“The vision is the idea that you come up with, that nobody else can see, that you’re uniquely qualified to execute.”
– Marc Andreessen
In the book “Super Founders“, author Ali Tamaseb, studied 200 Unicorns, aka startups valued at over $1 billion, started between 2005 to 2018. Interestingly, there’s now more than 1,200 unicorns, but with the current state of the market it’s unclear how many will be able to justify yesterday’s price tag at exit. Ali reviewed over 65 data points for each one of these companies, from the number of co-founders, the founders background, the sector, the investments they raised over time, etc. It’s an interesting research project and I recommend the book and Ali’s blog post “Land of the Super Founders“, if you want to dive deeper.
In addition to these data points Ali identifies seven key traits that these “super founders” possess, and I believe that these traits are essential for any entrepreneur who wants to build a successful startup. As an investor in Israeli startups at Remagine Ventures, I naturally wanted to apply them to Israeli unicorns that have risen over the past few years, the highest concentration of unicorns per-capita in the world (if I’m not mistaken!)
The 7 Traits of “Super Founders”
1. “superior product vision”– This involves having a clear and compelling vision for a product or service that solves a real problem for customers. They are able to articulate this vision in a way that inspires others and generates excitement. To implement this trait, founders need to have a deep understanding of their customers’ needs and pain points, as well as the market landscape. They should be able to identify a gap in the market that their product can fill, and be able to communicate this to investors and employees.
Israeli startup Lemonade, which has disrupted the insurance industry by using AI to provide a seamless customer experience, is an excellent example of a company that fulfills this trait.
2. “extreme resilience”– Successful entrepreneurs are able to persevere through challenges and setbacks. They are able to stay focused on their goals, even in the face of adversity. To implement this trait, founders need to have a strong sense of purpose and be willing to take risks. They should also have a support system in place, whether it’s a co-founder, a mentor, or a network of advisors.
Israeli startup Mobileye, which was acquired by Intel for $15 billion, is a great example of a company that exhibited extreme resilience. The company faced numerous challenges, including regulatory hurdles and competition from established players, but the team persevered and ultimately succeeded.
3. “strong network effects”– Successful startups create products or services that become more valuable as more people use them. To implement this trait, founders need to create a product that is inherently social, and that encourages users to invite their friends to join. They should also invest in marketing and user acquisition to increase the network effect.
Israeli startup Waze, which was acquired by Google for over $1 billion, is a perfect example of a company that leveraged network effects to achieve exceptional success. By building a community of users who contributed real-time traffic data, Waze was able to provide a superior navigation experience that was more accurate and up-to-date than traditional GPS systems.
4. “unique business models” – Successful startups develop business models that are difficult for competitors to replicate. To implement this trait, founders need to identify a unique value proposition and create a business model that is scalable and sustainable. They should also be able to defend their business model against competitors.
Israeli startup Fiverr, which has disrupted the freelancing industry by providing a platform for buyers and sellers to connect, is a great example of a company that fulfills this trait. Fiverr’s business model is unique because it enables buyers to purchase services from sellers in a standardized way, which makes it easy to compare prices and quality.
5. “world-class execution”– Successful founders are able to execute on a vision and deliver results. To implement this trait, founders need to be able to prioritize tasks and delegate responsibilities effectively. They should also have a system in place for measuring progress and holding themselves accountable.
Israeli startup Monday.com, which provides a platform for team collaboration and project management, is an excellent example of a company that exhibits world-class execution. The company has grown rapidly and achieved a valuation of over $7 billion by delivering a product that is both intuitive and powerful.
6. “excellent team building”– Successful founders build and manage teams that are aligned around a shared vision and able to execute effectively. To implement this trait, founders need to be able to identify top talent and motivate them to achieve their full potential. They should also create a culture of innovation and collaboration that empowers employees to take risks and pursue new ideas.
Israeli startup Checkmarx, which provides software security solutions, is an excellent example of a company that fulfills this trait. The company has built a team of world-class engineers who are passionate about solving complex security challenges, and this team has been instrumental in Checkmarx’s success.
7. “outstanding leadership”– Successful founders inspire and motivate others to achieve a shared vision. To implement this trait, founders need to lead by example and create a sense of purpose and passion among their team. They should also be able to communicate their vision clearly and effectively, and be able to make tough decisions when necessary.
Israeli startup Wix, the Internet’s most popular website builder, is an excellent example of a company that exhibits outstanding leadership. The company’s co-founders, Avishai Abrahami, Nadav Abrahami, and Giora Kaplan, have built a culture of innovation and excellence that has enabled Wix to become a global leader in the website building space.
Personally, I don’t believe that there’s one way, or treat that is a silver bullet. To succeed as a startup founder everyone requires a ton of hard work, sacrifice, and it doesn’t hurt to get a bit lucky and have the right timing. Also, you don’t need to reach a billion dollar valuation to be a “Super Founder” in my view. I’ve been privileged to work with pre-seed stage entrepreneurs that have demonstrated incredible leadership and resilience and executed on shipping a product that people want. That’s what it’s all about.