Troy Carter can spot small business talent from miles away.
Since launching Atom Factory, his Culver City, Calif.-based talent agency, Carter has jumpstarted the careers of musicians like Lady Gaga, Meghan Trainor, and John Legend. He's also an investor in a number of recognizable companies (Warby Parker, Uber, Spotify, Dropbox), and was a guest shark on Season 7 of ABC's hit series Shark Tank.
On Monday, Carter announced he would be joining the board of WeTransfer, a Dutch file-sharing service that eschews banner ads.
So, what do the top founders possess? According to the seasoned investor: a little bit of crazy. In other words, Carter prefers to work with artists and entrepreneurs that have a healthy dose of "delusion."
"If you walk into our offices with literally no money in your pocket, with an app that's in alpha-mode on your phone, and you say you're going to build one of the biggest companies in the world...you've got to have a bit of delusion to be able to execute everything," he said.
Of course, that's not to say that entrepreneurs with top potential are all foolhardy. Carter explains that they need to have a good idea, supported by the wherewithal to actually turn the idea into a reality.
"Everybody has an idea, and ideas are cheap," he explained. "[We think], who are you going to bet on that's going to be able to take that idea and drive a Mack truck through a cul-de-sac to be able to get it done?"
Take Travis Kalanick, for instance, who time and time again has battled various local taxi administrations to get Uber, his ride-sharing service, up and running in 64 countries worldwide, and now valued at more than $50 billion.
Similarly, Dropbox founder Drew Houston had the gumption to build out his file service, after rejecting a rumored $800 million acquisition offer from Apple in 2009.
Then there's Meredith Perry, the 26-year-old University of Pennsylvania graduate who's betting on a novel wireless charging technology with uBeam. "She's incredible," says Carter. "I've never met a founder like her before. You know from sitting with her that she's going to get it done at all costs," he adds.
Ultimately, what matters most is your resolve. Do you have a good idea? The next step, according to Carter, is simple: "Do the work."