Paul Graham of Y-Combinator on picking winners-at-life:
Paul Graham spills: Why some companies get his cash and others don't
What's most essential for a successful startup?
The founders. We've learned in the six years of doing Y Combinator to look at the founders--not the business ideas--because the earlier you invest, the more you're investing in the people. When Bill Gates was starting Microsoft, the idea that he had then involved a small-time microcomputer called the Altair. That didn't seem very promising, so you had to see that this 19-year-old kid was going places.
What do you look for?
Determination. When we started, we thought we were looking for smart people, but it turned out that intelligence was not as important as we expected. If you imagine someone with 100 percent determination and 100 percent intelligence, you can discard a lot of intelligence before they stop succeeding. But if you start discarding determination, you very quickly get an ineffectual and perpetual grad student.