What Skills Do You Look For In Founders?

Q: What are the most important functional skills that you look for in a startup’s founders and on a startup team? Sales/Marketing/Operations/Technical/Changes every times?

A: (Brad): There are two attributes I want on every founding team – deep tech skills and capable sales skills.  Occasionally these come together in one person (e.g. a deep tech person also knows how to sell), but it’s usually great to have a combo.  Now – a "sales guy" is not what I mean by "capable sales skills" – the sales oriented person needs to get the tech, understand product, and be passionate about talking to whoever is going to be using the product. 

When I look back on my biggest successes, they usually had two to four co-founders of which at least two were technical and built the original product.  One of the founders was also the CEO and responsible for "the business" and – while he often had heavy involvement in the product design, he wasn’t coding on a daily basis.

I don’t think I’ve ever had a success where at least one person on the founding team wasn’t deeply technical.

  • I am a young entrepreneur and have sought out a few experienced entrepreneurs and professors to mentor me/serve on my advisory board for my start-up. I am in the process of searching for someone who is deeply technical (to compensate for my little understanding technically) but my question to you, Brad, is if I am the idea guy with little technical skills…what do you suggest the best way to be more “technical”. Reading? Classes? Building (or at least trying to build)? I still have a few years to decided what I want to undergrad in college to be…do you suggest it be computer science in order for me to get a better understanding of the technology? I assume that in the future I will be hiring software engineers/programmers and know that I have to be knowledgeable in the technical area in order to grow my company (both now and in the future).

  • If you are in college, definitely take some computer science classes. Also hack around – build some stuff on your own to learn how it works. You can get a surprising amount of perspective and education simply by taking on some small projects and building them all the way through.

  • required levels-
    technical skills: not ignorant will do
    management skills: enough to not make mistakes
    leadership skills:
    way way more than usual person
    otherwise shouldn’t you just take a desk job