Is entrepreneurial arrogance a strength or weakness?

Ajeet Khurana

I have heard both sides of the story. On one hand, I have seen investors bang their heads against a brick wall out of sheer frustration when they are unable to impress their ideas on their investee entrepreneurs. On the other hand, I have seen mentors talk about the need for entrepreneurs to be unwavering on their path.
So, Which Is it? Stubbornness or Firmness?

This is one of those decisions that can only be made in hindsight. If the entrepreneur sticks to her or his guns and things go downhill, the analysts say, 'He was too stubborn', or 'She was so in love with the idea that she did not look at it from the customer's point of view', 'or he missed an opportunity to pivot'. On the other hand, if the entrepreneur sticks to her or his guns and things work out, this is how it goes: 'He really knew what he was doing', or 'it was her commitment to the idea that led to her eventual success'.

In hindsight, everyone sounds like they could have forecast the outcome. But by definition, a forecast has to be about the future. That is just one of the many little idiosyncrasies of the start-up world!

Being Strong Is important; Being Arrogant Is A Different Ball Game

Most people who are not yet entrepreneurs tend to believe that entrepreneurship is all about a great idea and money. I am convinced that entrepreneurship is primarily about managing one's own emotional journey through a common sense sequence of events. Let me tell you, the initial novelty of one's entrepreneurial journey wears off in no time. From there on, it is a steep slope and it takes a lot of grit and perseverance. As one remains stoic through the emotionally sapping journey of entrepreneurship, perhaps it is even necessary to develop a certain amount of arrogance.

It Is Also A Reaction To The Know-it-All Start-Up Space

One day, you meet a venture capitalist who tells you that he foresees a few billion-dollar businesses emerging in the next 5 years in the e-commerce space in India. The next day, another venture capitalist tells you that e-commerce is dead in India and that no VC would touch it with a barge pole. And a few days later, you hear that Flipkart has raised a $200-million round of funding.

A sensible entrepreneur would say, 'Enough is enough!' From there on, you stop relying on the wise words of self-styled gurus and focus on your gut instinct. And the world starts calling you 'arrogant'!

Arrogance Gets A Thumbs-Up AND A Thumbs-Down

I have found that arrogance has led to the downfall of many entrepreneurs. At the same time, arrogance has allowed other entrepreneurs to stay on course, happy in the knowledge that they are the only ones who are right. And this 'staying on course' has led to many successes.

When evaluating entrepreneurs on arrogance, I tend to favor entrepreneurs with a streak of arrogance. I only need to be convinced that there is a reason for their arrogance.

The author, Ajeet Khurana, mentors start-ups. An angel investor, trainer, author, entrepreneur and digital marketer, he is a member of the screening committee of Mumbai Angels, one of India's oldest angel networks. He blogs at StartUp Gang, and is on the boards of Carve Niche Technologies and Rolocule Games. You can reach him on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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