There are many ways of working out whether a startup founder has what it takes to make their business succeed – here’s how we do it.

The characteristics can be hard to evaluate, and the following is by no means a hard-and-fast scorecard. Each individual founder and team is different, and we value diversity of perspectives, backgrounds, experiences and personalities (see Maven Venture’s article on choosing a great startup team for related info).

Especially at the very early stage, where Maven invests, venture truly is a people business.

Bearing all that in mind, here are the specific characteristics we look for in a founder:

  • Passionate: willing to spend ten or more years of their life working on a particular problem
  • Technical: has the technical abilities to build and scale the product
  • Coachable: open to new perspectives and advice
  • Driven and persistent: is competitive and has a burning desire to win
  • Fundraiser: has the ability to convey the business opportunity to investors and get them excited to support it
  • Recruiter: can inspire other A-players to join the team
  • Communicator: can articulate the company’s vision and is a compelling storyteller
  • Likeable: we’ll be excited to spend a significant amount of time with this person over the next several years
  • Humble: has the humility to lead a team and weather ups and downs
  • Transparent: shares the good and the bad news openly and tells the ‘real story’
  • Expert: has background knowledge that puts them in a better position in their domain to succeed

In addition to this, it helps to remember that the exact operational details of the companies we invest in are bound to change, and you need to be conscious of this. Having a clear idea of what characteristics help a founder navigate the ups and downs has been one key driver of success in our investment strategy.

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