"I look for founders who are scrappy and formidable at the same time (a rarer combination than it sounds); mission-oriented, obsessed with their companies, relentless, and determined; extremely smart (necessary but certainly not sufficient); decisive, fast-moving, and willful; courageous, high-conviction, and willing to be misunderstood; strong communicators and infectious evangelists; and capable of becoming tough and ambitious."
— Sam Altman
I understand it may seem like basic advice. It is not. If immigrant-founders knew the difference it makes to speak excellent English, they would be working harder at it.
You must be fluent if you want to be world-class.
It is semi-impossible to build a decacorn without high-end English skills. You are likely destroying US2-3B in future enterprise value for your company. Maybe more than that.
Great CEO MUST are superior communicators since you must sell your company for clients, capital, and people. Non-stop.
To win, you must be on a mission of mercy, filled with deep obsessions about wanting to dominate, wanting success, and have a deep desire to help others along the way. It is the perfect combo.
You can only do that with the correct sophistication, which includes mastering the art of talking to other people in the right way.
I have a “hardcore pet-peeve,” which is not liking to fund founders that don’t speak excellent English. It makes a difference that compounds in a pretty negative way.
Even if you never sell on a territory with English as the first language, you must be fluent in English should you want to build a Decacorn.
There are exceptions, of course. The one time you open an exception is when you get unquestionable yes’s to all the questions below.
When all the answers are firm YESs, then engage in the investment opportunity.
Basic conclusion: if you speak English fluently (spoken and written), your life will be more comfortable.
ps - Thank you for my current partner at Atman and my dear friend Billy Blaustein for the ideas on this post
In startup land, we build multi-billion-dollar empires in less than a decade. In startup land, self-reliance is paramount.
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