Optimism is a Fundamental Requirement

Most start-ups are working on problems that are impossible or seem impossible. The raison d'être of a startup is to build something that has never existed before. In the early days, it was not obvious that companies like Facebook, SpaceX, Uber, Airbnb, Discord, Slack (the list goes on) would work. In fact, prevailing belief was that these companies would not work.

In the face of that, startup founders (and by extension, early employees) fundamentally needto be optimistic. This 'optimism' could easily be labelled naïveté, arrogance, over-confidence, (or more positively; relentless, driven, or persistent) but whatever the label, it is a fundamental requirement to building a startup. It is required that you can see a future where these "crazy" ideas would work and would truly become products that people wanted. Similarly, it is the relentless struggle for new solutions, and the belief that these new solutions exist, despite minute odds of success, that distinguishes the founders who win from those who don't.

Conversely, a negative founder, one who cannot see a way to be successful, will categorically never win. Those who cannot see a world where the company dominates the market will never be able to contribute onto the same level as those who believe they will. They will be unable to ideate in the face of defeat and new tactics will desert them as the shadow of failure sits heavy in their mind. We have all met people like that; when greeted with a new idea, the immediate reaction is: "that won’t work". When asked to envisage a future where the world has changed due to their actions, they fundamentally cannot.

Whereas I cannot with certainty predict the success of an optimistic founder, I certainly can predict the failure of a pessimistic one.

When seeking collaborators for an early stage start-up, both co-founders and employees, optimism is not a nice-to-have, it is one of the necessary criteria.