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Well, you should have some superpowers. It's generally speaking useful to be a good product person. It's useful to have good skills in leadership, bringing networks in, persuading people, and it's useful to be able to -and this is kind of fundamental- recognize whether you are on track or not.
Generally speaking, you have to have some things that are a unique edge to you, some things that are unique to the problem you are trying to solve, and some things that will help you get an edge. Because competitive differentiation and competitive edge are super important.
It's usually best to have two or three people you trust on a team rather than being a solo founder. It's not to say that solo founders don't actually play out successfully. But most often, two or three people are much better.
If you have two or three founders, you have different skills you can compensate. In the diversity of problems you encounter as a founder, you can actually attack them.
Great founders seek the networks that will be essential to their task. And they realize it's not just about, "I am superman, I can do this anywhere". In order to be successful, you have to go to where the strongest networks are for the particular kind of thing that I am doing.
The reason why Silicon Valley startups are so successful is because of all of the great people you meet there.
It's very conventional to say you're a contrarian these days. So it's actually pretty easy to become contrarian. It's hard to be contrarian and right.
When you think about being contrarian, you have to think about how is it that smart people disagree with you, from a position of intelligence. And that there is something that you know that they don't know that will actually play out to be true.
As a founder, should you be doing the work? Or should you be recruiting people and delegating the work? The answer to this is, actually, you need to do both.
In fact, not only you need to do both, but you need to sometimes do one at 100% and sometimes the other at 100%. And so what you will see, when you start thinking about what makes you a great founder, is you navigate these apparent paradoxes.
And the reason for this is that entrepreneurs are frequently given the advice to have a vision and stay firm against their adversity.
Part of what being a great founder means is being both able to think about what it is you want to be doing, and also being smart enough that you are listening to criticism.
Founders are thought of as being risk takers. Where everyone else cowers in fear, they boldly go out. You have to be a risk taker, you have to be thinking about how you make a really coherent risk because in fact the only really big opportunities happen to be ones that have more risks associated with them.
On the other hand, when you are beginning to apply how you think about risks as an entrepreneur, you have to also think about how you essentially take this risk in an intelligent way that doesn't just go, "oh yeah, risk to the wind, who cares."
You should jump between them. You should always have a long-term vision in mind. But if you are not focused on solving the problem that's immediately in front of you, you're screwed.
So part of the question about how to put these things together is you say, "okay short term- what's the thing I need to be doing today? Have I made progress today? have I made progress this week? But is it largely on path?"
It's a constantly changing problem to face when you are trying to found a company. There is not one skill set, there is an ability to learn and adapt. And an ability to constantly have a vision that's driving you, but also to be taking input from all sources and then to be creating networks all around you.
And that's essentially what makes a great founder.
People frequently think product strategy is fundamental to startups- I have a product idea, that's a thing, I'm a founder.
Actually, the next level down on strategy is usually product distribution, because no matter how good your product is, if it doesn't get the customers, you’re hosed.
That is actually pretty important in being able to judge a founder. Because if you don't have that level of clarity, you are not going to be able to assemble the network behind you.
You are not going to be able to get investors, you are not going to be able to get employees. You have to be able to articulate a very clear mission about what you are doing.
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