Mooney: Good, Bad, & Learning Founders

Guest post by Clayton Mooney.

Topics that will repeatedly pop up when building a company from the earliest stage, and the various mindsets a founder can have while going about them.

Being self-aware as a founder is difficult. Maybe it’s because none of us actually know what’s going on, or if the direction we’re going in is the right one. Or, put another way, we’ve sat out to build a future that doesn’t exist yet, and convincing the world it needs to exist is no small undertaking.

Here are my thoughts on the mindset of a founder, on various topics that will repeatedly pop up when building a company from the earliest stage.

On recruiting a co-founder

  • Learning founders go in search of someone like their self. Similar skill sets, similar outlooks on life, and similar upbringings
  • Bad founders go in search of someone to control and micromanage, and someone they see as below them with skill set and experiences
  • Good founders go in search of someone whose strengths are their weaknesses

On team building

  • Learning founders convince friends to join their cause and expect them to live as minimally as the founder does
  • Bad founders convince people to join their company and then forget to clearly communicate the objectives and metrics.
  • Good founders convince people to join a mission and vision, and then begin to delegate day-to-day decisions

On product building

  • Learning founders decide to perfect features 2 through 5 before they validate feature 1 with customers
  • Bad founders decide that they disagree with customer feedback and continue building what they want to build
  • Good founders decide that customers are judge, jury, and execution of their value propositions

On customers

  • Learning founders believe in small sample sizes of public data and allow it to falsely highlight that what they’re building is working and worthwhile
  • Bad founders believe it’s not worth their time to have conversations with every customer, because that approach “doesn’t scale”
  • Good founders believe the only way to scale in the future is from 1:1 conversation with each and every customer they can get on the phone with

On fundraising

  • Learning founders think they can fundraise while in sales or build mode
  • Bad founders think they should meet with whoever can write a check, at any time
  • Good founders think about building their funnel and list of investors they’re looking for warm intros to, before the first investor is ever contacted

Clayton Mooney is the co-founder of the Ames-based companies Kinosol and Nebullam and is a familiar face in the Iowa startup ecosystem. This story was originally published on Substack.