Bold Beginnings: Unlocking the Potential of First-Time Founders

First-time founders are constantly asking us if they have what it takes to start a company. We've noticed a few common threads that predict a founder's success.

Article by
Mike Langellier

High Alpha is a venture studio that has co-founded dozens of tech start-ups. We are constantly in communication with founder candidates - both repeat and first-time - and from first-timers we regularly hear variations on the same question, “Can I really be a Founder?” We know how to forge companies from nothing; however, the key element to that success has always been a partnership with driven founders. We have seen a few common threads amongst those who succeed within our studio model. High Alpha provides guidance, capital, empathy, and embedded support resources while the founder brings the knowledge, network, and passion needed to will a company into existence. Establishing that chemistry is tricky. Luckily, we’ve become very good at engineering serendipity to unlock entrepreneurship potential. 

Experience is a crucial factor; however, that doesn’t mean you need to have founded a company before to succeed when partnering with High Alpha. For SaaS start-ups, it’s important that the founder has experience working in the tech space and domain expertise in the topic. They also need a strong understanding of the problem - what we call founder-problem fit - and are comfortable taking the lead on sales in the early stages of the company. 

Ideally, a first-time founder has worked as an executive at a tech company or has worked in tandem with them. There is a level of urgency to work done in this space that can be a lot for someone who has never had to move quickly. High Alpha can help fill in some of the blanks on experience. Still, exposure to this type of experience is crucial because the founder will lead the go-to-market strategy, provide product direction, and attract talented people to build a strong team. The High Alpha team will provide frameworks, coaching, workshops, and even embedded team members to help move the strategy forward. This support is to help get the company off the ground, but ultimately, the founder’s network of potential customers and investors is critical to building a business that can prosper. 

Another common trait among the founders High Alpha partners with is knowing that they will fail multiple times before they succeed. An aspect of entrepreneurship that can be difficult to come to terms with is being honest about one’s qualities and being vulnerable enough to know what areas need help or improvement. Entrepreneurship is a stressful, lonely journey that is part of why about half of all small businesses don’t survive past five years. So, what does it take to be in the half that thrives? It starts with the founder behind the vision:

  • A Personality with Grit: Success isn’t linear, especially when creating new software. The founder of a company needs to have the mindset and resilience to make their vision a reality. 
  • A Creative Learner: You need to be able to make quick and measured decisions and have the drive to push through obstacles and challenges. To create solutions that move the vision forward faster. 
  • A Student of Their Market: Founders must continually study the industry and market they are trying to reach. The data almost always signals what the product needs to evolve to serve demand better. 
  • Ability to Pivot: Adaptability, credibility, and momentum are some ingredients that make up the ideal leader. The likelihood of hitting a bullseye on the perfect answer the first time is nearly impossible. Still, there will almost always be signals in the experience of failure that lead you to the target.

It takes courage to step into the unknown. Entrepreneurship is a daunting path, but it can go smoother with a partnership with High Alpha. We know how to build companies from nothing because that is precisely what we are passionate about. To answer the question, “Can I really be a Founder?” the answer is yes, you can. 

Book some time to chat about how we can partner to go further and faster together.

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