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University-Industry Engagement Advisor

Why visionary entrepreneurs need a co-founder

By Jesse Schwartz
Published: June 27th, 2018

In his recent blog post, startup mentor Martin Zwilling urges venture creators to find a co-founder who complements their “big picture” ambitions.

“It seems like every entrepreneur I meet these days is quick to proclaim themselves a visionary,” writes Zwilling. “Unless the visionary highlights a co-founder who can take the vision and execute, I assume the worst.”

While every start-up should be founded on an exciting idea, no start-up will succeed if the big picture isn’t accompanied by business expertise. Zwilling points out the key potential weaknesses of a pure visionary, as well as the value of an execution-oriented co-founder.

  1. Staying focused and following through. “Visionaries tend to get bored easily,” he writes. “To spice things up, they start creating new ideas and direction, which gets everyone excited. This may cause a wonderful 90-day spike in performance, but in the end often sabotages their original vision.” Zwilling recommends finding a partner who takes pleasure in seeing results and who enjoys the discipline of making progress on a day-to-day basis. This kind of person will help ensure the success of the start-up’s processes, systems, priorities and strategy — the kinds of things that would bore the visionary.
  2. Too many ideas and an unrealistic optimism. Visionaries tend to have unusually high levels of energy, creativity and risk-taking qualities. Thus they tend ignore the negative impacts their impulsive decision making may have on resources, capacity, people and profitability. “The solution is a partner who is the voice of reason,” says Zwilling, “who filters all of the visionary’s ideas and helps eliminate hurdles, stumbling blocks and barriers for the whole leadership team.” Some titles that fit this kind of role include president, COO or chief architect.
  3. Organizational whiplash. Start-up teams will closely follow the whims of the visionary founder and often can’t keep up with the pace of change, which leads to a loss of motivation, productivity and general organization. A good co-founder will focus on directional clarity and make sure people are communicating within the company. “When the team is at odds or confused, they need this steady force to keep them on track with the business plan,” Zwilling writes.
  4. Tends to hire helpers and not develop talent. Visionaries often get so wrapped up in the big picture that they don’t see the need to leverage the capabilities of people who are more experienced at other aspects of running a business. It is important to have a co-founder who sees the true value of the other team members and is eager to help them develop skills and leadership. “Many will argue that the visionary entrepreneurs can simply fix their shortcomings and thus save resources by satisfying both roles,” Zwilling concludes. “I’m a proponent of capitalizing on your strengths, rather than focusing on fixing your weaknesses. If your strength is being a visionary, use that vision to attract a complementary partner and make it a win-win opportunity for both of you.”

Source: Startup Professionals Musings

Posted under: Tech Transfer e-News

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