Friday, May 19, 2006

Entrepreneur DNA and Championships

I was reading on the Sequoia Capital website about what they look for in the DNA of successful entrepreneurs.

Successful entrepreneurs possess the following attributes: Most come from modest
backgrounds. Many are immigrants or first generation Americans. All know the
value of money and understand the difference between need and want. Their
confidence is tempered by an understanding of their shortcomings. They know that
speed and stealth will usually help them beat large companies. They know that
other startups pose the greatest threat to their existence.

The profile makes sense to me, but I think they should add one thing. Championships. If I had an unproven entrepreneur, I'd want someone that had learned how to win. Straight A's and individual accomplishments are nice, but a real champion has done it with a team, against stiff competition, and under adversity. I've found that few people know how to really win, how to bear down, focus, suck it up when everything hurts to ultimately lead a team to a championship. I've seen more talented and smarter teams lose to a team that knows how to compete. A tight group, that understands their roles, that in a war, you never question or point fingers, but focus on the goal.

Here are a few tests.
1. Play pick up basketball. People that win hate to lose. Someone might tell that person, geez it's a pickup game, relax. Why, because they play harder than anyone else. I'm not saying they win every game, but over the long haul they will win much more than they lose. Even if it's only to eleven by ones. With each team win, they learn how to win the next time.

2. Play for stakes where it hurts to lose. This is a personal example, I was one of six sons and my father was a high school English teacher. We weren't wealthy. Every dollar was significant to me. We used to play Techmo Bowl tournaments. Each person put in a couple of bucks and then we would play head to head until we had a champion. I wasn't the best, but something about playing for money made some guys tight and others better. I was always better. My friends would joke that they could beat me, unless they played me for money. Look for the person that comes out on top when the stakes matter.

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