Among the founders of billion-dollar startups, almost 60% were not first-time founders.
In a randomly selected group of startups that had raised a minimum of $3 million in venture capital funding but didn’t reach unicorn status — the typical picture for a seed-funded startup — about 40% were not first-time founders.
The statistic shows that repeat founders were more likely to start a billion-dollar company.
This is not to discourage first-time founders. It is rather to encourage those with a failed or those with a small outcome in the first attempt to go at it again.
Another relevant data point: of the repeat founders of billion-dollar companies, more than 70 percent had founded a previous company (42% in absolute numbers) that was acquired for around $10 million or had similar levels of revenue — compared to 24 percent in the random group, a statistically staggering difference.
In other words, founders with one small exit or prior company with a small outcome were much more likely to end up building billion-dollar companies.
Even first-time founders like Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates were not really first-time builders.
They had started various projects before starting their companies that we know them for.
Zuckerberg had created a music app called Synapse, and Gates had built Traf-O-Data, before starting Microsoft.
People who have a bug for starting projects, creating side-hustles, and seeing them through, are much more likely to start massively successful companies than those with shiny resumes or experience of having worked in leadership roles at large companies but lack a bug for building.