by Nicole Glaros, Managing Director at Techstars
I’ve worked with countless startups now, and I’m starting to notice a trend in the ones that succeed. My hypothesis is that entrepreneurs who have an intense desire to succeed are less likely to be successful compared to those who believe they will succeed. It’s a subtle difference, but it’s there.
Entrepreneurs from each camp have slightly different outlooks on everything. For those who have an intense desire to succeed, they view obstacles as speed bumps — problems that could potentially derail their company. They work hard to find solutions, but they hope that things will work themselves out. Each challenge maybe hints at the fact that they aren’t on the right path. I think these entrepreneurs pivot early and often, usually before they have enough data to really make an educated call.
On the other hand, entrepreneurs who believe view obstacles as opportunities. Those speed bumps are a chance to learn, to get better, to improve. They know they will be successful; they just don’t know the exact path of success, so each turn brings them one step closer to the win. They’ll pivot, but usually with more data. The thought that their startup won’t be successful has never really crossed their minds. In this group, if it’s not working, they’ll keep figuring it out until it does work. It’s about the company being successful, and the path to get there will change.
As I think through this, the common denominator here is the confidence coefficient. The latter group seems to have more confidence in their abilities — more confidence in their abilities to navigate the obstacles, more confidence in their abilities to figure it out, more confidence that they deserve a seat at the table. If my memory serves from my college psych classes, confidence breeds attraction. People are attracted to those with confidence. So an entrepreneur with more confidence in their abilities will have an easier time attracting talent, attracting investors, and most importantly, attracting those early customers that are so critically necessary. I also think that confidence gives people the courage to try new things, to be riskier, to think outside the box, to be unique — and these are critical traits for an entrepreneur. What? That didn’t work? No problem, let’s try something else.
Confidence is on a bell curve. Too much of it, and it has the exact opposite effect. More employees, investors, and customers will be alienated from you. You’ll be so confident that you’ll miss the valuable feedback from your key constituents because you believe you know better. Every single person on the planet is smarter about something than you are. Finding that key balance between confidence and humility is key.
But does that mean that if you doubt yourself, you’re screwed? Absolutely not. Everyone doubts themselves at some time in their lives (ahem, at many times). The key is to not let self-doubt drive your decisions. After falling off the bike enough times, you realize that the scrapes and bruises don’t really hurt that badly. Falling is scary more than it hurts, and after a while, the fear doesn’t enter your mind. Failing is scarier than anything else, too. Once you’ve done it a few times, you’ll learn to not be so afraid of it. You’ll learn to trust yourself more, take more risks, try more experiments, and be more confident in your ability to navigate any situation or person or problem that’s tossed your way.
The most interesting part of all this is that I believe people can learn confidence. But that’s another blog post…
Of course, this is all hypothesis. I’m curious as to what you think (or believe). Comment here, or drop me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.