It Is Important to Choose Co-founders You Know Well, Says Amy Wilkinson
Every successful entrepreneur has six essential skills, says Amy Wilkinson, an entrepreneur and lecturer at the Stanford Graduate School of Business who interviewed 200 of the top entrepreneurs in the business and then wrote her book ‘The Creator’s Code’. In an interview to Varuni Khosla, she says it is important to choose co-founders you know well. According to Wilkinson, every successful entrepreneur has skills including finding the gap and spotting an opportunity that others don’t; driving for daylight, observing, orienting, deciding and acting; failing wisely; networking minds and gifting small goods. Edited excerpts:
Are there any big mistakes that potential entrepreneurs make that you’d like to warn them about? One of the biggest mistakes that people make is not choosing the co-founders or the people you work with and I think a lot of times people will decide to start a company with people they don’t even know. In order to go with the iterations and the setbacks, you need to really know somebody and trust them and the best founders that I did research on, they really know who they get into these projects with. If your product market shifts or a product market fit doesn’t work, you have a team of people who can solve an issue together, you can keep moving. If internal teams fall apart, you’re done. How important is reputation in today’s entrepreneurial context? The reason is that our reputation is transparent now and we can find out a lot of information about people online through social media. If you have a reputation about being generous to people, information comes to you, talent comes to you and deal flow comes to you...our reputations are amplified by technology. This is the basis for companies like LinkedIn. It’s a quick thing for us to do a five-minute favour to be helpful. No one will throw themselves in front of a train for you, but they will do small things that don’t cost them a lot and then it’ll benefit everyone.
There is some cutting edge research from Harvard right now which says that in a dynamic economy we choose who we work with (this is different from the past when it was an assembly line). On the assembly line, the person at the beginning can’t really choose the person at the end because their decisions don’t impact them that much.
Are millennials better equipped to be entrepreneurs? When I started my research I thought it was an ‘under 40’ skill set but I’ve taken the age gap off and I don't think it has anything to do with age. Millennials in the US are lagging behind the baby boomers in starting companies. I don’t think they have an advantage in this. I don’t think someone in the past got more experience in the working world, they got better. But today, you can’t be playing the same game for years, you have to take in new information and adapt to it.
Amy Wilkinson, lecturer at the Stanford Graduate School of Business