Key Trait of Founders: Loving Ambiguity

Zynga.  Internet fortunes won and lost.  IPOs.  VCs.  Victories and colossal failures. That was my morning meal.

I caught up today over breakfast with Rich Levandov of Avalon Ventures (one of the Zynga investors).  He and I have so many overlapping friends and contacts, and so, it was good to meet up finally with him.

We talked about a lot of topics as he mowed down his espressos and I chugged some coffee.  We learned that we shared a lot of the same philosophies about entrepreneurship and early-stage VC investing.

One of them is the need to accept, and, in fact, love ambiguity.  Starting companies from scratch requires a lot of creativity, and also, patience.  Things rarely work out, and by definition, changing a space or a sector offers very limited visibility, particularly if you are early in a market.

Similarly, there are few guarantees when you are an early-stage VC.  Most companies will fail. Business plans change all the time. It’s very hard to know if a company is doing well or not when it is in the “figure it out” phases.  It’s hard to put down a start-up’s plan into a spreadsheet and pass the document around a huge partnership to get support.

I’ve worked with quite a few folks over the years.  And, I’ve seen very talented and capable people completely burn out over time.  I’ve seen VCs exit the industry, and I’ve seen start-up founders call it quits and then seek employment at a Big Company. There’s nothing wrong with that, BTW.

But, I write this because there’s a common circumstance to those who leave entrepreneurship: the psychological pressure got to them.  They hated the ambiguity. In the end, it was too draining.

So, before you start a company, ask yourself: do you hate, tolerate or love ambiguity? It’s a key question to answer.

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