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Written By: Janine Kick


We’re big fans of Drake and Kanye here at Kerosene. People give Drake a hard time for being ‘in his feels’. You know, emotional. Kanye West, well, is Kanye West. He doesn’t give a #$%@! He believes what he believes and it doesn’t really matter if you agree with him or not. He’s going to do what he’s going to do. Sometimes, I think you have to be a little of both to get by in the startup world. Of course, if you know their stories, they do have something in common, but we’ll get to that later…

Anyway let’s talk about me! I spend a lot of time helping founders understand what VC’s are looking for, how they think about things, and what makes them excited about a business. It’s my responsibility to ‘read between the lines’ with investors and strategically introduce them to the founders that are great fits for them. Just this week I was speaking with an investor and for the first time was put in the hot seat and asked, “What do you look for in a business or a founder? What gets you excited?” 

The tables had turned and to be honest, it caught me off guard. 9 times out of 10, I do the question asking! I had to think about my answer for a second or two. 

Initially, the more obvious things came to mind…

  • Market Opportunity: How big is the TAM? Is the market growing, how quickly? Who else is playing in this space, who are the old players and the new?
  • Traction:  Do you have tangible traction at this point? Is there revenue? Is it steady or is it lumpy? Is it recurring? What’s the margin look like? How long did it take to get to this point? 
  • Product Innovation: How well built is the current product? What are the plans for the future product? What actual value is being provided by this product compared to the current way of working? 

Then I answered – after living at the intersection of startup and venture for more than a few years, I guess it all comes down to one thing for me: The team. 

The proverbial jockey. Ideally, you have a well balanced core team with a variety of skills and backgrounds that can tackle the appropriate responsibilities within the organization. Obviously, I want you to know what you’re talking about, so if you’ve experienced the problem you’re solving first-hand that’s a slam dunk for me. I want a founder to be compelling, have charisma and empathy, and have the ability to engage with those around them at a human level. 

But what’s most important IMO, I want to see your dedication and passion. Show me your grit. Start-ups are hard work and it’s a long road to success. There are bound to be more than a few bumps in the road. I need to believe you are all in and have the strength to persevere. That you will do whatever it takes to see this product to success, that you are 100% committed.

That takes us back to Drake and Kanye. For all their differences, they do have this in common. They have grit. Now it takes shape in very different ways, but grit nonetheless. So whether you lean toward Drake or Kanye’s demeanor, figure out how to share that you have what it takes, and explain how you’ll still be standing when the dust settles.

Show your grit. People will follow you because of it. You will succeed because of it. Investors will invest in you because of it.


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