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By Andrew Maxwell

In my last blog, I discussed the importance of entrepreneurial characteristics and traits, both in increasing a ventures likelihood of success and attracting funding.

In a recent webinar at the CIC www.innovationcentre.ca I identified eight critical entrepreneurial factors linked to venture success: it seems worthwhile to identify them explicitly here.  First, I must introduce an academic term, the idea of a curvilinear relationship, that is a factor where there is an optimum amount correlated with a positive outcome, too little or too much are equally negative.  In trying to explain this, I call this the Goldilocks syndrome, where an item (bed, chair etc.) that was too little or too big, was no good for Goldilocks. The secret was for Goldilocks to find one in the middle that was just right! I use this analogy to describe the relationship between specific entrepreneurial factors that are linked to entrepreneurial success, where an optimum level is just right.

The eight entrepreneurial factors I have identified are: ability, experience, training, commitment, passion, confidence, openness and trust. I will briefly explain how an entrepreneur must have a sufficient level of each, but in excess each factor can also lead to the entrepreneur’s downfall. In my next blog, I will discuss a few  ideas that an entrepreneur can explore to mediate the negative impact.

In this short blog, I do not have time to give detailed explanations of each factor, but I will give two examples that will provide food for thought. Specifically, I emphasize how certain entrepreneurial characteristics, generally positively associated with entrepreneurial success, can also lead to failure.

Lets first deal with a cognitive skill – ability, generally thought  a key ingredient for entrepreneurial success. There is no question that people with higher abilities are more likely successful when running ventures (especially where there is a technology challenge they can address). However, there are times when their ability to solve sophisticated technology challenges can inhibit technological innovation in a company. This is often seen in a company where the technology leader can discourage innovations that seem to compete with their own ideas. There are few examples where a technology leader, run by the technology innovator, is the first to embrace a competing technology, no matter how it performs in relation to the original technology.

The other entrepreneurial trait I will discuss here is passion. There is lots of evidence that passion is key to success, in fact in the webinar on entrepreneurial characteristics last month, 88% of participants identified passion as a key ingredient of entrepreneurial success. Passion is key, but like the other attributes and traits discussed, excess passion can damage the ventures long-term prospects. Entrepreneurs that become too passionate about their business, often refuse to let go and have challenges delegating or sharing the control of the companies with others. This can limit the growth of the company and its ability to build the key partnerships critical for success. Passion can also be seen as being over-protective, and the parenting analogy is  appropriate, we have all heard of parents that are overprotective of their children. The challenge for entrepreneurs is to get each of these characteristics or traits – just right!

Andy is currently working at the Canadian Innovation Centre and pursuing a Ph.D. in the area of new venture creation at the University of Waterloo. In his spare time, he enjoys teaching technology entrepreneurship at UTM and the University of Waterloo.

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