I have been grappling with describing the characteristics of a startup team or entrepreneur. Perhaps it is too many Fortune and TechCrunch articles all professing to have the top 10 “things” all startup founders need. Words and phrases often look like “self-starter,” “creative,” “customer focused,” “data-driven,” and on. I won’t put up much of a fight against how important these traits are, and the many others thrown out in popular publications and blogs. That said, I do believe that the inches these columns occupy are often at the expense of splitting the proverbial hairs of larger concepts such that new words and phrases can be printed. The end result is a collection of Nostradamus-esque claims as to how the new generation of entrepreneurs should think in order to assure success.
George Carlin once famously distilled the Ten Commandments down to Two Commandments. The point was that splitting of concepts and being overly specific made for a cumbersome list. In that same spirit, indulge me in the same exercise for the above mentioned characteristics of a startup entrepreneur. I defy you to find a journalist who has put forward a word/phrase (“be flexible,” “think big,” “hire well,” etc) that doesn’t fall into one of two camps: (1) those that suggest a willingness to learn and grow, and (2) those that denote a drive and ambition towards a goal.
So here it is. The revised, condensed, and altogether practical list of needed startup entrepreneur characteristics:
Humble covers the needed personality traits associated with seeking help, listening to customers, respecting a team, building productive relationships, and the like. Hungry engages all the needed parts of innovating, experimenting, never settling, driving results, and other productively ambitious characteristics. These terms have floated lightly about the startup ecosystem for a time. I am merely recognizing them as an appropriate and worthwhile way to view your company and yourself.
If you are trying to build something important, something meaningful in the startup world, then I challenge you to internalize these words. Put them on your office walls, say them frequently, mean them when you say them, even tattoo them.