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What 3 Qualities Are Most Important for Startup Founders?

Scott Gerber
Scott Gerber


We ascribe a lot of qualities to entrepreneurs -- some good, some not so admirable. An indifference to risk. A desire to change the world. A tendency to put work -- and "success" -- above just about everything else, including family and health.

But what traits do founders really need to succeed? Or, to put it another way, how much do real-life entrepreneurs resemble their on-screen counterparts (e.g., Zuck in "The Social Network")?

To find out, I asked 12 members of the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) to share the 3 qualities they believe are most important for would-be founders to cultivate in order to succeed in the startup world. Here's what they had to say:.

1. Passion, Persistence and Patience

You need passion for the problem you're solving, persistence to overcome all obstacles that get in your way and the patience to realize that sometimes growth takes time. - Bhavin Parikh, Magoosh Test Prep

2. Persistence, Paranoia and Calmness

Persistence is required in order to push past all of the no's that will undoubtedly happen. Whether it's your first sale or an attempt to raise funds, it's going to happen. Paranoia keeps founders up at night thinking about the "what if's," which is vital to eliminating, or at least controlling, unintended consequences. But everyone needs to see calmness from you daily. Nobody can know the truth! - Adam Callinan, BottleCamo

3. Data, Acceptance and Sacrifice

I chose data-driven decisions because sometimes what you think is best actually isn't. A/B test everything you can, and let data drive the choices that you make. I chose acceptance because things don't always go according to plan. And, finally, I chose sacrifice because your friends and family will see less of you, and when they do see you, your mind might be elsewhere. You need to be prepared to accept that. - Sarah Ware, Markerly

4. Excitement, Energy and Evolution

Most importantly, as a founder, you have to be excited. It's infectious. People must see the excitement in your eyes and hear it in your voice if you expect them to get on board with you. You have to have energy to get through the long days and nights it will take to get your company up and running. Finally, you must be willing and able to evolve as your company changes. - Chris Hunter, Phusion Projects

5. Hustle, Follow-through and Curiosity

Starting a business is a grind. To start, you need to work incredibly hard. That's the "hustle" part. You also need to capture all opportunities, so make sure to follow through on leads. Finally, you need to be curious and explore all the ways that you can improve and grow! - Aaron Schwartz, Modify Watches

6. Honesty, Humility and Persistence

As a founder, honesty is paramount -- it's the foundation upon which trust and influence are built. Humility is vital because if you're in it for your ego, you won't win in the long run. You should be in it to make the world better, not gain recognition. Persistence is critical because much of success comes down to luck, but you have to stay in the game long enough for that luck to find you. - Matt Ehrlichman, Porch

7. Persistence, Salesmanship and Humility

You need persistence to handle all the daunting hurdles that starting a company entails. Founders must have a stubborn nature that keeps them from being deterred. You need salesmanship because a startup is all about selling your idea to investors, press, clients, etc. Finally, humility: A founder must be humble enough to know that he can't do it all alone. He needs to trust that employees will help build his dream. - Zachary Yungst,

8. Passion, Persistence and Creativity

You have to be passionate about what you're solving and about being an entrepreneur. Entrepreneurship is hard. You'll face many challenges and potential business-ending problems, and it will take longer than you expect. You have to be persistent. However, passion and persistence are not enough; you're going to have to be uniquely creative and innovative to beat the competition. - Carlo Cisco, FoodFan

9. Passion, Patience and Integrity

Startups can be draining -- physically and emotionally. If you don't have a passion for what you're doing and the patience to see results, you're going to have a rough ride. Integrity is important so that you stay the course and don't fall victim to taking the easy road in challenging situations. - Patrick Conley, Automation Heroes

10. Vision, Leadership and Flexibility

Vision, leadership and flexibility all go hand in hand. Vision is needed to see upcoming obstacles before they hamper the business, leadership will guide the team through them, and flexibility lessens the strain. - Andrew Schrage, Money Crashers Personal Finance

11. Work Ethic, Resilience and Strong Communication Skills

There is no shortcut to building a successful company, so a good work ethic is essential. It takes more hard work and dedication that you can ever imagine unless you have been through it. You need resilience to bounce back and quickly adjust to failures or letdowns. Strong communication skills are important because what you say and how you say it is critical. People have to believe you and want to follow you. - Darren Solomon, Kid Ventures

12. Resilience, Persuasiveness and Passion

The best founders are resilient, persuasive and passionate. They are resilient against the many challenges they face, persuasive with everyone they encounter and passionate about the problem they are solving. - Adam Lieb, Duxter

Answers are provided by members of the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only organization comprised of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC fuels #StartupLab, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses via live video chats, an expert content library and email lessons.

Image Credit: Prostock-Studio / Getty Images
Scott Gerber
Scott Gerber Member
Scott Gerber is the founder of Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched BusinessCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses. Gerber is also a serial entrepreneur, regular TV commentator and author of the book Never Get a “Real” Job.