Understanding future founders (1/3) Who are they? - Enter the future founder's kata

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Pierre-Simon Ntiruhungwa
January 20, 2022
Reading time - 5 min

In our first blog post, we explained why we launched Katalist, an entrepreneurial development platform aimed at accelerating ambitious future founders’ journeys to start impactful high growth startups. We are very thoughtful about the way we are using the term “future founders” while also being aware that what this term means is not very clear to everyone. Consequently, many people don’t understand who the future founders are and that they form a category in itself. This is why we are starting today a 3-part blog post series about "Understanding future founders". In this first part we will focus on understanding who they are by having a deeper look at their journey.

Aspiring founders, early stage founders and future founders

Let’s start by highlighting the distinction between future founders, early stage founders and aspiring founders.

For us a future founder is anyone who is somewhere on the entrepreneurial journey which start at the moment someone has on the back of their mind the thought that they might want to be a founder someday to the point where they run their own startup full time and can pay themselves a salary with revenue or funding.

It is a temporary state that they might find themselves in several times over the course of their career. This is why it includes would be first time founders as well as serial entrepreneurs in-between startups.

Let’s define an aspiring founder as “someone who is on their way to start a startup but is not currently running one” and an early stage founder as “someone who has recently started a startup”.

Since the fact of starting a startup doesn’t imply that you are currently running it full-time, we can see that future founders can be aspiring founders as well as early stage founders.

Here’s a basic illustration to highlight our point.

Aspiring, early stage and future founders

What they all have in common is that they all are somewhere in the path to one day run their own startup full time but all missing at least one thing to get to that point.

Enter the future founder's kata

To make the distinction we’ve just described clearer, let’s dig deeper in the future founders, journey.

From the above, we know that 1) “future founders” are indeed part of a niche group of people who all have something in common and 2) this is still a wide audience made of people at different stages of their journey.

Over the past 10 years working with future founders, we’ve identified patterns and small groups within this group. This enabled us to provide a bit of structure to the otherwise daunting start of the entrepreneurial journey. We call each stage of the journey "katas" and call the entire journey the “future founder's kata" which can be described as below:

The future founder's kata
  • Kata 1 - Aspiration - I’m just curious, I’m not even sure I want to start a startup
  • Kata 2 - Intention - I want to start a startup but I don’t have an idea yet
  • Kata 3 - Ideation - I have a startup idea or playing around with several startup ideas but I’m not sure yet if I’m going to pursue it/them
  • Kata 4 - Decision - I have made the decision to create a startup with the specific idea I’m working on but I still need to validate the idea further/build an mvp/find co-founders
  • Kata 5 - Iteration - I have built an MVP and talking to early customers, users or investors and I am focusing on iterating the product
  • Kata 6 - Traction - I have a product with active users, early customers or external funding and I am focusing on growth
  • Kata 7 - Actualisation - I can pay myself a full-time salary with revenue or external funding of my startup

Each of these steps are not necessarily linear as you can move back and forth along that journey. Also, some people might stay months or even years at a particular kata while other will go through all of them in just a few weeks. The important point is that any future founder that come to us can be put in one of those kata and find the process to becoming a founder less daunting.

Understanding the journey to better help future founders

As social animals, human beings have this natural needs to find and interact with like-minded peers which is the base of many communities. Future founders are no different but the problems are that future founders 1) are really hard to find and 2) sometimes don’t even know that they are future founders.

Clarifying who the future founders are as well as the details of their journey enables future founders to identify their tribes by finding their like minded peers at a macro level (all future founders) and micro level (future founders at the same kata). This has the advantage to enable them to create deep relationships which are all the more important to help them succeed in their journey.

And, last but not least, it enables us to tailor the support that we offer to future founders based on the specific needs of the current stage of their journey. We also hope that this will also enable other organisations to understand that there are a lot of programmes that can be built specifically for future founders and help reduce the barriers to entry to entrepreneurship.

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