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People who dare to venture into the unpredictable realm of startups often achieve success through a unique set of traits and characteristics. The Founder Institute has taken a bold step in unraveling the mystery behind entrepreneurial success through its Entrepreneur DNA Assessment. In this article, we will delve into the insights shared by Megan Kopelove, the Head of Pipeline and Admissions at the Founder Institute, as she walks us through the 26 traits that define a successful startup founder.

About the Founder Institute: The Founder Institute, established in 2009, is the world's largest pre-seed startup accelerator, operating in over 100 countries with a mission to activate and empower communities of talented and motivated people. It has a global reach, boasting 7,000 graduate companies that have collectively raised two billion dollars in funding. With a focus on the founder as the primary variable for success or failure in early-stage companies, the Founder Institute developed the Entrepreneurial DNA Assessment to identify and understand the potential of early-stage startup founders to be great entrepreneurs.

The Genesis of the Entrepreneurial DNA Assessment

The assessment was born out of the need for a data-driven mechanism to identify entrepreneurial potential, especially at the early stages when companies lack traditional metrics like recurring revenue or traction. Megan Kopelove highlights the challenge of evaluating idea-stage companies and the importance of assessing founders to identify strengths, weaknesses, and potential pitfalls. With the belief that the founder is the key to a startup's success or failure, the assessment aims to provide a comprehensive understanding of a founder's traits and tendencies.

The 26 Traits of Successful Founders

The assessment evaluates 26 different traits, carefully selected based on over a hundred peer-reviewed articles pinpointing personality traits with a significant impact on entrepreneurial outcomes. These traits cover aspects of communication, problem-solving, work style, and drive. The assessment goes beyond a generalized personality test and is specifically designed for entrepreneurs, offering a nuanced understanding of an individual's strengths and weaknesses.

The Science Behind the Entrepreneur DNA Assessment

Megan Kopelove explains that the assessment is a result of over 15 years of research, collaboration with industrial and organizational psychologists, and a rigorous process of refining traits. It is both valid and reliable, ensuring that results represent what they are intended to measure and can be reproduced consistently. The assessment is designed to be easily translatable across borders and cultures, maintaining a third-grade reading level and avoiding colloquialisms or cultural references.

A Closer Look at the DNA Assessment Process

The assessment, which takes approximately 30 minutes to complete, employs a forced-choice format, considered the gold standard in testing. This format requires test-takers to select traits that are most and least like them, preventing them from choosing socially desirable options and minimizing the potential for faking responses. The results provide a comprehensive report, including the entrepreneurial outlook, DNA profile, strengths and weaknesses breakdown, trait scores, and an action plan.

Decoding the Results

The DNA profile categorizes respondents into nine basic profiles, such as "hustler," indicating someone outgoing and good at sales but potentially lacking in discipline. The trait scores, presented in percentiles, allow for comparative analysis, considering that certain traits might be more prevalent among entrepreneurs. The action plan doesn't merely identify strengths and weaknesses but provides actionable solutions, helping individuals create smart goals and collaborate to achieve them.

Measuring Development

The Founder Institute measures success in multiple ways, both during and after the program. Founders are continuously rated on a scale of one to five by mentors and leaders, and post-program success is gauged through revenue, profitability, company longevity, talent recruitment, milestones, and fundraising. The data collected feeds back into the assessment algorithm, ensuring an evolving and dynamic understanding of entrepreneurial success.

Applying the DNA Assessment to Teams

The assessment is not limited to individual founders; it can be a powerful tool for evaluating the overall health of a team. By considering traits related to psychological safety, trust, emotional control, innovation, creativity, collaboration, autonomy, risk tolerance, and social skills, the assessment aids in identifying functional diversity within a team. This ensures that a team is well-rounded, with complementary strengths and weaknesses.

Another crucial aspect of team dynamics is psychological safety. This term refers to the belief that one can take interpersonal risks within a group without fear of negative consequences to their self-image, status, or career. In a psychologically safe environment, team members feel comfortable expressing themselves, taking risks, and being vulnerable, knowing they won't be judged or punished. This concept is critical to innovation.

The Entrepreneurial DNA Assessment by the Founder Institute offers a data-validated approach to understanding the traits that define successful startup founders. The test not only identifies individual strengths and weaknesses but also provides actionable insights for personal and professional development. Startup founders, both solo and those building teams, can leverage this assessment to navigate the challenges of the startup journey with a greater understanding of their unique Entrepreneur DNA.

Learn more about the FI’s Entrepreneur DNA Assessment here

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The Founder Institute is the world’s most proven network to turn ideas into fundable startups, and startups into global businesses. Since 2009, our highly-structured accelerator programs have helped entrepreneurs raised over $1.75BN in funding across over 200 cities worldwide.

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