In a post 2 months ago entitled “Building the Perfect Machine“, Roger Ehrenberg of IA Ventures articulates the three characteristics he sought for the investor team he built at his firm. Reading through the informal job requisition, I was struck by the profile’s similarity to the characteristics of successful founding team of a startup.
Deep technical and product knowledge
Operational start-up experience
Higher-order financial modeling skills with a voracious appetite and aptitude for understanding markets
For me, the last phrase of the ultimate bullet is the most important: aptitude for understanding markets. Note the requirement is not possessing an aptitude for understanding a market. It is not experience in a market. Instead, it is the capacity to learn and understand the market. This is the most important skill every founder should possess.
In the Essence of a Startup, I quoted Kenya Hara head designer for Muji who said, “The essence of design lies in the process of discovering a problem shared by many people and trying to solve it.” And I equated such a design problem with the very challenges startups must surmount – understanding the problems of the market they serve. These are one and the same.
Markets dynamics evolve. Competitors enter. Technologies advance. Consumers become more sophisticated and demanding. Through it all, the team with the best aptitude for understanding the market throughout its convolutions and respond with a product informed by their insights will succeed.