience could have two major negative consequences.

First, if you are too tunnel-visioned on your current idea and you think that you can pull it off just through sheer hard work, you might ignore strong signals from the market that you need to make major changes in order to be successful.

In other words, in order to get somewhere, it’s important to keep on walking. At the same time, stubbornly going in a straight path wouldn’t get you where you want to go if you are facing the wrong direction. Resilience is important, but it is not something you can use blindly.

Second, an extreme work ethic is something that a lot of startup founders share, but the price of it is usually paid by their personal lives. This is a sacrifice you might be willing to make, but it is something that you need to navigate strategically. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be just your relationships that suffer. It’s hard to be productive in your work when your personal life is falling apart.