Get our study on neurological traits that make VC teams successful
Get the study

Methodology

Why brain activity matters for entrepreneurs

The brain is the origin of all our behaviors. From the way we behave to the reflexes we have, the brain is the beginning of who we are. Understanding it gives us a better comprehension of why we behave the way we do, in a profound and accurate way.

Each person's brain is composed of 18 major zones that we all use more or less frequently and intensively. The zones we use the most explain why we're talented at some tasks while those we use less reflect our limitations.

The way we use our brain influences our reactions to a situation, but also the decisions we're more likely to take. For example, someone who actively uses the "Fp1" zone will take into consideration issues and notices errors giving them more clairvoyance, a great talent for CEOs. The opposite zone "Fp2" will push the person to ignore negative inputs to stay motivated and build creative solutions, a great behavior for COOs.

Those kinds of reactions influence our decisions and the way we build companies.

Since startups evolve fast, every team member will have limitations depending on the way their brain functions. Those limitations profoundly impact the company's odds of success - we call them "startup pillars".

How we created the online brain analysis

The online brain analysis works with "stimuli words". Instead of asking direct questions like "Are you an ambitious startup founder?", we ask "How much do you freely follow your gut instincts and exciting physical impulses as they come up?". This question can seem awkward for some individuals, but very precise and exciting for others. That is how it works: according to the brain zones a person uses most, some words and sentences will resonate more to them while being incomprehensible for others.

The online brain analysis doesn't measure opinions on questions, but the brain reaction to the stimuli contained in the questions.

To validate which word appeal to which kind of behavior, we have evaluated the effect of each question on people brain “zones”. To do this, we used an EEG and a heart rate monitor to understand how the brain reacts for each of these words.With thousands of iterations we created the online brain analysis.

Sounds like bullshit? Here's how we validated the reliability of the OBA.

How did you determined the OBA of well known founders?

In order to obtain a person's profile, the only reliable method remains the completion of the OBA by the person himself/herself.

However, it is possible to estimate a person's profile by analyzing the semantics they use.

The brain is composed of 18 areas, some of which we use more often (our natural talents) and some others less (our limits). Individually, these areas are sensitive to certain words.

The OBA uses stimuli words to test the responsiveness of each area of the brain and then define the profile of the person.

It is possible to use this process in reverse: instead of presenting words to see the person's reaction, we analyze the words that the person uses the most frequently to determine the most active areas in their brain. Thus, it is possible to determine the potential profile of the person.

We used this method to determine the profiles of well-known entrepreneurs, in particular through rigorous analyzes of their interviews or their writings over a course of multiple years.

How we created the 20 startup pillars

What is a startup pillar?

After analyzing the brains of +1000 founders (including unicorns) for 5 years, Unfair found that it all comes down to strengthening 20 startup pillars. Those pillars are linked to how the brains of all team members work.

All companies need to strengthen multiple startup pillars over the course of their existence, divided into 4 categories:

  1. Role fit, having the right person for the position
  2. Late stage fit, being able to manage a growing team
  3. Exceptional profile, ensuring the company has the best profile for each position
  4. Matching, having aligned and complementary teams, able to work together even in the worst times

Example of a startup pillar

A startup success is the result of compounded effect: by making a product reliable you'll have more word-of-mouth, resulting in more sales, making you earn more money to hire even better engineers which will make your product even more reliable, resulting in more sales and so on...

That's why something that may look like a minor or easy to solve issue can have a butterfly effect instead and progressively kill the company.

One of the startup pillar we've identified is the CTO not being good at managing a team.

  • This pillar concerns almost all startups. The reason is simple: great early stage CTOs are doers who work solely and execute fast. Unfortunately when they have to manage a team of developers they can't stay alone to code, they have to enforce processes, setup deadlines etc. Additionally to not being good at doing so, they won't have the natural reflex to do so.
  • If no action is taken, deadlines won't be met, no team process will be setup, the product quality will be impacted negatively, making customers less satisfied, slowing down sales, preventing the company to raise the next round...
  • Since a tech product can be the key element of what a startup will sell, not having the right CTO for the right stage is lethal. It's one of the 20 startup pillars.

How we've come up with those pillars

In addition to the +1000 founder brains we've analyzed, we've partnered with 8 French VCs from top-tier funds (Alven, Arkéa, Kima Ventures, Iris Capital, Newfund, New Wave, Partech, Xange). During 8 months, we've worked together to better understand what can kill a company according to their experience and our data.

We've focused our work on founders and built 12 categories of behaviors (Focus, Ambition, Management...) and 4 behaviors for each, from the worst one to the best one.

We then linked each of those 48 behaviors to the brain data we've collected on +1000 founders, to identify correlations between a startup's internal limitations (management issues for example) and our list of 48 behaviors.

We then linked each of those 48 behaviors to the brain data we've collected on +1000 founders, to identify correlations between a startup's internal limitations (management issues for example) and our list of 48 behaviors

We've simplified those behaviors by focusing on the negative output it can have on a company, that's how we've ended up with 20 startup pillars.