The case for entrepreneurial all-rounders

all-rounder

In tennis, 20-time grand slam champion Roger Federer has carved out a successful career as an ‘all-rounder’. By accounting for different surfaces, opponent playing styles and weather conditions, he’s performed consistently across two decades in the game. In much the same way, entrepreneurs in the tech space should seek to develop a broad, well-rounded repertoire of skills, so crucial for startup success.

At BlueChilli, we use a modified version of the Bell Mason Diagnostic, which is a rule-based system for assessing ventures, to review startup pitches (over 10,000 to date). The diagnostic was developed over a five-year period by Heidi Mason and Gordon Bell, who is the former head of research at Microsoft and a BlueChilli investor.

The diagnostic tool is based around simple ‘yes’/’no’ questions, which Bell and Mason developed after consulting and observing hundreds of startups founders, including those of later-stage success stories.  These questions, tied to the phase the startup is at in their journey, are used to form an overall picture of the potential success of the startup founder.

A key finding of the research is that there is no ‘silver bullet’ for a startup founder; no single quality or trait which is a marker in entrepreneurial success. Rather, success requires a consistent and solid set of strengths across 12 key attributes.

An entrepreneur with strong charisma, leadership, sales, technical insight, practical skills, financial know-how and business nous is more likely to excel than someone who is a brilliant sales person but lacks the other qualities.  Intuitively, this makes sense because at the start of an entrepreneur’s journey, they have to do everything themselves.

Thus, what we look for in a startup founder at BlueChilli is an evenness across these attributes. And whilst we use machine learning and an AI platform to assess the founder’s ideas through a third-party application, the founder’s characteristics is a much stronger indicator for success.

Here are five attributes you’ll need to possess if you’re going to become an all-rounder in the tech startup space:

  • Resilience and grit: when things get hard, do you continue or give up? Do you persevere under pressure?
  • Charisma and storytelling: Are you a leader? How confident are you telling your story to an audience?
  • Fundamentals and numbers: How well do you understand a profit and loss (P&L) statement? Can you put together – and stick to – a budget?
  • Technical: Do you understand product management? Do you have enough technical grasp to lead a product team?
  • Sales: How good are you at selling your product or service to people? Can you close a deal?

About the author

Sebastien Eckersley-MaslinSebastien Eckersley-Maslin is the co-founder and CEO of BlueChilli, a leading startup accelerator that works with non-technical founders. See also: Investors in BlueChilli startups automatically qualify for tax deduction after ATO rulingWhy the startup ecosystem needs more non-technical entrepreneurs, not stereotypes and Why non-technical founders need greater support from Australia’s startup ecosystem.