Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Are you a startup personality? (SE+NS+C)*CD*(n)BSC

I've been trying to figure this one out for awhile now: What are the personality traits that make a startup guy?

Why me? Why am I attracted to this life? Is it a disease, a curse or a gift? Frankly, at different times, it's all three.

I've decided that it's really a a specifically balanced combinations of personality traits and genetic makeup; it's this particular 'entrapenuer' combination that seems to attract people long term to starting companies. Usually over and over. I'm also reasonably sure it's not all that complex.

I see it being 5 main components:

Smart Enough (SE): Startup guys need to be smart, intelligence is important, but it's not the deciding factor. This is a weird balance thing. I'm not dumb, but I'm no genius either. I like to think I'm this special intellect, but I know I'm just above average (on a good day). I'll bet you know some pretty successful people that aren't entirely brilliant. I do. I also know some incredibly brilliant people that would make truly pitiful startup guys. There's a sweet spot here that's 'just right'. Usually not a rocket scientist, but not a career dish washer either. Smart enough.

New Stuff (NS): You're the guy with the new car, the new Mac Air (or whatever's hot of late) and you've been to the newest restaurant in town. You're just like that. Ahh.. something NEW.. gotta check that out. This, I think, is a genetic defect that worked against us through most of human history but now works in our favor. It's likely people who liked new stuff were killed off very early in life when we poked that new animal we found sleeping in the shade under that rock and it turned out to be a migrating saber tooth tiger. End of that genetic line. Now? People who are always up on the NS are likely to be the 'go to' guy about something new at work, at home or among our friends. Society morphs and negative traits become, well, useful. It's also why there are, likely, less of us (startup types) than everyone else. These traits were repressed for eons by the environment and are only recently proving valuable.

Curiosity (C): You've got to be curious about things that, frankly, you have no business screwing around with. (see above: Saber Tooth Tiger). This is similar to New Stuff, but 'in addition too'. They don't necessarily go together and you need them both to be a startup guy. I think curiosity tends toward grokking concepts and ideas more than 'stuff', but it's a closely related trait to NS.

Connecting Dots (CD): Very important trait. This is taking the three things above and making sense of stuff, ideas, concepts and the environment in ways other people don't think of. You synthesize ALL the time. Constantly. You can see how, for instance, a 100 million video's on the web scattered across thousands of sites could be aggregated into a video guide that captures the long tail of internet video. Build some filtering tools and viola!, you can now see that you've got something content owners can use to disintermediate the old school distribution channels like cable and satellite TV, or how a commodity hardware manufacturer can add a little cheap processing power (like an RSS reader) into their TV, Cellphone or gamebox and they can disintermediate the old distribution channels. Hell, you could even see how the old distribution channels out of panic and fear would buy your service to keep from being eaten alive by those uppity content and device makers (bastards!). Or maybe you're just noticing that going 23.5 MPH along 20th street in Denver let's you hit all the green lights, all the time. You do it all the time though, and you can't seem to stop it.

Bull Shiting/Charisma (BSC). Yep. Got it, Gotta Have It. Gotta Embrace it. The ability to Bullshit is pretty key to being a startup guy. Most importantly, the ability to BS yourself. You've got to be able to BS yourself into believing something no one else believes, first. Then, you need the ability to do that with people around you, unless you're planning on doing it alone, which isn't a good idea...and potentially down the road a bit with people you're trying to get investment from. Some call this being "Charismatic". There's some of that involved,but it's different... I think it's 60/70% ability to BS, 30/40% being charismatic.

In short: (SE+NS+C)*CD*(n)BSC where (n) is the level of BS and Charisma you can effectively muster.

Of course, I'm no expert and I'm just a indulging in bit of navel gazing here more than anything.

Hell, most likely this is just a bunch of bullshit.


Unknown said...

Got to know. Have you come up with the actual score from the equation that determines entrepreneurial personality?

Sam said...

I have been with 3 startups and I am starting into a 4th. Even when I look for a new job and send out resumes, I still get tons of feedback from startups. I haven't decided if this is a good thing or not. I did a search "what attracts me to startups?" and that brought me to your article. It is nice to know I am not the only one.

An excellent read from an ex-evangelical.

  As you know, I once was an evangelical megachurch pastor and my pastoral career stretched over many years. Eventually, I could no longer t...