What VCs look for in a startup exec

startup executive

A startup exec? photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/mpires/5015343129/ Miguel Pires da Rosa licensed under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0

What does it really take to be a startup exec?

Being a startup exec is hard. I’ve done it 4 times, with mixed results. I’ll tell you one thing that I’ve written about before – you learn more from failure than success.

But on the other hand – becomingĀ a startup exec is easy. Just start a company. That’s easy to do. But let’s assume that you really think you want to be part of one of those sexy, funded startups. Then you need to understand what funders (typically venture capitalists) look for. You can read about exactly that here.

You can read the entire article for yourself, but here are some highlights, followed by my comments and some additional thoughts at the end:

“People should want to follow this person”

This point is very important. Ultimately, all businesses are made up of people. As CEO or a leading executive in the company, you need to be able to motivate those working with you. Since you may lack access to typical motivational tools like bonus payments or additional vacation options, the leadership should be innate.

Other keys:

it is really important for those CEOs to have really good market vision and to understand where the space is going, where the product should go and what the other players in the market are doing.

I’ll disagree here, with qualification. You can generally learn these things over time, and even have team members who focus on this. It doesn’t have to be a core competency of the startup exec team.

Now some of my thoughts:

  • Emotional stability. A startup is, by definition, a roller coaster ride. You can’t let the lows get you depressed, or let the highs blind you.
  • Committed to the project. It will take longer than you expect.
  • Willing to be flexible. You don’t know what will happen along the way, or how the company will change over time.
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