02/06/2015 01:49 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Shaun Di Gregorio: Investors Look for Founders Who Are Very Focused

This is part of the #StartupMentor series - featuring venture capitalists and startup founders who share their advice in building successful businesses.

What makes a successful startup? More importantly, what are the most common mistakes that most founders commit especially during the early stages of the business? Shaun Di Gregorio, CEO and Founder at Frontier Digital Ventures shares his advice for founders on how they could avoid those pitfalls.


Shaun Di Gregorio, CEO and Founder of Frontier Digital Ventures

What do you think is the most common mistake of most startups when starting up? What's your advice to avoid those?

I think the most common mistake is a lack of clarity about the problem they are solving. This can be in part due to not fully understanding a market or how a market truly works.

A lack of clarity when starting out often results in a lack of focus moving forward. And it's all downhill from there....if a startup finds itself on this path, they must rapidly pivot or die. And keep pivoting!

What sort of criteria do investors specifically look for before they decide on investing?

We look at the two key things;

  1. What problem is the startup trying to solve? What is it they are tackling and trying to improve for consumers. And on that basis what is the size of the opportunity? Is it scalable solution to a meaningful and real problem, and ;
  2. We look at the entrepreneur(s) we are investing in. Are they people we want to give our money to?

Can we see ourselves working with them over the journey and being productive, aligned partners in growing a business and creating value for everyone. They must pass what we call 'the dickhead test'.

What do you think most successful startups have in common especially in the early stages that make them so successful?

More often than not there are between 2 and 4 entrepreneurs as partners in the start-up. They focus on solving one problem and avoid trying to do too many things at once and they are very focused.

A key personality trait we look for is conscientiousness. The accept that it is a 'long-game' and aren't spooked by setbacks with a preparedness to move fast.

What's that most advice someone has given you before you started your own company that has helped you in your business?

The best advice I got was "why wait?". Do it now and think big. The stuff you fear could go wrong (failing) is never as bad as you think. You always imagine it to be worse, however it's never that bad.

Learn more about Shaun and his company by checking out their website and connecting with him on LinkedIn.

Enjoyed this? Watch out for the next #StartupMentor series. Get in touch with me on Twitter and LinkedIn.