Is there such thing as a typical entrepreneur profile? Are there specific innate qualities? What sort of questions should future entrepreneurs ask themselves before setting up a business? Judging by the profiles of two prominent entrepreneurs and feedback from INSEAD graduates, the stereotypes aren’t far off the mark.


Up for anything, optimistic, creative, self-possessed, versatile, sociable, well-connected, able to survive on very little sleep and use failure as an opportunity to bounce back, and never one to give up or take short cuts… These are just some of the characteristics that even scientists associate with successful entrepreneurs. Pierre Valade, the young French founder of Sunrise, which was bought out by Microsoft for €100 million two years after it was launched, is a prime example of such an entrepreneur in the digital industry.

Another is Mohed Altrad, the head of a construction company. Born into a family of Bedouins, Altrad arrived in France at the age of 17 and went on to win the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year award, which he dedicated to his host country for giving him the opportunity to develop his projects.

4 questions to ask yourself: tips from successful entrepreneurs

A group of INSEAD graduates got together to talk about what it takes to be an entrepreneur*. It’s not always easy to succeed, even for graduates from a prestigious business school. But according to them, you have to make your own luck and be determined.

One of them is Chatri Sityodtong, an INSEAD Entrepreneur in Residence. After spending a few years as an investor, he retired at the age of 37 to pursue his true passion: martial arts. In 2011, he founded and founder of One Championship, Asia’s largest sports media property. These are the four key questions he believes entrepreneurs should ask themselves.

Am I resilient?

Everyone says start-ups fail because they run out of cash. I disagree. They fail because the founder runs out of cash and quits. We’re all MBAs, we can easily get another job, so do I struggle and sink my savings into it or do I quit? I refused to let go. I’ve been rejected a thousand times, I have come close to failure many times, but I refuse to let go.”

Build or borrow the skills?

Diversity of backgrounds and skills is essential: If you don’t possess all the skills you need, co-founders and partners are crucial complements.

Can I add value?

Starting a business and gaining customers is just the first step. As important as skills are, it is also essential to focus on strategy and build your value propositions. “Your job as an entrepreneur has to be to continue to grow that value proposition so nobody can catch up with you.”

Does market size matter?

A company needs space to grow. As Sityodtong says: “Having a big market allows you to pivot and make mistakes and still have an opportunity for success.

If your expertise is in a market where players already exist, you can still break into it, but will have to evolve constantly and keep adding value in order to stay ahead of the game.

*Reference articles