The 5 essential skills of a startup founder

in #entrepreneurship6 years ago (edited)

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It's 2012, and I just told the senior physician that I'm quitting my job as a trauma surgeon. I miss the freedom that I was allowed to experience as a professional kitesurfer. Back then, there were a lot fewer rules and more possibilities than in my job in the hospital. Being a rebel is out of place when it comes to human lives.

What could I do? My mentor Paul has often encouraged me to become an entrepreneur. This sounds exciting. However, what does that mean? What do I have to be able to do? How do I become an entrepreneur? Many questions for which there must be clear answers.

Today I am a co-founder of TenX (, a startup with 80 employees, which was founded three years ago in Singapore. Unlike what I would have believed when I quit, I now have completely different insights into the world of entrepreneurship. Unfortunately, in films and TV series, a distortion of reality often gives an entirely wrong picture of what a start-up founder must be able to do or how life as an entrepreneur runs. Social media and "fake influencers" do the rest. If you google for skills or paths already taken by successful entrepreneurs, you are unfortunately often led onto the wrong track by misinformation.

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As an entrepreneur in the space of blockchain technology, I see and think about dozens of new opportunities to use this decentralization technology. However, I have found my focus in TenX. That's why I wrote the book "Blockchain 2.0 - more than just Bitcoin" ( after my bestseller "Cryptocurrencies simply explained" ( In this new book, I describe the 100 most innovative blockchain applications that will change entire industries forever. In addition to many ideas, I also give clear indications as to how one can become active as an entrepreneur in these fields. Anyone who has read other books of mine knows that I present such information in a simple, clear and structured way. I wanted to share a few insights in this blog post. Especially the five essential skills of a start-up founder.

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When I look at my co-founders of TenX, Toby and Paul, it quickly becomes clear that these five essential skills are rarely reflected by a single person. It is enough to have only one of these five abilities. However, in this unique skill, one should be world class and not just good. In the end, it is much more important to possess these five skills as a team and to play them off optimally.

1. Implement solutions

In this case, it is not only a matter of having an idea or solution but also of implementing it. This is important when it comes to creating a product or service for customers. In tech startups, this role is usually assumed by programmers or engineers. Depending on the business sector, however, these roles can be filled by other, mostly specialized, professional groups. One of the reasons why I do not recommend studying a general field, such as an MBA degree, is that specialists usually find it easier to find a solution to a problem.

That brings me to the next point. One should always start with the problem for which one wants to find a solution. The mistake most people make is to create a solution (i.e. to offer a product), for which there is no apparent problem. Afterward, these companies find it difficult to bring the solution to the market.

Especially at the beginning of a journey, this ability is an essential factor. If your strength is not in creating a product or service you should find a co-founder who can do it.

Side note: An idea without implementation is entirely worthless. There are tons of ideas, as you will see in my Blockchain 2.0 book. The art is to implement them.

At TenX, for example, in 2015 and 2016 we worked on the simple idea of making cryptocurrencies spendable. So it wasn't just about the idea, we really put it into practice.

2. Awareness

The next important ability is to be able to generate awareness. Some people call this skill marketing or selling. However, this is wrongly implemented by many people. In times of social media, it becomes more and more important to stay creative. Therefore, I think that"attention" is the real currency here.


In a team of two, ideally one of the two should take care of the solution creation, and the other one should take care of the attention generation. Solution creation starts with an MVP (Minimum Viable Prototype/Product). To get people's attention, you either create interest by providing free tips and insights in the respective area or by creating some goodies in advance. Many teams start too late with this and do not test their product early enough, which often leads to more difficult progress of the company.

To give you an example of our own company TenX, I would like to show you some processes from the past. During the product development, we asked potential users whether they were interested in a crypto card at all. When we prepared for our $80 million ICO in 2017, we had already started subtle marketing a year before. The lesson is that the best time to start generating attention is as early as possible. Then you'll do yourself a lot easier afterward.

3. Raising funds

Another important ability is raising funds for your startup. If the startup is not cash flow positive right from the start, because you cannot immediately sell a product that makes a profit, you are dependent on financing. If you can't create the product yourself or are bad at generating attention, you will need much capital.

In the new Blockchain 2.0 book, I go into details of financing rounds, venture capital, angel investors and ICOs and how you can make the most of them for yourself. I wanted to mention this ability here for the sake of completeness because one could fill whole books with it. The less you can do ability number one or number two, the better you should get with number three.

4. Interpersonal relationships

No matter what other skills you possess, you will have to work with other people. Especially as your team grows, communication, empathy, and emotional intelligence are essential. A little tip, without going into much detail here: Learn to lead people and manage processes, not the other way around. Otherwise, people speak of a"micromanaging boss". Also, you should have the goal from the beginning to expand your network, as far as possible. Relationships are the be-all and end-all of today's success.


5. Develop strategies

The last important ability is foresight and a long time horizon because winners anticipate, losers react. It is not simply a matter of having an idea, but of working out the strategy precisely. The further you look and plan into the future, the likelier your startup will be successful.

These are my five skills - what do you think?
Do you think I've forgotten an ability?
Be sure to let me know in the comments!

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Until next time - Be #cryptofit, your


Dr. Julian Hosp is the co-founder of TenX, blockchain expert in numerous EU working groups, TEDx speaker and bestselling author of multiple books. His website is:!


Excellent list of key founder skills. This has helped me focus on what I need to do in my own startup I’m a lawyer rather than a doctor by trade, but its good to see how professionals can make good entrepreneurs.

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