No, Introverts Do Not Make the Best Entrepreneurs

No, Introverts Do Not Make the Best Entrepreneurs Thumbnail

Let’s play a game. I want you to imagine yourself in the following situation and how you would feel:

You’re the founder and creator of a Saas tool called Sum-Dum-Tool.com. You’ve put in the hours and have enough traction to show for it that you’ve been accepted into a prestigious incubator program. Yay. We’ll call this incubator http://twenty20yearoldsincubicle.co

This incubator, as in the name implies, sticks you in a cubicle at the top of a fancy building surrounded by 20 other companies. Every day for 3 months your schedule looks like this:

  • Meeting strangers: 4 hours a day
  • Pitching your idea to a boardroom of people who don’t want to be there: 2 hours a day
  • Attending networking events: 2-3 hours a day
  • Interviewing and recruiting potential hires: 2 hours a day
  • Sales calls with people who think you might be a telemarketer: 3 hours a day
  • Smiling, because if you don’t you’ll be considered unenthusiastic or ungrateful: 24/7

The difference between failure & success for any company in your class, you’re told, could be as simple as handing your business card to the right person. A person that presumably takes pity on you and proclaims “this one shall make it and is deserveth of my time & coin”.

So you’re expected to be on your game and ready at any moment for success. When you’re not expected to be “switched on”, you’re probably spending your sweet leisure time arguing with your co-founders, sitting in marathon meetings with your dysfunctional development team, and possibly cold calling survey respondents for some good ol’ fashion customer development.

How do you feel after reading that?

If you’re exhausted just reading that, then congratulations you’re a human. If in addition to that, you’re sweating like a diabetic and clenching your teeth at what sounds like hell on earth, you’re an introvert. If there were a life designed to crush the spirit & soul of an introvert, it would sound a lot like Entrepreneurship.

How do I know this? Well for one I’m an introvert. I have on occasion referred to other people as “those things that want to talk to me sometimes”. This “hypothetical” story I just wrote isn’t hypothetical.

That was my life during the MassChallenge incubator in Boston back in 2011.

Yes, I know the details are slightly exaggerated, but that’s how I remember them. Want to know something that isn’t exaggerated?

One time during one of the innumerable 5+ hour networking dinners at MassChallenge, I snuck into the back of a public venue, found a utility closet, and preceded to take a nap in it. In a full suit.

If you can’t comprehend the idea of sleeping in a rental space’s backroom closet while in a suit because you’re “socialized out” then you’re not a real introvert.

The struggle is real.

The answer to your question, to put it bluntly, is: they don’t.

Yes, I do realize that there has been a recent surge in respect for being introverted; BUT, that doesn’t change the fact that the primary day-to-day activities of Entrepreneurship are better suited to extroverts.

The most dominant characteristic of being an introvert is that you lose energy from social interaction. If I spend an entire day in meetings (which happens), the feeling becomes similar to if I had pulled an all-nighter the night before.

Business building is and will always be full of people.

None of the answers on here seem to address the fundamental dynamic of being introverted: you have a perverse and inconvenient relationship with social interaction. It says nothing of your ability to believe in your work, focus on the task at hand better than others, or their comfort with uncertainty. I think some of the answerers might have confused their local horoscopes page with an actual description of what introversion is.

Here are some reasons why introversion puts you at a major disadvantage:

Successful entrepreneurs favor action.

This is a cliché you have no doubt already heard. If you haven’t, all you have to do is glance at whatever the latest mass manufactured batch of listicles from Business Insider says about the “keys to business success”. And the fact that it’s repeated over and over ad nauseum doesn’t detract from the fact that it’s completely true. The ability to analyze and pre-judge a situation (an introverted skill), while valuable, gets you no closer to a successful venture than you were before you sat down and thought about it. The ability to seek out a random person and have an extended conversation about your potential product idea without having a brain that turns to mush is infinitely more valuable. Have you ever heard the saying “Business success is 10% ideation and 90% perspiration?” Extroverts excel at the perspiration part.

Connections make a huge difference in business.

I’m sure like everyone else, you too grumble about people who are successful merely because of their connections. But that says 2 things: 1) that person probably has something about them that allowed them to make these connections and 2) having connections is a huge part of becoming successful. How long can you slug it out at networking events listening to mildly interesting stories from people you will most likely never see again? Extroverts are in their element in these types of situations. Introverts drown.

Managers need to be able to get along with people

One of your primary duties is going to be talent recruitment and acquisition. When you need to fill a position, you’ll need a broad network of friends to reach out to. You’ll need to interview potentially hundreds of applicants. When you finally select someone, you will more likely than not need to spend countless days of marathon training sessions getting them up to speed. And you need to do that with a smile on your face and without becoming a crabby diva.

Now what I will concede is that the best entrepreneurs probably have elements of both introversion and extroversion. A pure extrovert with no introversion will struggle similarly to an introvert with no extroversion. Also, the vast majority of the human population is not 100% one or the other. HOWEVER, if you had to pick between the two extremes you would have to pick the extrovert.

At the end of the day, the salesman with terrible analytical skills will still have a larger company than the “quiet guy” that pops a social fuse and falls asleep in a public closet. In a suit.

Evan Kimbrell

Evan Kimbrell

Founder of Sprintkick | Ex-VC | Ex-startup founder

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