Why do people become founders?

Since starting We Are Founders last year, I've been on a quest to uncover the answer to this very question: Why do some people embrace risk while others avoid it? And what motivates individuals to venture out on their own?

We know that folks don't become founders because it's a walk in the park. On the contrary, it would be far simpler and less stressful to opt for a different path, but they continue regardless, relentlessly, against the status quo.

If you’ve had the opportunity to talk to someone who's taken on the challenge, you'll see it written all over their face – their expression says it all about the journey they're going through.

In my research so far, I've discovered that people mainly become founders for two reasons.

The first is that they enjoy the challenge. Just like some folks push themselves physically by running marathons, climbing mountains, and swimming long distances, starting a business is a similar kind of challenge, albeit less physical.

Secondly, many of the founders I've talked to are deeply empathic people. They're wonderfully caring individuals who see the inequality that exists in the world, and, grabbing life by the scruff of the neck, they set about finding ways to address social issues.

I’ve had the opportunity to speak to people who want to shake up the world of education, recruitment, farming, and journalism. It’s hard not to be inspired by these people.

“Like most founders, I have gone months between securing revenue. Thankfully this has steadied out now, money and traction are both becoming more secure. It's been up and down but I am so excited to continue to grow an environmentally & socially impactful business,” said Stephanie McEvoy of Farming Carbon.

Fundamentally, while others might feel at ease with the status quo, founders are uneasy unless they're tinkering, solving, and empathising. They're passionate problem solvers driven to make a positive impact and dedicated to finding solutions that benefit others.

But they're not living in a fantasy world either; founders are well aware of the rollercoaster ride that comes with starting a new venture. As reported by Beauhurst, a staggering 60% of startups will close their doors within their initial three years of operation.

But despite these daunting statistics, founders continue to emerge, striving to defy the assumption that failure is inevitable.

In a recent report published for We Are Founders, we tried to break down the why behind successful founders.

Spoiler alert: A founder's mindset is truly remarkable.

Every one of the 32 founders I interviewed had comparable mindsets. Whether it was their determination, energy, or that elusive ‘special sauce’, they all exuded a fire in their bellies that was truly inspiring. Some were too modest, unwilling to entertain the notion that they were somehow different, while others were more than happy to share their secrets to success.

“Balancing school, work, and my passion project has been challenging, but the vision of creating something impactful keeps me going. MyndMap is a full-time commitment, and I want to make it a reality,” said Jordan J. Mugenyi of Myndmap.

At the heart of it, every fonder harboured that indispensable factor crucial for success: passion.

Whether it be the lack of LGBTQIA+ representation in the recruitment/workspace, a young man who wanted to create a mindfulness app, inspired by his ADHD girlfriend, or someone who wants to help companies reach their ESG goals, these people aren’t just founders, they’re the best humanity has to offer.

In a landscape that often feels saturated with negativity, it's inspiring to connect with people who are paving the way for empathy and understanding in a world that often feels antithetical to such values. I always tell people, “If you want to be inspired, talk to a founder. Seriously.”

Caterina Fake, the founder of Flickr, expressed it eloquently when she said: "The most successful entrepreneurs I've met are optimistic. It's a fundamental aspect of the role." In my experience, that has never been untrue.

My green-fingered father would often tell his grandkids that planting seeds, tending to the garden and the cyclical nature of the seasons are like sowing the seeds of transformation. I think founders are a bit like that.

Founders are similar to gardeners, skilfully sowing seeds of creativity and development, tending to their ideas with enthusiasm and commitment, and motivating others with their power to create beneficial change.

Go talk to a founder. It might change your life.