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What It Takes To Be An Entrepreneur

Entrepreneurship takes incredible dedication, even devotion. It is common to hear of people who worked 100 hour weeks in order to get their company started. Where does this energy come from? It is almost as though entrepreneurs need to be turbo-charged human beings. Some investors say that they look for "hungry" people, who see a wide gap between where they are in life, in material terms, and where they want to be. There is also the revenge theory, that the desire to build a visibly successful company, and be the visible CEO of it, is to show any number of individuals out of their past: relatives, former co-workers, former spouses, former bosses, that their estimate of the entrepreneur was wrong.

Painful personal experiences, setbacks, being passed over for promotions, even being picked last in basketball in high school, all this can be grist for the entrepreneurial mill.

Some angels and venture capitalists even go so far to say that they systematically look for this scar tissue when they examine management teams of early-stage companies. They frame questions to probe into the psyche of the entrepreneur, and see what kind of negative experiences are clanking around up there in their heads.

And it is interesting that the same investors who look for evidence of prior success or achievement in management teams they are going to put money behind, also say that having one or more failures, and learning from them, can be good experience as well.

Out for revenge

That sounds more like motives of movie villains than sources of energy for entrepreneurs.

Is desire for revenge really that strong a power source for entrepreneurs to draw upon? Especially to fuel a marathon race like building an enterprise from the ground up. Our own experience with roughly 200 entrepreneurs in the last 15 years leads us to question the validity of the "hungry man" theory.

The characteristics we have seen most often in successful entrepreneurs would be:

Amazingly energetic
Incredibly enthusiastic about their idea
In terrific health
Relentlessly positive (almost nauseatingly so)
An ability to listen and learn from those more experienced
The sense of being "on a mission"

The problem with drawing upon disappointment as a source of energy is that, as problems inevitably occur with a start-up company, it is easy for the entrepreneur to fall into a pattern of "here we go again" and begin blaming everyone else for their troubles rather than taking a gut check, changing strategy, and redoubling their efforts.

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