You must speak fluent English if you want to win in life

"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.

  1. Is the timing for this company perfect?
  2. Is this the right person to dominate this market and build the company?
  3. Is this person capable of learning new skills fast, and is the founder self-aware of the negative consequences of the limitations?
  4. Is the founder humble enough to understand that he might not be the CEO forever if skills don’t ramp up fast enough?
  5. Even if their English is subpar, do they understand the rules of power, capital, and war?

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

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