Founders: The only thing that really matters…

urlI have been telling the entrepreneurs that I meet daily through my work at BootstrapLabs and various panels and keynotes that I do, that I am looking for two things at the core of every founder that I work with:

  • Passion
  • Meaning

The first one might be easier to grasp; simply follow your passion, if you do not have passion for what you are trying to build you will not succeed, it is simply to hard (no matter where in the world you are) to build a company, that with-out the drive that comes out of passion you will simply not succeed.

Meaning on the other hand is very subjective and maybe harder to grasp, so I wanted to elaborate on this for a bit, as my approach to this grew out of many years of entrepreneurship and helping other entrepreneurs.

I think the first time somebody spelled this out was Guy Kawasaki at Garage Ventures, in his book “The Art of Start” (he talks about it in this video from 2006 @ TieCon).

Over the years and tapping into my own history of startup successes and failures, I have distilled “Making Meaning” to a compass and navigator, that helps me (and founders I work with) to keep focus on the things that will have an impact. Building a startup is about being disruptive and going against convention and breaking what everybody expects to be the truth, what is already there, and breaking all the rules (of engagement).

  • So how do you keep your priorities straight and focused?
  • How do you balance “follow the rules of engagement” with the million things you could do everyday in your startup, and pick the ones that are relevant?

You try to weigh everything you do to assess if it makes meaning, and I have divided this into 2 main things:

  • Make things that have meaning for yourself.
  • Make things that have meaning to our world (in other words have great impact, big strokes).

Making meaning for yourself, get’s you up in the morning, it creates motivation to spend all this time on building your company (sometimes taking time from your most loved ones). Making meaning to our world; is anybody else appreciating what you do? Will it make the world better? Make things more efficient? More accessible? Improving quality of life? Are you touching enough people? I can go on, but I think you get the picture. At the end if you have enough impact you are creating a lot of value.

If you follow these thoughts you will see that this resonates well with investors (here in Silicon Valley), being angels or VCs – investors invest in founders that won’t give up and truly believe in what they do and that do things that will have enough impact in our world to be really valuable.

Love to hear your thoughts on this?