The 10 Cs Super-Successful Startup Founders Have in Common
The qualities that make an uber-successful tech startup founder are a complex, even mystical, blend of traits. It’s true there are many other factors which determine whether or not someone will hit the big time, but no matter what the sector, product, or service, we’ve found all super-star founders share key characteristics and attitudes. Here are our top 10 Cs that super-successful tech startup founders all have in common.
The ability to communicate well is vital, not just with investors but with customers, suppliers and the wider community and network. It’s also crucial to build a team of people who individually bring something fresh to the table while understanding each other’s viewpoints.
Maya Pindeus, Co-Founder and CEO of Humanising Autonomy and winner of AWS Software Startup Founder of the Year, gives her key ingredient for success as “a great, visionary and, most importantly, diverse team”.
Growing from three founders to more than 50 employees has been one of the toughest but most exciting challenges of the journey so far, according to Maya. She adds: “We’re lucky to have brought together a group of talented, motivated, and fun people.”
Trailblazers instinctively build a network of like-minded people to bounce ideas off and turn to for advice. It can be lonely running a business and sometimes impossible to see the bigger picture, so forging relationships with others at a similar stage in their journey can be invaluable. AWS Software Startup Founder of the Year Silver medalist Tanya Field is Co-Founder and Chief Product Officer of Novatiq Solutions. She advises finding the right partners to make your vision a reality as “now, more than ever, great businesses are based on winning partnerships.”
When progress is slow, or it feels like you’re going backwards, successful founders keep pushing on. They understand that ideas and products need to keep evolving and if you’re not adapting and moving forward, you’re making life easier for your competitors.
Osvaldo Spadano scooped the Bronze medal in the AWS Software Startup Founder of the Year Awards. He says his toughest challenge since co-founding his business Akoova, which provides Magento cloud hosting on AWS for retailers, was “staying positive during the first year of bootstrapping the business, without a salary and with a wife and two children to look after.”
Top founders know when to pivot and many, such as Akoova’s Osvaldo Spadano, favor a ‘lean thinking’ mentality. This means starting small, staying flexible and evolving constantly. Rapidly adapting to customer preferences is something Humanising Autonomy’s Maya Pindeus also believes in. She explains: “I believe in experimentation and an iterative design process when building a business. It’s so important to test your ideas early. “Make sure you talk to potential customers, users, and investors early, and listen to their feedback, iterate, and repeat, creating a fast-moving, exciting, and rewarding process.”
Efficiency and attention to detail might sound dull, but they’re absolutely crucial, especially when it comes to product quality and customer service. There are no shortcuts, which is why the most successful founders definitely do sweat the small stuff. Tanya Field points out: “It’s important to remember that the best idea in the world is useless if it is not executed correctly.”
Tanya’s tips include raising more money than you think you’re going to need and never underestimating how long it will take to achieve your goals because “excellence takes time.”
6. Can-do attitude
There will always be setbacks and obstacles that are outside a founder’s control, but what sets the elite few apart is their resilience. Not only do they bounce back, but they learn from their mistakes.
7. Call for help
Great founders don’t try to build or do everything themselves—they’ve learned to delegate or ask for help. It’s easy to get sucked into working 24/7, but there’s plenty of research that shows too much stress or overwork leads to bad decisions. Be big enough to recognize when someone else might be able to do it better, find the right angle, or come up with a smarter idea.
8. Cloud power
If you’re on a big mission and dealing with a lot of moving data, you need a trustworthy and secure place to store information, but it also has to be simple to use and easy to access. Maya Pindeus, who’s worked with AWS since launching Humanising Autonomy in 2017, says: “Having AWS cloud storage services has really allowed us to focus on providing our behavior AI products to customers in various fields—enabling the fast and easy deployment of our technology—rather than having to worry about the reliability of our storage platform.”
Novatiq Solutions’ Tanya Field adds that great customer service is crucial: “Having a dedicated manager to help us get the most from our AWS investments has been hugely valuable.”
Being bold enough to take a risk and try something new or unusual can be a game-changer. This means holding your nerve and trusting your instincts. Disrupting a sector by doing something in a completely transformative way often ruffles feathers and can feel like a lonely place to be.
10. Clear narrative
Create a compelling story for your brand from the start. It’ll help you to stand out and differentiate you and your business from competitors, especially when it comes to investors, customers, and the media. That said, don’t ever be tempted to bluff—keep it authentic or you might regret it at a later stage. Tell your story so that it reflects everything that’s unique about you and what you’re so determined that your startup will achieve.
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