Forces of Nature

Read Time: 4 mins

-  Aka the common thread we could find in the archetypes of the best Founders  –

 

Not dissimilar from other Firms, we at Matrix spend a lot of time interacting with Founders, trying to become smarter at picking the best from the rest. While it would be simplistic and foolhardy to try to come up with a formula (not that it ever stopped us!), we do find it helpful to think of where a particular Founders’ strength lies on the organization building pyramid (illustration below):

 

Founders are sometimes missionaries starting at the top of the pyramid, others are execution machines and work their way up. Both archetypes succeed famously. There is no “one size fits all” and there are a variety of approaches – so let me focus on what we have found to be in common amongst the best Founders:

  • they demonstrate remarkable clarity of thought – they are clear about what they are trying to accomplish and are able to articulate and sell it exceedingly well to all stakeholders
  • they are hustlers and very resourceful – they know and like the buck to stop with them and generate choices and find solutions to hard problems
  • they are resilient – while failure is not an option, they handle setbacks very well and more often than not it spurs them on to achieve even more
  • all work very, very and (sometimes) painfully hard – no work life balance for this category
  • not always popular – they are not looking to be loved or liked, they want to do the right thing and be respected and followed for it
  • extremely competitive – second place is first amongst losers for them, they take no prisoners and are paranoid about competition and competitors
  • often contra in their thinking – more right than wrong and excellent judgement on when to reverse their position if need be
  • their fearlessness and risk–taking ability is obviously higher than most but is also coupled with good judgment on where the risks are inordinate
  • they are “experiential” Founders – ones who have experienced the problem themselves and spent a lot of time on it before starting a business to solve them
  • good humans – they are not out to screw people and have grounded human values

So, what about domain expertise, business modeling, commercial sense, numerate, analytical ability, customer focus etc.? Well, all are important no doubt, and no one has everything in equal measure. At Matrix, as part of our foundersfirst! philosophy, we spend more time trying to get a handle of the “intrinsic” traits of the Founder more so than their “extrinsic” abilities – the latter are seen on the resume and track record. At the early stage of investing we operate in, we find that figuring out how a Founder is built is as, if not more important than spending time on details of the business that they are trying to build! You can like them; hate them; agree with them; debate with them and think they are truly off the wagon wheel – BUT, you cannot ignore them!

They are essentially "forces of nature”.