How to start a Startup: Lecture 13: How to be a great Founder

Lecture 13



In this lecture, Reid Hoffman talked about how to be a great Founder.

What is a great Founder?
Steve Jobs? Bill Gates? Mark Zuckerberg? A great founder is diverse, well-rounded. They can do all the things like, how to make a product or service fit, how to market a product, how to fundraise, how to manage, etc.

Important skills of a great Founder
Teamwork – Often two to three people. To compensate each other weaknesses because no one is perfect
Location – Always know where your company will be successful, know the marketplace and know where your product or service fit.


Should I do the work or delegate?
You need to do both. Not 50% work 50% delegate, in fact, you have to do both 100%.

Should I be flexible or persistent?
You have to be both flexible and persistent. In the battlefield, you will go Am i in fact increasing confidence in my investment thesis? Or decreasing value in my investment thesis? If you are increasing confidence it is good to stay on track. Be flexible, even if it is decreasing, that doesnt mean jump out. Instead, look for the problem and solve the problem.

Should I be confident or cautious?
You have to be both confident and cautious. A great founder must be able to hold your beliefs with confidence and also smart enough to listen to criticism, negative feedbacks and competitive entries.

Should I focus internally or externally?
Both. You cannot just ignore the world and ignore the competitors. You also cannot be only meeting people, build connections and gather network intelligence. You have to focus on both in order to succeed.

Should I work by vision or data?
Well actually in fact, data only exists in the framework of a vision that you are building, a hypothesis of where you are moving to. And the data can even be negative and you can think, well actually in fact this negative data means that I need to change or alter the way that I’m thinking about something. But a great founder actually keep on a specific vision about what he/she is doing. And sometimes when you have the specific vision you don’t necessarily actually ever end up at that big vision that you were thinking about.

Should I take risk or minimise risk?
Be a risk taker and know how to take intelligent risk. A great Founder must learn to minimise the risk.

Should I focus on long term or short term?
All founders have to focus on both long and short term. Always have long term vision in mind and also solve the problems immediately in front of you.

How do I know if I am a great Founder?
– It’s generally speaking useful to be a good product person. It’s useful to have good skills about leadership, bringing networks in, persuading people, and it’s useful to be able to recognise whether you are on track or not.


Strategy for selecting right early adopters?

– One fundamental thing to think about is the product distribution. We have to break through the noise that may come across. Your strategy today when you are looking at product distribution has to be what is my really decisive edge? What is the hack that I know that other people don’t?

How do you if someone is a good founder or not?

– Networking is the key. A lot of people are huge believer of references. Some only meet through reference.

How important is the ability to articulate insight?

– Many would definitely say that the ability to say coherently what you are targeting, to articulate something that isn’t trying to boil the ocean, or a wise army knife approach. One focus, like you are right about this and it works. That is actually pretty important in being able to judge a founder. Because if you dont have that level of clarity, you are not going to be able to assemble the network behind you. You are not going to be able to get investors, you are not going to be able to get employees, you have to be able to articulate a very clear mission about what you are doing. Insight is helpful although a little bit of this depends on the stage. A lot find themselves attracted to founders who have analyzed the problem in a good way. But often times many great founders who have not present good analysis but have an instinct about what they are doing. So you more chart what is going on around them.

How do you keep persistence when starting?
– You have to believe in your product, that what it will bring good to everyone, and everyone should live with it. You must have a strong confidence and passion for it. Although it takes longer than expected to where you want to be, but always tell yourself it is going to be okay and it is going to be worth it.

What makes a good co-founder?

– The most important thing is to collaborate well. You must have serious-trust between each other.

How to identify good founders in different areas?

– The talk was aimed at what is unique about the mindset I think of founders. There is great founder across all. All founders– there are differences. For example, in software speed to market, speed to learning is really key. In hardware if you screw it up you are dead. So accuracy really matters. If you build and ship the wrong thing you are hosed. So generally speaking as an investor, and this is part of the reason a lot of investors have a certain set of things they learn really well and reapply, is because they try to understand a domain really well to be able to identify which of the founders in this domain really matter and if we are investing in this domain how do we do that well? So there are attributes that are unique per domain.

Jun, 08, 2016