What are some of the key characteristics of successful teams charged with planning and decision-making responsibilities? A friend and former college classmate who worked for some years as a VP of Marketing for Microsoft once told me about working with Bill Gates. “He’s super smart” he said, “in our product marketing team meetings he could be pretty brutal.” He went on to elaborate further; “you’ve got to be totally prepared; he asks a lot of tough questions and he’s quick to call bull shit.” What Gates was doing was challenging assumptions, a key ingredient of critical thinking.
Entrepreneurs seeking start-up capital often look to early stage investors as validators for their vision and business acumen in addition to their value as financial supporters critical to the venture’s growth and survival. Thus, early stage investor may have a substantively different type of influence on the founder and the company. Unfortunately, in many cases, such early stage angel investors may be friends, family members, or local business executives with little to no experience in mentoring a founder of his company’s product, market or business strategy. Even worse, the investor may believe that he or she is an expert and mistakenly assume that they know better than the founder and his team what the company should be doing.
A few years ago I was a panelist on a discussion featuring John Gartner, author of The Hypomanic Edge – The Link Between Craziness and Success in America. In his book Gartner makes the case for why America, a nation of immigrants, has such a high quotient of entrepreneurial success. I had become friends with a number of H1B immigrants in my first start-up and I had marveled at the courage they had exhibited in leaving the comfort and security of family and culture to come to the USA to study and work. So Gartner’s findings not only made sense but they served to explain much of what was so impressive about this special group of people.