VC Cliché of the Week

I was talking to a group of MBA students yesterday and got onto the subject of what makes great entrepreneurs.

The first thing that came to mind was United States Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart’s comment,  "I can’t define pornography, but I know it when I see it."

Well I can’t define what makes a great entrepreneur, but I know one when I see one.

Pattern recognition is a powerful thing.  I’ve been doing venture capital for twenty years now.  I have personally backed over 50 entrepreneurs and I’ve been in venture capital partnerships that have probably backed over 200 entrepreneurs. I have watched which of them have succeeded and which have failed or flailed. And you learn things.

I believe you can see it in their eyes if you look hard enough.  There’s a sparkle, reflecting the energy and enthusiasm they bring to their projects. 

Here are the characteristics that I find most commonly in great entrepreneurs:

– Super bright, smartest person in the room syndrome
– Engaging, compelling, social personalities
– An insatiable passion for creating things
– An expertise and focus on the product
– The ability to rapidly mediate between the market and the development team
– A hunger for the big hit (ie the payday)
– A flair for PR and marketing
– The ability to listen to and really hear what others are saying

I am sure that others would have very different lists and as I alluded to at the start of the post, there really isn’t any formula for defining what makes a great enterpreneur.

But I know one when I see one.