Over the years, I have had the chance to informally meet many startup entrepreneurs both in India and overseas. More recently through the launch of Wipro Ventures, Wipro’s $100-million (`640 crore) fund focused on new age technologies, these interactions have increased and become more formal.
While most startups that I meet are in the technology space, I have noticed 3-4 key attributes that stand out in the startup entrepreneurs that most impress. In my meetings, I find myself looking for these same attributes.
The first is an unflinching, well-researched conviction in his or her idea which can endure timeless scrutiny and deal with self-doubt. Successful startup entrepreneurs get to the heart of the customer’s pain point and then arrive at a solution. Most people have a solution and then they try to find a problem to solve. Often the ideas proposed by the startup are unconventional, if not radical. Hence they are bound to have their share of sceptics. Those startup entrepreneurs that defend their ideas and win over their critics in an unflustered manner stand out.
While conviction and self-belief is critical, an equally critical hallmark of an entrepreneur is his or her ability to be flexible and to change course if things are not working out. The ability to pivot (often more than once at times) can make something mediocre into a billion-dollar company. Look at many successful startups that have scaled up rapidly and you will find that when they see that their idea does not resonate with the prospective customer, they keep the insight but build a new product or service. The idea is not just about failing fast, but also doing it cheaply.
Talent Matters! This may be the single largest reason for startup entrepreneurs to fail — inability to find the right talent. The first few hires can make or break the company. Knowing what skills will be needed and how to tap into the talent communities is a skill the entrepreneur should have. If they do not have it, this is one area where they need professional help. It is these few people along with the founder who ultimately build and define the culture of the organisation which then is also the draw for talent. Ability to collaborate and being resilient has to be built in startup’s DNA from day one.
Confidence and the ability to communicate is the last thing I will write about. We met the head of a tech startup recently who had not been able to attract funding because the person was unable to explain in simple terms what that technology could do. A person’s ability to tell a compelling story that engages the imagination of the fund managers as well as the employees is becoming more important than ever. Communicating confidence and belief generates trust. An entrepreneur who exudes confidence has the ability to draw in the talent and resources needed to build his or her dream company.
(Rishad Premji is Chief Strategy Officer and member of the board at Wipro)