Do you have happy, rich relationships with both your parents? If so, consider this a mixed blessing. Venture capitalist George Zachary, who has been studying start-up founders for the better part of 20 years, says that the best entrepreneurs typically have stormier relations with either mom or dad.
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“People who feel most hurt by the world are the ones most likely to go out and change it,” Zachary explained, during a start-ups’ conference in Mountain View, Calif., this week. Zachary, a partner in Charles River Ventures, was interviewed on stage at the Computer History Museum by Derek Andersen, founder of StartupGrind.
“Most founders come from a chaotic life,” Zachary added. “Typically, one parent is very involved, and the other one isn’t there.” Such dynamics apply in about 80% of great entrepreneurs’ backgrounds, he estimated. In the other 20% — where relations with both parents are sturdy and sunny — he contends that entrepreneurs will still do well but won’t push as hard.
Restlessness may be a hallmark of entrepreneurs’ nature, Zachary suggested. Asked if achieving great wealth makes entrepreneurs happy, he demurred. Striking it rich in an initial public offering may bring a short-term lift in people’s moods, he said, but “if someone was an anxious person before, they’re going to be an anxious person afterward. They’re just going to have a new budget to spend it on.”
What’s more important to entrepreneurs, Zachary said, is a sense of meaning, and a belief that they have created companies of lasting significance.
Within Charles River Ventures, Zachary said, turbulence has its place, too. If three or four partners are enthusiastic about a possible investment, and three or four hate it, “we like that,” he said.
“If all of us are super-positive, it means it’s too obvious,” Zachary added. Such companies likely are pursuing opportunities that many others will see, making it unlikely that anyone will be a big winner. “We like the ones with some controversy.”