Characteristics of Entrepreneurship: 7 Characteristics All Successful Entrepreneurs Must Have

As a writer covering the tech and startup scene in Barcelona, one of Europe’s most active entrepreneurial hot spots, I speak with incredible entrepreneurs on a daily basis. The best part of my job is that I get to meet people who exhibit the characteristics of entrepreneurship. 

Every time I sit down to do an interview and turn on the voice recorder on my phone, I wonder what this person sitting in front of me has done to crack the code. I want to hear something about their story, see something about their personality that could answer the eternal question: What makes a successful entrepreneur?

Can you learn the traits of successful entrepreneurship? Or are you born with them? Is a certain set of skills, a good combination of talent and hard work, or pure luck?

What are the traits successful entrepreneurs share?

This year’s Startup Grind Barcelona Tech Conference gathered some of the most iconic players of the Spanish startup ecosystem under one roof.

One of the highlights was a chat between Jorge Herrero, Director of Innovation and Business Development at ebay, and Erik Brieva, CEO at Strands, a Barcelona-based fintech startup that provides artificial intelligence solutions for over 650 banks worldwide and discussed the role of curiosity and purpose in innovation.

Characteristics of entrepreneurship according to Jorge Herrero of eBay

So when I spotted the two of them having a casual banter off stage, I couldn’t help but invite myself to the discussion.

My mission: find out what these two very different leaders have in common that makes them successful at what they do. And perhaps get closer to answering my big, initial question.

What makes a successful entrepreneur: Characteristics of entrepreneurship

Characteristics of entrepreneurship: Curiosity

Curiosity serves entrepreneurs much better than it does the proverbial cat.

“You have to be constantly asking yourself: How can you improve things? How can you do things in a different way? I think this is something that you can learn to do. I’ve learned to be curious and to do things outside the box,” Herrero says.

So what’s his number one advice for budding entrepreneurs? Be curious, experiment, investigate, and do things your own way.

Characteristics of entrepreneurship: Inspiration

Anyone can find inspiration in the outside world. However, according to Brieva: “Successful entrepreneurs are self-inspiring.” He finds his inspiration in creativity: “My inspiration is making something from scratch, making things happen,” he says.

In other words, his own actions are the source of his inspiration, not the other way around. 

Being able to find inspiration within yourself is a level of personal development that requires a lot of effort to reach. 

Erik Brieva: The characteristics of entrepreneurship

What’s more, as an entrepreneur, being your own inspiration is not enough. You also have to inspire your team to believe in your project so that you can make it happen together.

Characteristics of entrepreneurship: Perseverance

“When people ask me why I think I’ve been successful as an entrepreneur, my answer is always the same: because I’ve been working like crazy, ” Brieva says. “I’m not successful because I’m more intelligent, have a better idea or was blessed with some sort of divine inspiration.”

He cites the famous quote attributed to Thomas Edison: “Genius is one percent inspiration and 99 percent perseverance.”

No matter what today’s bestselling self-help books would have us believe, becoming exceptionally hardworking is not easy and does not happen overnight. Having the drive or the determination to work hard is not enough. And this brings us to our next point.

Characteristics of entrepreneurship: Tenacity

If you want to succeed as an entrepreneur, you need to be tenacious in the most difficult times.

“Tenacity is the ability to never get tired and continue even when you do. I’ve seen a lot of startups with great products and great teams that got tired and did not persevere,” Brieva says.

Characteristics of entrepreneurship: Resilience

Closely related to tenacity, resilience is another characteristic that entrepreneurs must possess.

“If you are a resilient person, you will always find a creative way to continue what you’re doing,” Brieva says.

You’re running low on cash? You pull through without it. You’ve made a mistake? You bounce back. Startup life is all about withstanding and recovering.

Characteristics of entrepreneurship: A thirst for competition

Successful entrepreneurs crave competition.

“I love to compete. It is important to find competitors because it’s proof that there is a market for your product,” says Brieva.  

Additionally, his advice is to appreciate competition and “face it with all your strength, all your power.”

Characteristics of entrepreneurship: Purpose

Last but not least, and perhaps most importantly of all, Brieva and Herrero both agree that if you want to become a successful entrepreneur, you have to have a clear purpose.

“You need a purpose that survives the company, that leaves a mark on society and on people,” Brieva says.

There is no recipe to become a successful entrepreneur. However, most startup leaders share these seven characteristics. The good news is, according to Brieva and Herrero, all of these traits can be acquired. Lastly, a good place to start is by surrounding yourself with inspiring entrepreneurs.

What about you? What do you think makes a successful entrepreneur?

Vivien is a freelance content writer based in Barcelona. She runs the online magazine Barcelona Startup News and works with Hubbub Labs, a content marketing agency for startups.

  • Originally published May 10, 2019, updated April 26, 2023