Born with it: Personas of successful entrepreneurs

Ah, self-awareness. It can be rare in the entrepreneurial world. If you’ve got it, you already have a major edge. Mike Wilner argues that you need to hit all three of the following to succeed: founder readiness, opportunity, and unique qualification. To figure out whether you do, find out your entrepreneurial persona…

When we think about founding companies, sometimes we forget about life.

Veteran founders who have seen the trenches of startupland will tell you all about the things you didn’t consider. Brilliant ideas men don’t necessarily know budgets. Those hellbent on career success don’t always factor in health, family, relationships. Those shooting for the C-suite may be more focused on status than stable growth. 

Anyone can start up, but it takes a mix of factors to succeed.

Luckily, you might be able to figure this ahead of time. Identifying your “key” entrepreneurial characteristics, playing to its strengths and minding its weaknesses, can help you figure out whether you’re ready for launch.

And if you find out ahead of time that the entrepreneurial shoe doesn’t fit, you might just save yourself a little time and money in the long run.

The 7 types of entrepreneurs

According to serial founder and Prufrock Ventures cofounder Mike Wilner, the 7 types of entrepreneurs are configured against three categories:

  • Founder readiness
  • Opportunity
  • Unique qualifications

An aspiring business founder should ideally have all three before they quit their day job. 

The wandering aspirer

On the first rung of the ladder are those who only fit one of the core categories.

The wandering aspirer has the drive to create a business, but no real idea of what they want to do. They’re often inspired by other entrepreneurs and their stories of success, but lack the focus or resources to make it happen for themselves. 

It might not sound like it, but this persona suits the entrepreneurial pathway well. While they may not have an MVP or even an idea, people in this group have a singular vision for what they want out of life, whether it’s the money, freedom, or the megalomaniacal world domination that being a founder can bring. 

Gaining experience at other startups, dedicating time to ideating and a healthy dose of market research, or finding technical cofounders are good options for WAs. 

The hired hand

Many entrepreneurs have the qualifications to start a business but lack the drive to start or see things through. 

They’re not ideas men/women, but often get approached by ideas men/women to help make ideas happen. 

If you feel called out by this persona, rest assured you have the skills necessary to be a vital part of a startup in your chosen field. You just need the right opportunity. Hired hand personas fit comfortably into a support, executive, or cofounder role, rather than as a frontman. 

The excited contributor

Excited contributors’ enthusiasm for entrepreneurship makes them extremely persistent and hard-working. They will bring passion and conviction about an idea to the table, and be adept at getting team members and investors on board. 

If you’re an excited contributor, you’ll have the vision, but not necessarily the skill.

You’ll need to hire developers, programmers, pragmatic people, and marketers to assist you. 

You might make a great people manager, but sometimes you can be a little much (no offence). You’re best placed as the face of the company – presenting, innovating, and driving growth.

The high-risk founder

The next three personas have two out of three of those ‘ingredients’ (founder readiness, opportunity, unique qualifications). 

The high-risk founder has founder readiness and opportunity. What they lack is qualification. 

Roughly 20% of startups in Australia fail in their first year, and 60% fail in the first three. Tempted to run before they can walk, high-risk founders add risk to an already high-risk scenario. 

But success is possible. It might just be underpinned by sheer determination, a lot of (possibly expensive) trial and error, or blind luck. Battling their natures, high risk founders can de-risk by selecting an extremely pragmatic co-founder, a technical team, and a strict accountant.

The ready-to-strike founder

A ready-to-strike founder has the full set of qualifications necessary to achieve great things. They have the personality and the drive. They may even have founded startups previously, worked for startups, or participated in accelerator programmes.

But without that one focused opportunity to chase, their energy is wasted.

RTS founders may be risk averse, and struggle to settle on or commit to one pursuit. 

Networking can be the rescue of this persona. They make extremely valuable additions to teams who have an idea, but who are lacking the drive or vision to execute.

The low-commitment founder

Wilner’s main advice to this category is “go to therapy”.

Not in a harsh way. Just to make sure entrepreneurship is actually right for you. 

The low-commitment founder knows of a clear-cut opportunity and has the unique qualifications to make it happen, but has no drive to become a founder themselves. 

For this persona, glory holds little appeal. They tend to suit hands-off roles, or even roles as silent partners, advisors, or investors. 

The all-systems-go founder

All-systems-go personas have all three of the magic ingredients. They find themselves in right-place, right-time, right-person scenarios. 

All-systems-go personas are financially and emotionally secure. They’re ready to handle curveballs. They have a plan for the future, and a plan for failure. The best laid plans often go awry, but this entrepreneur type has the best chance.

Know your type 

Of all the criteria, founder readiness is the hardest to diagnose.

You’ll know an opportunity when you see one, and no matter how many pints you downed at uni, you’ll hopefully know about your own qualifications. 

But knowing the impact starting up will have on the rest of your life is impossible, so knowing whether you can handle it is tricky. 

Just avoid the trap of thinking it won’t matter. A sacrifice-it-all mentality is well and good until you actually have to sacrifice it all. The main difference between employment and self-employment is the amount that hinges on you. 

Wellbeing and mental stability not only comes first for your sake, but for the health of your startup, and the people you employ.

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Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

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