The Founder Institute's mission is to "Globalize Silicon Valley" and help promising entrepreneurs launch companies. It is arguably one of the world's premier startup launch program (FI has chapters across 60 countries as well as in Silicon Valley, and has graduated 2400+ founders and 2100+ companies). And with all those graduates, FI knows a lot about the traits of successful entrepreneurs and now it has a study to back up an early hypothesis: when FI started in 2009, Adeo Ressi (Co-Founder & CEO) and Jonathan Greechan (Co-Founder) hypothesized that by implementing a short, objective test during the application process for their program, they would be able to predict the likelihood of someone building a successful technology company. FI conducted a seven-year study on the traits as well as trait combinations that make up successful entrepreneurs. They dub these "Entrepreneur DNA Profiles." FI worked closely with social scientists to identify 6 groups of personality combinations (FI conducted a proprietary Predictive Admissions Test on nearly 23,000 applicants (over 30,000 people apply to FI programs worldwide) and continues its research on traits of successful entrepreneurs with its graduates).
The six entrepreneurial profiles FI identified: The Hustler; The Innovator; The Machine; The Prodigy; The Strategist, and The Visionary. Hustlers are described in the study as "expert sales people equipped with very high levels of extraversion and conscientiousness, who identify with the likes of Mary Kay Ash and Zig Ziglar." Prodigies are more likely to relate to Elon Musk or Larry Page, as they have "very high fluid intelligence and emotional stability, but lower extroversion".
The tests identified a number of interesting traits in successful entrepreneurs, which interestingly, include these two takeaways:
- IQ is not a factor that directly correlates with entrepreneurial success
- Older age has shown in the data to correlate with more successful entrepreneurs up to the age of 40, after which it has limited or no impact.
Equally fascinating (when we consider the status certain founders and startups are elevated to), the traits with a negative correlation to entrepreneurial success include predatory aggressiveness, deceit, emotional instability, narcissism, and permanent excuses.
As for "success" (since the whole point of the test and 7-year study was to find success traits), FI defines the success of "early-stage" entrepreneurs by their "ability to quickly execute defined strategy and short-term goals". These short-terms goals may relate to startup metrics around revenue, market adoption, profitability, capital raised, recruitment of top talent, product milestones etc. In other words, the traction investors expect to see from an early-stage company.
There is one obvious upside of implementing an objective test in the application process for programs such as Founder Institute: it eliminates selection bias based on location, profession, race, gender or demographic. And no further explanation is required as to why more diversity in tech and the startup ecosystem (generally) is needed. Now as to whether the study will have a broader impact for diverse early-stage entrepreneurs seeking funding from the VC community, no predictions on the outcome of that one.