How We Choose Startup Founders

This guest post was written by Sara Thomas, Principal at Maven Ventures. Follow Sara on Twitter @saraannet. Earlier this month, we held our second annual Maven Ventures Holiday Party, and it was great to welcome the holiday season with our Maven community — the Maven team, founders, limited partners, mentors, and many other friends and supporters. It was so great to bring everyone together for a fun night. My Maven teammates and I are thankful to work with such a quality group. When we debriefed after the event, we couldn’t help but notice that one of the reasons everyone had a great time was that the room was full of good people. That’s by design. It’s part of our Maven culture and values to work with good people. We shared a post earlier this year about what we look for in a team; here are the specific characteristics we look for in a founder:
  • Passionate: willing to spend 10+ years of their life working on this problem
  • Technical: has the technical abilities to build and scale the product
  • Coachable: open to new perspectives and advice
  • Driven and Persistent: is competitive and has a burning desire to win
  • Fundraiser: has the ability to convey the business opportunity to investors and get them excited to support it
  • Recruiter: can inspire other A-players to join the team
  • Communicator: can articulate the company’s vision and is a compelling storyteller
  • Likable: we’ll be excited to spend a significant amount of time with this person over the next several years
  • Humble: has the humility to lead a team and weather ups and downs
  • Transparent: shares the good and the bad news openly and tells the “real story”
  • Expert: has background knowledge that puts him/her in a better position in his/her domain to succeed
These characteristics can be hard to evaluate, and it’s not a hard-and-fast scorecard. Each individual founder and team is different and we value diversity of perspectives, backgrounds, experiences, and personalities. Especially at the very early stage, where Maven invests, venture truly is a people business. The exact operational details of the companies we invest in are bound to change. Having a clear idea of what characteristics help a founder navigate the ups and downs has been one key driver of success in our investment strategy.

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