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Are you hard-wired to be a start-up founder?

I’ll be honest: the reality of being an entrepreneur is far removed from the fantasy of sleeping in and days spent working from the couch between yoga classes and coffee breaks. In fact, sometimes the experience can feel akin to one constant panic attack – especially in the early years.

Late nights, anxious mornings, investors breathing down your neck, endless customers to please, not a vacation day in sight… all the time wondering whether or not the hard work will even be worth it in the end. It’s definitely not a lifestyle choice that is suited to everyone…

But, interestingly, some people positively thrive in this type of high-pressure environment. So what are some of the characteristics that indicate potential success as an entrepreneur these days?


In today’s app-centric world, it would be hard to overstate the value of having a computer programing background these days. Whether it’s writing code or developing user interface screens, a tech background can be a huge advantage. This is the case even if your knowledge is only used to be better able to instruct techies working for you.

And does this education need to come from a university? While a university degree can help, it certainly isn’t required. Just look at Elon Musk. When asked how he learned to build rockets, he had a simple answer, “I read books.” Getting a formal education is great, but don’t let a lack of one stop you from increasing your knowledge. 


In the beginning, most entrepreneurs will be responsible for every facet of their business. They will build their product, develop a business plan, find personal loans to fund early operations, market their product, sell their product, and manage a whole range of different relationships along the way.

And while most entrepreneurs start out with a strength in one of these fields, they also typically learn the rest as they go. So being an expert in all of these fields is not as important as being able to make mistakes, learn from them, and then keep moving forward.


“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” – Thomas Edison

One of the most important personality traits of (eventually!) successful entrepreneurs is the ability to fail, and fail, and fail again… before their product is finally successful. If you can get knocked down, and still jump back up swinging, you will inherently have a leg-up within the start-up world.

This is why many start-ups hire for attitude before aptitude. Because it’s easy to teach an employee to complete a task, but less so to shape their attitude or build up their resilience.


For those who are generally risk-averse in their career, career success might typically involve climbing the corporate ladder of a large firm as quickly as possible.

But in the land of the entrepreneur, a successful career might instead be centred on one’s ability to create an empowered life, build something of value, generate unlimited potential for wealth creation – and do all of the above on the entrepreneur’s own terms.

The ambition factor is a key difference between someone with an employee mindset, and someone with the DNA to succeed as an entrepreneur.


About the author

Clayton Howes is the co-founder and CEO of digital consumer finance firm MoneyMe. He’s an expert in personal finance as well as small business and start-ups.

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Clayton Howes

Clayton Howes

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