What VCs Look for in Founders / by Lewis Lin

Founders Matter More than the Team

“An excellent idea with a mediocre team would interest me far less than a good team with a mediocre idea.” - Gigi Levy-Weiss

65% of startups fail “…due to problems within the startup’s management team.” - Noah Wasserman, The Founder’s Dilemma

What VCs Look for in Founders

[Elon Musk is] very smart, very charismatic, and incredibly driven -- a very rare combination, since most people who have one of these traits learn to coast on the other two. It was kind of scary to be competiting against his startup in Palo Alto in Dec 1999-Mar 2000. - Peter Thiel

A lot of what we look for is understanding the founder’s grit and resilience." - Josh Kopelman, First Round

If you’re looking for certainty you wind up with boring people engaged in mundane activities. We have a fondness for obsessives on a mission. - Michael Moritz, Sequoia

You need grit to get through the entrepreneurial journey. Startups are a roller coaster of ups & downs. - Jess Lee, Sequoia

I love partnering with thoughtful visionaries who have the grit to turn their dreams into reality. - Stephanie Zhan, Sequoia

If your goal is to get straight As and never speed, you're probably not cut out to disrupt an industry, which requires original thinking, an ability to see the world differently from others, and courage to challenge conventional wisdom when it doesn't make sense. (This is not saying you should be lazy, get Cs, intentionally do bad things, break the law, and challenge conventional wisdom for just the sake of it.) - Alfred Lin, Sequoia

"Talent, integrity, and hardwork... Founding team — stubborn but listen (coachable)." - Jeffrey Paine, Golden Gate Ventures

Quake Capital

  • Original idea or insight

  • Scientific innovation

  • Startup experience

  • Industry experience

  • Communication skills

  • Execution skills

  • Deal with ambiguity

  • Poise

  • Enthusiasm

Alex Iskold, TechStars

  • Ability to grow the business

  • Intellectual honesty and curiosity

  • Complementary skills and chemistry

  • Stellar CEO

  • Domain knowledge, relevant experience and defensibility

  • Vision

  • Product focus

Christoph Janz, Point Nine Capital

  • Interpersonal skills

  • Integrity

  • Right kind of ambition

  • Right kind of person