The strongest part of a startup

It’s always interesting to ask entrepreneurs what they think holds a startup together. 

The answers vary — sometimes you’ll get a basic answer like culture, or hiring. Other times people will talk about measuring things and setting goals, or the ability to follow one’s passion. 

Those are all good answers, but for me the most basic quality of entrepreneurship is really just emotional resiliency.

I wrote about that topic the other day, and about how accelerators help entrepreneurs develop emotional intelligence. I think when the people who work for and are around an accelerator care about helping entrepreneurs grow that resiliency, that has a lot to do with later success. 

You can clearly see this in two of the world’s best accelerators, Techstars and 500 Startups. 

Techstars is probably the most supportive accelerator there is when it comes to helping people grow not just their skills but their emotional and intellectual being. 

I’ve been fortunate enough to get to know a couple of people there over the last several months, one a bit newer to the program and one who has been there a couple of years and is a sort of foundation for what they do. Both of them exemplify the sort of radical self-inquiry, compassion, and grit that characterizes great entrepreneurship and the people that care deeply about supporting people undertaking the challenge. 

500 Startups is a bit more scrappy by nature, probably because of the direct, no holds barred style of its well known founder Dave McClure. But they are a family through thick and thin, and it shows. It’s nearly a gang, because I suspect you could call another 500 alum or program director at 3 am and ask for help with nearly anything. I’ve never had contact with the program but worked for a 500 backed startup for a bit and the influence was clearly there: tough as nails, loyal, honest to a fault, and hard working. 

Those approaches both tend to foster emotional resiliency, so that when the money runs out and you have to make quick decisions, or you have to pivot your business significantly, or there is a conflict within a team, or any other number of issues…you can not only get support and advice from others, but you have perspective and your own internal structure to help you figure out what’s next.