The Future Founders Fellowship is a selective year-long program designed to accelerate the development of the top student entrepreneurs and young entrepreneurially-minded leaders across the United States. Fellows have priority access to all Future Founders Startup services plus benefit from mentoring, entrepreneurship retreats, a peer community, and volunteer opportunities through other Future Founders programs. The past two cohorts of Fellows have raised over $1 million in funding for their companies. Eligible students may apply by November 17 at futurefounders.com/fellowship.
When applications open for the Future Founders Fellowship each fall, we always get flooded with questions about what makes a good candidate for the Fellowship. Is it a million-dollar idea? Is it having a certain business model? Is it bringing fresh-baked cookies to the interview?
While none of these things will hurt your chances (chocolate chip will be just fine), we have to admit that being a good fit for the Fellowship is not all about your business or idea. A lot of it has to do with you. Whether you intend to apply for the Fellowship, or simply want to make yourself more appealing to potential mentors or employers, here are five key characteristics of our most successful Fellows.
(Note: You can apply for the Fellowship by November 17 here.)
1. YOU’VE GOT BUSINESS SAVVY.
Sounds obvious? Maybe it is. But not every entrepreneur has it. Just look at the ideas out there, and you’ll realize that not everyone who has sold out for a business idea made the best decision. Some ideas are bad. Some are really bad. Before you declare yourself ready for the next level of commitment and growth, run your idea by at least 5 people. If several of them either don’t get it, question its effectiveness, or doubt your ability to get it done, then maybe you should reevaluate before moving forward.
2. YOU’RE COACHABLE.
Joining the Fellowship involves regular and intensive coaching sessions, and if there’s one thing that coaches hate the most, it’s players who don’t listen. If you’re going to seek out someone to help you develop yourself and your ideas, you should be prepared to hear and respond to challenging feedback. If you want someone that’s always encouraging and supportive, you’re looking for a mom–not a coach.
3. YOU’RE A DOER.
Maybe you have thick skin and are eager to have your ideas challenged. But if listening doesn’t result in doing–if you don’t act quickly and decisively–then you’re wasting the time of your coaches and the other Fellows. Not only should you be prepared to jump into action as soon as an advisor or coach suggests it, but you should be proactively looking for ways to move your business forward, with or without someone telling you to do so. If you struggle to make time, then you’re not ready for the Fellowship. If you struggle to find the motivation, then you’re not ready to be an entrepreneur.
4. YOU’RE A COMMUNICATOR.
There are few things more disrespectful and less professional than poor communication. Long delays in response time, typos in emails, or failure to communicate at all is a quick path to losing both the attention and respect of anyone. Tip? Respond to every email within 24-48 hours, always send a follow up/thank you message, and re-read everything you communicate to your coaches and peers. You’ll find this to be a valuable life skill in general. If you value others’ time, they will value yours.
5. YOU’VE GOT GRIT.
This hits at the core of what it means to be an entrepreneur. You can’t just have an inquisitive mind and expect to make it in the startup world. You’ve got to have grit. Tenacity. Relentless persistence. You’ve got to be prepared to fail multiple times before succeeding. You’ve got to be confident that it’s not a matter of whether you’ll succeed, but when. You’ve got to be ready to sacrifice comfort, stability, and maybe even respect for the sake of your idea or company. That’s grit.
SOUND LIKE YOU?
It can be helpful to take a hard look at yourself and decide whether you have each of these traits before you seek to be a part of any mentoring or coaching process. Some of these traits can be learned fairly easily. Shrewd business skills and good communication habits are mostly a matter of practice. The others, however, can take more time to develop and are harder to fake. Begin to master each of them, however, and you’ll be on the path to success in no time.
Think you’re a fit? Make sure and apply for the 2017 Fellowship cohort before November 17. Have questions about the Fellowship? Reach out to Ethan at email@example.com.
Ethan Adams serves as Coordinator, Startups at Future Founders. He has launched and operated a number of his own entrepreneurial ventures including his own digital marketing consulting business. Connect with Ethan on LinkedIn and follow him on Twitter for regular updates.
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