Fred Wilson (the VC world’s leading blogger) makes an insightful comparison between first time and serial entrepreneurs. I was thinking through the ‘who do you go to?’ question.
The people that are ‘going to’ first time entrepreneurs in ever increasing numbers, either as prospective funders or fellow team members (either as co-founders or ‘early hired hands’) may not really know what to expect when they attend their first ‘founder and funder get together’.
At the first meeting, all of the following descriptive terms may become immediately apparent in your first time founder:
- passion, enthusiasm
- focus, concentration
- relentlessness, determination
- energy, drive, intensity
- courage, stoicism, optimism
- initiative, self reliance
- spontaneity, creativity, imagination
But, thrown in, and possibly hard to detect at that first meeting, because they’re almost inevitably on their best behaviour, you will probably also get things that only become apparent once you’re on board:
- impetuosity, impatience
- ferocity, insensitivity, abrasiveness
- inexperience, naivety
- stubbornness, intransigence
However, if the ‘who do you go to’ is the other way round, and you are the first time founder (and you may find some of those negative aspects offensively derogatory and glib generalisations, or just applicable to anyone but yourself) you will be looking for the characteristics which Fred would expect in the serial entrepreneur:
- experience (probably in both founding and funding startups)
- patience, tolerance
- objectivity, caution
- team building
- business modeling
- other angels, mentors, VCs, grants, sponsors, corporate clients, suppliers, partners
- IP, legal
- marketing, PR
- IT (servers)
Ironically, if you are a first time founder, you will almost certainly have been looking for none of those things in this character that Fred Wilson so helpfully describes. You won’t really care whether someone approaching you was a first time funder or not.
You (despite whatever disdain you may feel for overt materialism in any other context) will be looking for only one thing in someone showing interest in helping you bring your idea to life. Money. And all of those negative aspects of the first time founder may combine to convince you that anything else that was on offer was a distracting irrelevance.
Funderpreneurial guru Dave McClure tells us that in The Valley, founders are becoming ever more fussy about funders, offering them minimal equity and control and still getting maximal valuation. My bet is that almost everywhere else is much more ‘old school’ and that savvy founders and funders are both relatively scarce commodities.
In which case those checklists above will go largely disregarded, because the only way to appreciate their value will be in retrospect, after having learned the hard way. Startups is still a game where in most cases the advantage is not with the first mover.