Science is about patterns, the key to knowledge. And observing founders reveals many patterns too. The problem is that starting and building companies takes time, and for great successes also rare luck, so the patterns that make the winner are kind of hard to spot. You need to observe quite some time, and you still may conclude that they are “just” luck not extraordinary performance.
The Tolstoy line is that happy families are all happy in the same way, while unhappy ones are each uniquely miserable. It’s the reverse with startups. Failure is very boring.
So there are patterns. Go to a pitch day and you will see the following unpromising patterns if you watch novice founders.
1. Your uncle. The veteran small business guy. They run a consulting firm, basically, and it pays their salaries but they talk about “$1mm+ run rate”. They live in Connecticut and have kids in good schools. They are older. They’ve been around so they know everyone (“the SVP of Product at Viacom is on board”), all the buzzwords even if stale (“we are b to b to c”), and they put on airs (“acquisitions”, “buyouts”, “get equity in the deal”, “the IP lockup is complex”). They are not passionate product users so they usually have a strategically on-trend product that lacks a demo or it actually sucks. They are not ready to be a startup so they keep waiting for someone else (customers, investors) to do something and mostly just do meetings (instead of real work – making the product) and talk.
Oops. Fred Wilson Blog Post Rule. Too long. To be continued.