STARTUP

5 Traits That Make an Entrepreneur Attractive to Investors

Version One Ventures co-founder Boris Wertz is incredibly selective when it comes to investing in new businesses. Here are the characteristics he looks for before making a bet on a company leader.
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Boris Wertz, the founder of Vancouver, British Columbia-based Version One Ventures, meets 25 startup founders a week, but only invests in about 10 the whole year. Wertz, whose portfolio includes mobile analytics firm Flurry, online clothing startup Frank & Oak, and crowdfunding site Indiegogo, says he knows exactly the type of entrepreneur he is looking for: a great leader who knows how to make something out of nothing and grow it without killing its original essence.

"You need two types of leadership while starting a startup: In the beginning, you need the amazing entrepreneur who can get it off the ground and start building the company," Wertz tells Inc. "But that same leader needs to be able to bring it to scale without losing the culture."

Below, find out the five traits Wertz looks for in entrepreneurs when deciding whether to invest. "When we see all these traits in one entrepreneur or company, we get excited," he says. "You rarely see all five, but you can work on a few."

1. The big idea, explained

The first sign of a great entrepreneur, Wertz says, is someone who has a big idea and the ability to impart it to others. "They need to have an ambitious vision, and everybody from an employee to a partner to an investor gets it right away," Wertz says. "It sounds so simple, but it's actually not. A lot of people lose themselves in too many details, or don't have a big vision."

2. Dedication 

The second trait is single-minded dedication. Wertz says his firm looks for people who cannot be talked out of their vision and who cannot stop working on it until it's up and running. They look for doers, not just good orators. "They live for the startup. We love the people who can't stop talking about their startup, even if it gets nerdy--we look for that incredible drive and passion and hard work," he says. "They can't imagine anything else other than building that startup."

3. Focus 

Launching a startup is intense and takes a tremendous amount of focus and prioritization. If a CEO is worried about PR, marketing, and partnerships before the product or service is airtight, then there's a problem. Wertz says the entrepreneurs he invests in only care about a few things, but execute them perfectly. "The best entrepreneurs know the one to three things that matter and only focus on nailing those one, two, or three things. The more focused an entrepreneur is on an opportunity the more excited we get, because they are only worried about the most important things, and that's what will make the startup successful," he says. 

4. The ability to attract talent 

"The fourth point for us is how good are they at attracting other people to work for them," he says. If the entrepreneur thinks he or she can do it all alone, then Wertz will not invest. Once that hurdle is overcome, the question is if they can persuade people to join their startup. "In a competitive marketplace, especially for developers and engineers, do you tell a compelling enough story for why they should work for your startup instead of moving to Google, Facebook, or Amazon?" Wertz says. "It's what we call "developer heat," if people are good at attracting good people to their startup."

5. Attention to unique details 

"Great entrepreneurs need to care so deeply about important details--details that matter for the culture, details that make the customer experience. Whatever it is that makes your startup great, you can't be too high-level to care about these details," Wertz says. "You see that in [entrepreneurs like] Mark Zuckerberg and Jeff Bezos. They care about little product details that define their company."

IMAGE: Courtesy Subject
Last updated: May 20, 2014

WILL YAKOWICZ | Staff Writer | Reporter, Inc.com

Will Yakowicz is a staff writer for Inc. magazine. He has covered business, crime, and local politics for The Brooklyn Paper and was the editor of Park Slope Patch. He has also reported in the West Bank and Moscow for Tablet Magazine. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.




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