“The Thinker” by Auguste Rodin.

What is an “Entrepreneurial Mindset”?

I asked some startup founders and VC’s and got some great answers.

  • Olivia (VC): “An entrepreneurial mindset includes excitement around building something new, and perseverance to navigate the many obstacles that come up in that process.”
  • David (Founder): “An understanding that the world is both mutable and imperfect coupled with the resolve to improve it”.
  • Tim (VC): “Folks with outsized smarts, goodness, and grit who can’t imagine not spending their life solving the unmet need about which they care most deeply”.
  • Kent (Founder): “It never occurs to me that I might fail at starting a company, which is kind of crazy given the low probability of success of biotech companies. Perhaps obvious, but you cannot have any fear. It doesn’t mean you are oblivious to what can go wrong, but you have confidence that you will find a solution”.
  • Jeremy (Founder): “A relentless dissatisfaction with the status quo that drives you to build novel solutions that others will value”.
  • Bob (VC): “An entrepreneurial mindset is one which takes risks others won’t take to achieve a vision others don’t share.”
  • Jason (Founder): “Seeing what others don’t, and having an unstoppable will”.
  • Danielle (VC): “The entrepreneurial mindset is one consisting of grit and perseverance, while being realistic enough to know when to adapt and change course”.
  • Chris (Founder): “Entrepreneurial mindset is all about efficient hypothesis testing and grit”.
  • Thane (Founder): “I believe there is an entrepreneurial mindset or spirit: creating shared value”.
  • Grit, Perseverance, Unstoppable Will, Relentless:
    This is pretty obvious — being an entrepreneur is hard. The successful ones have a mindset that makes them relentless at pursuing passions. In fact, Steve Jobs himself said “I’m convinced that about half of what separates the successful entrepreneurs from the non-successful ones is pure perseverance.”
  • Hypothesis testing, a willingness to adapt and change course:
    This is a key point because the reality is that for most startups, the original idea fails. But great entrepreneurs are always testing their assumptions and pivoting their way to success, even when the original idea fails. YouTube thought their main use case would be video dating, Instagram began as a mobile check-in app called Burbn, Slack began as a video game studio, and Uber’s original idea was a fleet of company-owned cars called “UberTaxi”. In all of these cases, the original idea failed but the team was agile enough to test their assumptions, realize where they were wrong, and pivot to success.
  • Driven by a desire to solve problems worth solving.
    A Paul Graham wrote, the best way to get startup ideas is to look for problems. Great entrepreneurs fall in love with a problem worth solving, and that passion then creates the unstoppable will that drives a startup to success.
  • Creating shared value.
    Being an entrepreneur is a team sport. Successful entrepreneurs are great at recruiting team members, customers, and investors to join their valuation-creation mission. Not everybody is passionate about creating shared value — but every single great entrepreneur I know is.

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Bret Waters

Silicon Valley guy. I teach entrepreneurship at Stanford, run the 4thly Startup Accelerator, and coach startup CEO’s at Miller Center. Also, I love fish tacos.