The Traits That Define Great Entrepreneurs

Posted by Neha Palacherla /September 12, 2013 / Hot Topics

This Hot Topic was inspired by Tom Limongello’s post on FD:Discuss asking about the personality traits that great entrepreneurs have. We’re always thinking about the qualities that make a great entrepreneurs.  So, we decided to compile a list of our own – borrowing from both entrepreneurship gurus and our own experience running a curated network of entrepreneurs.

Here are our top characteristics of great entrepreneurs.

8. Clarity: Do you know what you want to build/achieve and can you tell other people about it? 

The ability to articulate, according to Steve Blank, is one of the qualities a founder should have. You have to be clear about the vision you have for your company, but you also have to be able to explain clearly to others what your company is about.


7. Resourcefulness: Can you come up with creative ways to solve difficult problems?

The only guarantee you have as an entrepreneur is that you will definitely have to deal with the unexpected. It’s a necessity to be able to come up with creative solutions for the problems that pop up along the way. There’s no “entrepreneur’s handbook” so you have to come up with the answers yourself.


6. Flexibility: Can you adjust to changing situations?

Being a founder means being able to adjust. Mark Suster makes the point that when a product isn’t doing well, entrepreneurs have to fine tune until they find the right product/market fit. It takes flexibility to iterate on your idea and adjust your vision.


5. Passion: Is there anything else you’d rather be doing?

Entrepreneurs have to be passionate for what they’re doing. They need to have a “thirst for learning,” according to SF ManagingDirector Kevin Adler. You have to be able to say “there is nothing else I’d rather be doing.”  Passion is what keeps you going when the roller coaster is on the downward trajectory.


4. Velocity: Can you move quickly in the right direction?

According to our friend Merriam Webster, velocity is “the rate of change of position along a straight line with respect to time.”  Startups have few advantages, and one of them is the ability to move quickly. But it’s not just about movement, it’s about movement in the right direction. Entrepreneurs can attack problems with speed and focus, and probably get more done in a normal day that most.


3. Comfort in Chaos: Do you feel at home with a lack of order?

Despite some media portrayal, startups are not all about bean bags and ping pong tables. Everything starts from scratch and that means a total lack of processes at the beginning. That’s actually part of what allows them to move faster. But not everyone is comfortable in that environment. You have to not only be comfortable, but thrive in controlled chaos.


2. Resilience: Can you get back up after you’re (continually) knocked down?

Determination, tenacity, dedication–all parts of resilience. FD member Hiep Dang says that to be an entrepreneur, “you need to have the willingness to persevere…and fight for what you believe in.” But not just once or twice, being resilient means the ability to get back up after being continually knocked down.


1. Naughtiness: Are you willing to bend the rules to get there?  

This one is directly from Paul Graham, who says that entrepreneurs “delight in breaking rules, but not rules that matter.” Being naughty isn’t just doing bad things, it’s doing things the “wrong” way or taking the unconventional route to get where you need to go.


These aren’t the only qualities that make a great entrepreneur, but these are the ones we think are important. Which qualities do you think we’re missing?

Do any of these personality traits describe you? Then maybe you should get started on that side project you’ve been thinking about!