Key Characteristics of Successful Early Stage Founders

The four qualities that you often come across in successful early stage founders.

Sep 4, 2021

Optimism, pragmatism, stubbornness, and steady, ceaseless effort

Each one of the above characteristics in isolation is futile, maybe even harmful. For example, a stubborn individual is unable to change their beliefs and may end up building a solution to a doomed problem space. By blending stubbornness with pragmatism, one is more likely to pivot when presented with the right signs, thereby minimising wasted time and resources. Pragmatism without optimism leads to constant doubt, a lack of innovation, and not persisting long enough to validate their ideas.

  • Without optimism, there will be no innovation (think Steve Jobs). You'll have limited resistance to the tough conditions that exist in startups. Despite tons of information provided by zealous pessimists, optimists believe everything will turn out fine. Pessimism is the default state of the human psyche and the easy way out. Optimism takes effort.
  • Pragmatism allows you to constantly shift your belief systems and re-prioritise. Most companies fail because their founders aren't able to prioritise effectively and drop things that aren't suitable for the current state of their business. Pragmatism allows you to battle against the inner perfectionist. An example mindset: "Just because something might have good results doesn't mean you should do it." You should consider all aspects of the decision and its corresponding tradeoffs. E.g. "Creating an IG account would be good!" → "It requires us to take our limited resources creating high-quality blog content" → "Let's do it later."
  • Stubbornness: when combined with pragmatism, we have a concise way of saying "strong beliefs loosely held". As mentioned above, the conditions in an early-stage startup are tough. You will have so much evidence why it won't work. Stubbornness and optimism help to stay grounded while experiencing large amounts of failure.
  • Steady, ceaseless effort: consistency. Without this, nothing significant happens.

Get the latest from me

If you want to hear about updates about this place (new posts, new awesome products I find etc) add your email below:

If you'd like to get in touch, consider writing an email or reaching out on X.

Check this site out on Github.