What makes a good web startup founder?


What are some the characteristics and qualities that you have seen that they may have in common.

Founders Characteristics

asked Nov 20 '09 at 08:00
Usman Sheikh
1,728 points
  • What type of web startup? – James Black 14 years ago
  • Web Based startups could really vary from anything from www.mahalo.com to 37signals. Web based startup founders have to deal with some unique challenges to get their business off the ground. The purpose of my question was to get responses regarding some characteristics or qualities you think some of the successful founders have in common. – Usman Sheikh 14 years ago
  • @Usman Sheikh - That is a different question: What qualities do some successful founders have in common. You may want to change your question. – James Black 14 years ago

6 Answers


There are many different types of web startups, so this is difficult to answer reasonably.

But, for example, a visionary will be very passionate about how they see changing the world, but then reality will eventually settle in and they will either adjust to reality or continue to fight in what they believe. For example, Second Life had a vision, but the reality of the types of enterprises were not what they expected, but they have adapted, and it seems modified their vision.

Then there are those that just want to monetize an idea that someone else envisioned, as they expand the idea, for example, what it seems happened with Facebook.

So, which type of business describes yours? Perhaps you are somewhere in between these three. :)

answered Nov 20 '09 at 12:28
James Black
2,642 points


I think that a single founder is going to be in trouble. Successful startups almost always require a team, even at the very beginning. I gave a brief talk about this recently; you can see the slides about half-way down http://www.caycon.com/downloads.php under "Presentation: Building a High-Performance Startup Team."

In the presentation, I distilled the essential characteristics down to six C-letter words:

  • Character: You want team members with integrity, who you can count on to do the right thing.
  • Compatibility: You'll be spending 18 hours a day, 6 days a week with your co-founders, so you want to truly enjoy each others' company.
  • Commitment: See the 18 hours a day, above.
  • Conviction: Everybody on the team has to truly believe in the "magic" of your product/service.
  • Challenge: Everybody on the team has to love overcoming challenges, even when others tell them that it can't be done.
  • Competence: People should have some reasonable degree of competence in their areas of responsibility, whether it be technology, sales, or whatever. But I put this last because these are largely learnable skills if the first five C-words are met.
answered Nov 21 '09 at 03:33
Akira Hirai
36 points


Standard qualities would be things like persistence, focus and passion. However there are more subtle things that come as a founder matures and gains experience. These are thing like knowing when to stop running around like a headless chicken and take a break. Hard work is obviously important but so is relaxation, that is when the best solutions to problems and great ideas come to you. I believe it is important to get that balance right early to avoid unnecessary mistakes and burnout.

answered Nov 20 '09 at 19:42
Daniel Vaughan
231 points
  • Very true. The point about knowing when to stop is especially intriguing. Do you think timelines should be established or goals set as to when one should wait till they get traction? – Usman Sheikh 14 years ago


Tenacity. You've just got to put your head down, buckle down for the ride, and do it.
Tasks can be detailed, but this quality must come from within you. It's very hard to learn it from outside sources.
JFDI - Mark Suster

answered Feb 2 '10 at 16:41
Eric Amzalag
818 points


I definitely agree with Daniel. It is important also to have balance and know when to stp and see if it is time for a different approach.

answered Feb 2 '10 at 16:38
Abhay Vardhan
126 points


Coming from my own experience, along with studying about founders from startups big and small, I see the most successful founders having these 2 qualities:

  1. The founder must be wholly believe in the idea of the startup they are building, and
  2. The founder must be extremely proficient in their area of focus

If you have 1, then the dedication and passion will fall into place, even on the days you want to give up. This doesn't not mean the idea isn't tweakable as you progress. Sometimes the idea is a means to an end (ie Flickr). But overall, look at Google. They believed in their idea in spite of the 100's of me too search engines already available.

Quality #2 is obvious. You need to be the best at what you do to add the most value to your startup. This can be in sales, technology, or domain knowledge of a particular niche. Also, if you have this then you have the confidence of your team, employees, and investors.

answered Nov 30 '09 at 03:45
Joe A
1,196 points

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