The Ideal Founder: Polymath v. Monomaniac?

I had a great conversation this week with three other Seattle-area serial entrepreneurs and seed investors. Among the topics we covered were: what motivates talented people to join startups, and what kind of people are most likely to thrive in a startup environment.

I’ll cover the first topic in another post, but in this one, I’m interested to know whether you believe polymaths (people who have a passion for learning and develop skills and knowledge in a wide range of subjects and discplines) make better founders than monomaniacs (those who become obsessed with a single narrow area of focus and develop deep skills and knowledge in that specific area).

The position I took in the discussion is that polymaths make better investors (because they’re better able to discern and apply patterns across companies, industries and disciplines), but that monomaniacs make better founders (because they pour their obsessive focus into their company and product and aren’t distracted by potentially irrelevant intellectual side-trips).

To all you founders and investors out there: what has your experience been? Who would you pick to run your next startup?