The X Factor: Invest in People Who Show No Fear of Failure


Here's a reminder of the Angel Kings' four must have personality factors, otherwise known as our "PASS" formula.

  1. Passionate, but with a purpose.
  2. All-in to their endeavor.
  3. Shows no fear of failure.
  4. Surrounded by equals or those greater.

Let's discuss #3 in our PASS formula.

Shows No Fear of Failure

The most common trait that we see in startup founders is no fear of failure.  Entrepreneurs in every startup must be able to hear the word “No” over and over again.  The harsh reality is that it’s hard to hear “no” for most founders, particularly when these often Ivy–educated, top–of–their–class individuals have soared beyond their peers all of their lives. 

But a “No” is ubiquitous in the startup world, and founders must maintain composure and be able to move on to the next customer, VC firm or investor, or else they’ll wither away like a flower in the desert.  They inevitably discover that hearing the word “no” and facing multiple rejections and objections to their companies are all part of the startup process.  The best founders are the ones who learn how to embrace these rejections and turn them into stepping–stones to success. 

Can you imagine what it must have been like for Elon Musk at SpaceX to think he had a shot of competing against NASA by launching satellites and rockets into space?

Musk has encountered resistance repeatedly when launching new products – whether it be from large defense companies that fear his companies will take their government subsidies, or from utility companies that are wary to embrace green energy with Musk’s SolarCity.

Another unquestionable example of a founder without fear is Mark Zuckerberg.  Facebook has been arguably the most impactful company on society in the past 10 years.  If it weren’t for Zuckerberg’s antics at Phillips Exeter Academy and then Harvard University, where he was warned repeatedly about his programming and online activities, Facebook would have never happened. 

Rejection and failure go hand and hand with running a startup. The difference between founders like Musk and Zuckerberg and founders who aren’t as successful is the ability to recognize that rejection isn’t an obstacle or roadblock.  Rejection is fuel to keep going, to keep building great things, and to launch what they know will transform industries and make people call them “icons.”

But let's better define failure...

Having no fear of failure doesn’t mean a startup founder should continue to build a product that people don’t want.  

If a founder is blindly stubborn, and she continues to sell her vision to a market that finds no need for it, then as an investor, you should be concerned.  There’s nothing worse than a founder spending money to build something no one is either going to use repeatedly for free (Facebook) or going to buy out of necessity (Tesla). 

Having no fear of failure doesn’t mean a startup founder should continue to pitch investors when they continually refuse to write a check. Having no fear of failure can simply mean a founder who takes charge of her own path.

Musk and Zuckerberg were intent on having their ventures change the conversation within industries that have existing dominant players.  They didn’t care that those players would be upset.  Based on their example, having no fear means a founder believes that a fundamental paradigm shift is needed in an industry to make the world a better place, and she’s going to take charge to make it happen.

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Ross Blankenship is an expert on startup funding,  angel investing and venture capital.

Ross Blankenship is also the Founder and CEO of AngelKings.com.  Angel Kings is an investing platform that provides accredited angel investors the opportunity to invest in top startups and companies in sectors like cyber security, biotech, mobile, data and financial services.  Angel Kings provides both venture capital funds for startup investing as well as private equity funding for early and middle-stage investments.