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Jon Bradshaw & Peter Harris

Join hosts Peter Harris and Jon Bradshaw on another thought-provoking episode of the Venture Capital Podcast as they explore the essential attributes of successful venture-backed founders. In this engaging discussion, Peter and Jon dissect the qualities that set apart exceptional founders in the startup ecosystem.

What Makes A Great Venture-Backed CEO/Founder

Join hosts Peter Harris and Jon Bradshaw on another thought-provoking episode of the Venture Capital Podcast as they explore the essential attributes of successful venture-backed founders. In this engaging discussion, Peter and Jon dissect the qualities that set apart exceptional founders in the startup ecosystem.

From sales expertise to unwavering vision and determination, Peter and Jon dive deep into the core traits that define successful founders. Drawing from their own experiences and insights, they discuss the importance of skills like fundraising, team building, and culture setting in the journey of entrepreneurship.

Through anecdotes and reflections, Peter and Jon offer valuable perspectives on what it takes to navigate the challenges of building a startup from the ground up. Whether you’re a seasoned entrepreneur or a budding founder, this episode provides actionable insights and inspiration to fuel your entrepreneurial journey.

Tune in to the Venture Capital Podcast for an enlightening conversation filled with practical advice and candid reflections on the art of entrepreneurship. Don’t miss out on this opportunity to learn from seasoned investors and entrepreneurs as they unravel the secrets to startup success. Subscribe now and join the conversation!

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Episode Transcript

Jon: Welcome to Venture Capital podcast. Peter Harris John Bradshaw University Growth Fund Code Base. Let's go.
Peter: Boom. All right, Jon, what makes for a good venture backed founder? What do you think?
Jon: What do I think?
Peter: What do you think?
Jon: I think a good venture backed founder.
Peter: What like, are the attributes.
Jon: I think they would have some type of probably product experience. Okay. They would be they would be able to have some type of sales experience. Okay. They would have the ability to go seek and find mentors and have the ability to listen, but also confidence to act without when in doubt.
Peter: Okay. now, when you say experience, do you really mean, like, skill? I could have a lot of experience and suck at it.
Jon: I think. But I mean, I'm just saying you have to be able to, like, cross the finish line, right? You have people to close the deal. Yeah. You know, I think before someone should join a startup, perhaps, you know, maybe you either go get a sales job, go get a product management job to learn how to code.
Peter: So, like, I think this is an interesting question of if I'm a VC and I'm going to invest, how do I know if the founders like, got what it takes and if I'm on a potential employee of a company, how do I know, like the founder of the company that I'm potentially could be joining is one that is going to be able to take it all the way, right?
Jon: Okay.
Peter: So I was I was having this conversation with a friend of mine over at we founder and well, we were hiking and we were talking about like, what are the things that what are like the attributes that are really great venture backed founder has. And it's something that's been on my mind a lot. And the thing that's interesting is like there are so many different, like personalities of founders that have like allowed them to be successful.
Peter: So I was really like trying to narrow down to like, what are the things that are like absolutely necessary and, and I like a lot of the things you said. So for me, you've got to be like phenomenal. at selling because you've got to convince founder, you got to convince employees, customers, investors to all like invest, right?
Peter: Got to just be like, really good at selling. So I think that's one, I think you got to be really good at setting the vision and holding the vision torch, if you will, and keeping the flame going. And I think that's that's probably like one of the biggest things like great founders do is they, they know what the vision of the company is, and they don't deviate from that like long term vision.
Peter: Right. So they'll go and they'll get advice from people and they'll take that advice in stride and they'll implement it where appropriate. But they're not going to depart from their core vision. And when I say core vision, like, there are a lot of ways to like get to the vision. There are a lot of pathways like to get to the ultimate end goal.
Peter: And so like having flexibility on how you get there is fine, but not like getting distracted. Right, is important. And I think there's also an element of like, you need somebody that is that can assist and holder of the vision. And that's where like some companies struggle when they replace founders is because the new person coming in doesn't have that same like vision and that same consistency and also why you can have founders.
Peter: So Henry over at Carta like makes this case that I think is a good one and that is like he looks at his C-suite and he's slowly replacing some of his C-suite right As the company gets bigger, they need people at different types of skills and experience. And then the question is like, well, how come Henry doesn't get replaced as the company gets bigger?
Peter: And the response is because he's the one that's in charge of holding the torch for the vision, right? And maintaining that. And you look at like great companies. I think like Mark Zuckerberg at Facebook and Steve Jobs at Apple and a certain stack, Tim Cook at Apple and you know, Larry Page at Google, right? Like these individuals that have been able to hold that vision and and the company together and then that ties in with all aspects right so fundraising culture, product development and creation like all of those different things.
Peter: but I also think I want to talk about culture a little bit more because I think that's another area where, where founders and CEOs play like an outsized role is really like setting the culture for the company. So like, and then the last one is like fundraising. And I know I said mentioned that earlier for, like, you got to be really good at sales.
Peter: And part of being good at sales is fundraising. But there is like a special skill or ability around fundraising. I talked to this one founder actually, it was when we talked to Ryan Westwood, right? And he was like, one of my jobs is like, I need to get all the right people in the room and then I need to give them the resources to to operate and function and and grow and crush it.
Peter: Right. And so that ability to go raise money and provide your team with the resources they need, I think is super important. And sometimes like when when I look back at companies where, you know, the founder, like the company is kind of struggling. Oftentimes, not always, but oftentimes it's because the founder was not particularly good at fundraising and the company needed more money.
Peter: Now, I've also seen the opposite, which is founders that are like, they're too good at fundraising. And so they raised tons and tons of money. And then they blow tons and tons of money because they have, like, no real discipline. And so I think there's also an element of that of like a great founder has, like good discipline over seeking things that allow them to operate really efficiently.
Peter: Right. They don't waste, they don't like they treat their equity as sacred and they don't waste the dollars that, that they, they got in exchange for selling that equity and things that are frivolous. Right. And I think that's one of the things you get with like somebody that was an original founder of a company versus somebody like a mercenary that you brought in to take over the CEO.
Peter: HELM They don't treat the equity or think about it the same way. But anyway, they've been kind of rambling. What do you think, John?
Jon: Well, I think we're also talking about for me this week is from a Ryan Westwood interview. Yeah, Ryan's probably about the same age as me. And I look at him and I'm like, How is Ryan? How does Ryan think about the world differently that I think about it. You know, is has he been lucky. Lucky here based on timing.
Peter: Yeah.
Jon: Or is there something that he's doing that I'm not doing and if I were to do those things would change my trajectory.
Peter: Yeah. Yeah.
Jon: And I don't have the answer to that. It was just walking away like, he did this, he said this.
Peter: I think there's something like great founders going back to this vision idea. It's like they have this, like, singular focus. They're not trying to do too many things. They're like. And actually, this gets back to, like, when you mentioned product experience. What I thought of is great founders. And this ties in with vision. They have this urn secret that we've talked about before.
Peter: A lot of people have talked about this idea, but like they see something, some problem that needs to be fixed and they have a unique solution that the world needs to know about. And so they have like this internal drive to go and solve that problem. I think that's part of it. And then there's like, frankly, a lot of entrepreneurs that have this, like, chip on their shoulder, all right?
Peter: Something happened in their childhood or something where somebody says they couldn't and they had to prove them wrong. Yeah, right. So there's a little bit of that. But like, where is your internal motivation coming from? And I think great, great founders have like this wellspring of determination that is just absolutely necessary because startup suck, right? Like its highs and lows, but it's a lot of lows and it's really hard.
Peter: And if you don't have some sort of like internal drive to do it right, you're just, you know, you'll just burn out. So what do you think? Do you think I'm wrong?
Jon: I think there's many shades. I mean, like when I look at some of the founders I know about, like they just they're all over the map, right? You've got Josh James, who I believe is an introvert.
Peter: Jon But I don't think most people would peg him as an introvert.
Peter: Okay.
Jon: You've got individuals like John Boston and his partner who are very different. I think the founders that tended to get granted A's typically are very good at raising venture capital. And end up becoming, like, the poster child of the of the PR, PR and news airwaves.
Peter: Is that a bad thing?
Jon: No, I just think that's just one thing. One of the things that happens. I do think focus and the ability to build and recruit teams is important. I do think some of it's just the luck. Like I've known several people who've, like, had a huge breakaway success. And I think a lot of it is when I look at them versus other people, they just got lucky earlier.
Peter: Yeah, sometimes they get lucky, but sometimes, frankly, like going back to I was saying earlier, they find a pain point right? And like, is that luck or is that like, no, like I knew this was a huge problem.
Jon: I look at it as people are founders are playing in a sandbox.
Peter: Yeah.
Jon: And some people just get gravitate different areas and some they're going to find, you know, buried treasure in the sandbox and.
Peter: Say, but I want to back the founders that have the map that shows. I'm like, right where the Buried treasure is. Right?
Jon: But a lot of those are earned secrets that you learn over time.
Peter: Right. Right. Well, but that's my point. Like, don't you? I guess, like, here's the question. Do you back the founder that checks four of the five boxes of, you know, whatever number of boxes are for the ideal founder? Or do you just wait till the you come across the founder that checks all five?
Jon: I think so. I was thinking about this with the my reflection my my, my funny days is if I was a VC, I would create, hey, these are the things that have to happen for success. And regardless of my emotion, let the luck, the algorithm you create decide. But again, I'm not really. See?
Peter: So the problem with that is that any time that you are backing something that is truly disruptive, that has a chance for the highest, greatest likelihood of of of becoming something really big and impactful.
Jon: Okay.
Peter: Algorithms don't work to identify it. Right. Like, how do you build an algorithm that tells you you should invest in Airbnb?
Jon: So not the idea, but like, look at the founding team, right? Is the founding team all it?
Peter: Okay. But there's a lot of companies that are crappy where the founding team is all in.
Jon: But you're looking at multiple things.
Peter: Yeah, I know. I don't. I haven't built that. I'm just saying that like, I think it's really hard to build an algorithm that is able to identify, like, truly disruptive businesses because if they weren't truly disruptive. Somebody built the algorithm and already did it.
Jon: And usually.
Peter: Or is doing it someone.
Jon: Not from the beaten path found something and they don't look like a standard, beaten path person.
Peter: But I think the things that still hold true for being a founder is you need to hold the vision and be relentless about it. You need to have some sort of like internal drive that's pushing you. You have to be, if you want to be a venture backed CEO. Now, not everybody should be or can be or will be a venture backed CEO.
Peter: But if you want to be, you got to be good at fundraising. I think it's just. You just have to have.
Jon: Someone become good at fundraising.
Peter: That's a good question.
Jon: Is it just a gift or is it.
Peter: No, I think it can be. I can think it pre learned. I think it's a lot of sales, but it's also like if you think about the way that it distinguishes from sales in a lot of ways is that you are selling your vision of what the future looks like and you're able to convince people that like if they don't get it now, they're going to miss out.
Peter: You build FOMO, right? and you also have to convince them, like you're the one to pull it off. So there's yeah, it's definitely like an art. There's definitely a lot of art to being able to pull it off. And I've been, you know, I've worked with founders that are incredible at fundraising effort, those founders that are terrible at fundraising.
Peter: I think the average founder is frankly not that good at fundraising. They're like, okay, but not great. but yeah, it's, it's probably one of those things where I think it's like finding people that are really good at it and learning from them, watching what they do, mimicking their behaviors, learning from them. And then also just like if you, if you do the thing like if you have confidence, confidence like really in a lot of ways comes from like knowledge, right?
Peter: Unlike arrogance, confidence comes from like real knowledge. So if you have real knowledge that what you are doing is solving this like really big pain point, right? And nobody else really knows about it or how to solve it. And you do that can give you incredible confidence to go out and raise money against it, right? Because and then it's just a matter of like, can you learn how to communicate what you know to somebody else so that they can see the vision as well and as clearly or maybe not quite as clearly, but, you know, to some degree as well as you do so that they get excited and want to be on
Peter: board to achieve that vision.
Jon: Yeah.
Peter: So,
Jon: All good points.
Peter: No. Missing any anything else you think or any that you disagree with, you're like, you don't really need to be?
Jon: No, I think a lot of the I mean, I think the common thread is they know how to fundraise and particularly they know how to close.
Peter: Yeah.
Jon: Is that because.
Peter: Know they know how to build teams and you know.
Jon: But I read that like, I mean, you could have other people in your team who knows a team who knows how to do that.
Peter: Knows how to do what? Fundraise to build a team.
Jon: But if you have.
Peter: To, yeah. Typically the.
Jon: CEO is the one who's fundraising.
Peter: But CEO because they are the standard bearer of the culture, they really need to be there, at least for the core team. I believe. I don't think that's something you can outsource. I don't think you can outsource fundraising. I don't think you can outsource. team building, culture, holding the vision. and then just like, general, you know, selling the vision.
Peter: I think those are all things that a great venture backed founder needs to have.
Jon: I dig it. Well, thanks, guys, for checking out this episode. Venture Capitalist. If you have got comments or feedback, leave it in. In in the comments section below, either on YouTube or on Spotify or.
Peter: Or view on Apple. Yeah. Tell us, what do you think? What makes for a great venture backed CEO or founder?
Jon: Perfect. Thanks, guys.