It Is Im­por­tant to Choose Co-founders You Know Well, Says Amy Wilkinson

The Economic Times - - Career & Business Life -

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

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