I talk to VCs every day, lots of VCs. I ask them qualifying questions to make sure they’re a fit for the founders and the startups we work with.
For example, I ask the standard questions about their background, fund, vertical focus, geographical focus, average check size — the usual questions any investor could answer in their sleep. But the most interesting response comes when I ask this one question: ‘what are they, as an individual (not the fund), looking for in a founder?’ The answer is surprisingly consistent, but not blatantly obvious. Here are the top 3 things VCs answer when I ask them my favorite question:
- A crystal clear and compelling vision
One of the core qualities that VCs look for in founders is having an in-depth understanding of their business model and the ability to succinctly communicate it. Founding CEOs who possess a strong vision of the market they are targeting (and the approach they must take to fulfill a need in that market) are often able to instill that vision into everyone else at the company.
As your startup begins to scale, that vision is absolutely critical. Driving efficient growth is all about figuring out the right market, the right need, and the right way to address that need with the appropriate solution. Founding CEOs who can clearly articulate how they plan to do so appeal to investors.
- The ability to attract, recruit, and retain top talent
The types of talent that are effective at the startup phase are distinct from those needed at the expansion stage. A CEO’s ability to engage and empower their team through various stages of a startup will be a critical requirement in a successful company culture.
If you’re reading this, you’ve likely experienced the camaraderie of an early-stage startup. People will flood in to help solve a problem and support their team if they clearly understand their purpose within the company. A CEO’s ability to bring a team together through the ups and downs of a startup lifecycle is imperative in the eyes of an investor.
- Integrity and authenticity
Willingness to be vulnerable in a way that’s authentic tells you a lot about someone’s character. And as a founder, your candor in admitting your mistakes and allowing authentic self-reflection can signal future success to your team as well as your potential investors.
Founders that have intellectual integrity and self-awareness understand their strengths along with their weaknesses. Founders with this understanding tend to have a greater chance of leading and scaling a successful startup due to their understanding of what characteristics will build the strongest team.
When I speak with investors about a company we’re working with, I can tell they’re interested when they ask me, “What’s the founder like? What’s the founder’s background?” They want to know about you as an individual, so don’t be afraid to show them.
Looking to raise capital? Reach out to me and I’ll share more about what VCs are looking for in Founders. After all, it is my favorite question! 🙂