Episode 100 – The Seven Traits of Killer Founders


August 15, 2023


The following are patterns gleaned from my work with highly successful founders new to the industry. 

Killer Founders are:

1) Auto-didacts – they learn new subjects quickly and facilely – this IS correlated to being just plain smart, but not any more than the top 10% of smarties

2) Humble about what they do not know – Gosh, it’s tough to learn if you’re a know-it-all. Killer founders understand their biggest weakness is knowledge asymmetry vs. the professional operator. They accept this and are constantly ready to admit newbie mistakes.


3) Curious – while humility is hard to measure, curiosity is not. Killer founders immediately ask questions to learn when humbled by something they now know they should have known all along (the difference between U/S/W and weighted velocity metrics).

4) Fail well – killer founders do not emotionally unravel or tantrum when they screw up royally. They may sigh or vent briefly but quickly isolate learnings and devise a different approach. They are NOT neurotic.

5) Not status-oriented – Killer founders aren’t motivated by the status of ‘founder’ or ‘entrepreneur,’ which has developed a rosy halo from bad faith stakeholders who monetize those about to start or who just started. Killer founders are obsessively goal-oriented.

6) Prone to experiment, not contemplate – over-analyzing and wheel-spinning is a deadly sin in entrepreneurship.

7) Not perfect managers or leaders – most consumer brands are poorly managed by BigCo standards. And. That. Is. OK. In Phases 1-4, things get broken. People are learning. There is no time for massaging egos and venerating the org chart. This is why groups of friends can do well.

The worst thing investors could ever do is look for a behavioral profile that essentially reads – smooth-talking public firm CEO. This political savvy is not only an irrelevant skill to early-stage companies – it almost assuredly correlates with someone who is very status-oriented, risk-averse, and, quite frankly, not a humble, auto-didact. I’d rather have a loose-talking frat boy with the above traits than Mr. CEO any day of the week if I were an angel investor.