It is a common myth that most entrepreneurs who find success are young. Some of the most successful businesses today were founded by young, visionary entrepreneurs like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. But is this phenomenon wide enough to be viewed as a pattern and create a common profile of successful founders? has actually asked a similar question, looking at how you can identify founders even before they know they are founders.

In fact, some funds develop software to aid them in finding the rising stars of the startup world. Signalfire has created Beacon Talent, an AI-based system for identifying and sourcing talent, which takes the pressure off manually researching candidates.

For VCs, the management team of a startup is one of the essential elements they consider before deciding to invest. Sometimes the team is more important than the idea or the product itself. A creative, driven and experienced founder is a bigger guarantee of success than a good idea. Mainly because the business is the founder. At least in the beginning. He chooses his team and he manages everything about the startup. According to, 18% of startups fail because of team problems, some of which being lack of domain knowledge, lack of marketing knowledge (and plan), lack of technical knowledge, and lack of business knowledge. 

While there are some common traits that ideal founders have, there isn’t enough data to compile a profile of successful founders today. But there are some signs you should look out for before you choose a startup to invest in. 


How to spot ideal founders early

It is all about doing your due diligence even before meeting the founder and seeing the official presentation. It’s easy for anyone to make a good impression in a 30 minutes call or a one-hour meeting. Founders know they need to be on their best behavior, some of them even know what you as an investor want to see and hear. And most of them will come prepared with a good business plan, a good elevator pitch, a great presentation of the team and grand future plans. But are they for real?

  1. Look for the founder’s profiles on Social Media

If you’ve found a promising startup, take a look at the founder’s profiles on every Social Media channel available. Most founders will be on LinkedIn, some even on Facebook and Twitter. On LinkedIn you will most likely get to see the professional side of the founder. This is where you will find information on how he views business and how he interacts with peers. Facebook and Twitter could tell you much more about the actual personality of the founder and his behavior as well as his management skills. A startup is only as good as its team and a team is only as good as its manager. Being a good manager is a mandatory element in the profile of successful founders.

  1. Asses the experience the founder has

A founder with previous successful business experience is more likely to succeed than a first-timer. Usually, experienced founders will build an experienced team around them and will know how to manage said team in order to build a business that thrives. You can easily find details about their experience on the internet via Google search or the founder’s Social Media profiles.

  1. See how the founder interacts with potential customers

The one single necessary element for a business to be a business is to have a paying customer. But for a business to be successful it needs many paying customers. While the product can be great, if the customer service is poor, things are bound to go south sooner or later. As an investor, the first sign of a potential customer service issue can be spotted in the founder’s interaction with potential customers over Social Media or product review platforms. A good founder will take into account user feedback without getting defensive or even aggressive. And a good investor keeps an eye out for this when building his ideal profile of successful founders. 

  1. Understand how the founder’s values could clash with the business’s values

Inevitably the values by which a founder guides his life will transfer to the startup. His beliefs will shape and form each aspect of the business despite what the official presentation says. This is a huge watch-out especially in the case of startups with co-founders. Not sharing the same values will lead to issues that will derail the focus from growing a business to internal fights. Again, you can read these values between the lines of Social Media posts, interviews and any other public information about the founders. 

  1. Understand how the founder reacts to failure

In the world of startups failure is common. You test, you fail, you improve. This leads to better products, better processes, better team and a high level of resilience. All of which are mandatory for a startup to be successful. Founders who embrace failure are open to learning and improving. They ask questions, they admit to lack of knowledge and they are always solution oriented. 


The profile of successful founders

  • The most important trait of a founder is being able to spot problems within a market. Without this, that startup’s chances to succeed are slim.
  • Ideally, a good founder has previous business experience. Even if it is a failed business. Compared to first time entrepreneurs, they’ve already made mistakes and chances are they will not repeat them. 
  • The founder is a leader before being a manager. Someone who micromanages has very poor chances to create a positive work environment which is key to a successful startup. The founder needs to be a leader first. He needs to inspire his team, be solution oriented, and keep everyone motivated through the usual failures.
  • He is open to constant change. Most likely the idea he started with will change and he will have to pivot the business model several times before he finds the product or market fit. A founder who is flexible and embraces change easily has greater chances to build a successful startup.
  • He has a vision beyond making money. Building a startup is consuming and having only money as motivation will not get a founder far. They need to have a vision and a clear image of how their company will change or improve the world.

What are your methods for identifying successful founders early on? Let us know in the comments section.

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