every founder has a story to share

Report: Investigating Common Threads in Founder Experiences

Insights, Strategies, and Triumphs from 34 We Are Founders Participants

what this report is about

Connecting the Dots

To really understand why founders start their businesses, we need to talk to them. We did talk. Quite a bit actually. And because of that, we've noticed some interesting trends within the conversations.

We're excited to share what we've learned, and whether you're a veteran founder or just starting, we hope our insights can help illuminate your entrepreneurial path.

Deep Talks: Direct, detailed chats with founders have unveiled insights into motivations, challenges, and entrepreneurial dynamics.
Diverse Insights: Multiple founder perspectives have ensured a comprehensive understanding, capturing varied stories and experiences.
Recognising Patterns: Engaging conversations have revealed patterns, offering valuable collective insights into entrepreneurship's common aspects.
Even though some founders were hesitant to share their journey with the public, they were happy to contribute to this report.
Number of Participants

A total of 34 participants were involved in this Common Threads report.

Founders From Different Countries

We Are Founders is a global platform. Founders from a total of 4 countries participated.

Average Time in Business

The average time a participant was in business was 2.5 years.

Total Conversation Hours

We spent a total of 76 hours talking with people through remote interviews and collecting info on Typeform.

getting started

Passion and Purpose

All of our founders began their journeys because they believed they could tackle a problem or because they felt a strong passion for something.

Founders emphasised a deep passion for their ventures and a commitment to making a meaningful impact.
Purpose-driven entrepreneurship was important, with all founders focusing on solving real-world problems and creating value.
None of the founders expressed an interest in getting involved solely for the purpose of becoming wealthy or achieving success.
under pressure

Resilience and Adaptability

Resilience matters. When things get hard, founders stay focused. Adaptability helps them change course and succeed in a fast-changing world. Our founders stressed the importance of never giving up.

Resilience is a common trait among our interviewed founders. They regularly faced and overcame challenges in their journeys.
Their ability to adapt to changing circumstances and persevere through difficulties is crucial for their success.
Even on challenging days, founders emphasised that they never allowed difficulties to dictate their ultimate objectives.
At some stage, 13% of founders wondered if they were on the right track. Community and mentorship helped them.

"Most founders start a business to make money. They have an idea and then try to commercialise it. My journey as a founder started almost by accident… I found a problem in an industry that I was passionate about (and had worked in for over 20 years) and I wanted to solve it."

Adrienne hanna of right revenue
moving forward

Learning from Setbacks

Founders will face setbacks. That's a fact. The 34 embraced setbacks as opportunities to learn, evolving with each challenge. Through resilience and reflection, they see setbacks as stepping stones toward success in their journeys.

Setbacks and failures are viewed as valuable learning experiences, providing insights for growth.
The mindset of seeing challenges as opportunities to learn and adapt is prevalent.
For particularly big challenges, founders would often lean on their networks or mentors if they had one.
No setback was so big that it derailed plans entirely, but all founders found careful consideration and being proactive highly important.

Importance of Team and Culture

Cultivating the right culture early is a founder's compass. It shapes the company's identity, influences team dynamics, and sets the tone for success, fostering a collaborative and resilient environment.

Building a strong and cohesive team is highlighted as a key factor in entrepreneurial success.
Creating a positive and inclusive organisational culture is crucial for overcoming challenges and fostering innovation.
Founders authentically shared core values and culture, connecting with customers transparently. This sincerity magnetically attracted customers seeking alignment with shared principles and beliefs.
64% of founders emphasised the difficulty of finding the right co-founder.
How Did Our Participants Identify?

64% of participants identified as female, with 36% identifying as male. We're working to engage with non-binary folk too.

Tech Vs Non-Tech

16% of founders came from a technical background. While the rest did not, they acknowledged they required technical help in the form of outsourcing, or prioritising building a technical team.

Average Age

The mean age of the interviewed founders was 43 years. This is fairly typical when compared to external research.

Founder Experience

Just 12% of founders said they were experienced founders. For the rest, it was their first venture outside of full-time employment.

you (the founder) are not the user

Market Testing and Customer Focus

If you don't speak to your users, who are you making a product for? Embracing feedback and customer-centric approaches, founders need to refine products for a resonant market fit in the hope of finding sustained success.

Founders stressed the importance of market testing and obtaining diverse feedback. Though they admit, this wasn't always the case.
A customer-centric approach, understanding user needs, and incorporating feedback required some founders to "get outside of their headspace".
34% of founders acknowledged room for improvement, admitting they could do more in user research.
standing on the shoulders of giants

Mentorship and Learning

Every founder initiated their journey driven by a belief in problem-solving or a deep passion, but seeking mentorship and continuous learning along their entrepreneurial paths, helped immensely.

Mentorship, in various forms, was acknowledged as a valuable resource for personal and professional growth.
Continuous learning, curiosity, and seeking advice from diverse sources are integral to the entrepreneurial journey.
92% of founders cited how valuable a mentor was to them, with the remaining 8% "crowd-sourcing" their mentorship, for example, following inspirational people on Twitter.

"Mentorship and our community has built DiverseTalent. Without them, I’d still be sitting at the kitchen table talking to the dog."

Jemma of Diverse talent
you gotta believe in something

Belief in Product and Vision

Understanding the significance, founders had to grasp how crucial unwavering belief and vision were. These drove transformative innovation, simplification, and elevation, meeting evolving needs for sustained success.

Founders consistently highlighted the importance of unwavering belief in their product or vision.
Persistence and confidence in the face of doubts and scepticism are recurring themes. If founders felt they were solving a user problem, they were much more likely to be confident in their vision.
Founders often regained confidence by reconnecting with their passion, seeking mentorship, and reflecting on past successes to foster resilience.
staying relevant

Balancing Innovation with Practicality

Balancing innovation and practicality is key. Creative ideas drive progress, but a practical approach ensures realistic implementation for sustainable growth.

Balancing innovation with practical needs and market realities is a common challenge faced by successful founders.
Innovation is essential, but it needs to align with the actual requirements and challenges of the market.
Innovation workshops ignite creativity, fostering collaborative problem-solving and driving forward-thinking solutions for entrepreneurial growth and success.
28% of founders believed their focus should be elsewhere, expressing a desire to innovate but feeling overwhelmed with other business tasks.

"User feedback was more than just validation; it was a source of inspiration and a strong reminder of why I started this journey in the first place."

Jordan of MYNDMAP

Community Building

Many founders leaned on the strength of community, finding support, advice, and collaboration vital for overcoming challenges and fostering collective success in their entrepreneurial journeys.

Some founders actively engage in building communities, emphasising the value of networking and collaboration.
Support networks, whether within industries or through mentorship, are seen as significant for entrepreneurial success.
52% of founders felt that building a community was critical for fostering success and growth.

Embracing Challenges and Ambiguity

Embracing challenges and ambiguity is a cornerstone for founders. Often sparking innovation, resilience, and adaptability, shaping a mindset that thrives amidst uncertainties, ensuring sustained entrepreneurial growth.

All founders who were asked said they'd encourage aspiring entrepreneurs to embrace challenges, be prepared for uncertainties, and acknowledge the possibility of failure.
The entrepreneurial journey requires a willingness to navigate ambiguity and persist in the face of uncertainty.

We’re Just Scratching the Surface

This is our first report, and as such, it's really just a glimpse at what a founder's life is like. As we grow, so too will the number of research participants available, and we're excited about that.

We have plenty more to talk about, but we realise that some topics, like funding and financing, are better discussed separately.

Being a founder is both thrilling and challenging. There's a real sense of apprehension as people leave behind the security of full-time jobs to pursue their ventures.

At We Are Founders, we're inspired by the courage and determination it takes to embark on this journey. So, with confidence, forge ahead and give it your all.