Anthony Tjan Headshot

Do you have what it takes to be an entrepreneur?

New aptitude test helps business leaders measure their strengths

by Kate Pavao, July 2012

When it comes to your own leadership style, are your decisions driven by:

A. Passion (or Heart)
B. Brain power (Smarts)
C. Courage (Guts), or
D. Curiosity and positive attitude (Luck)?

Right now you can put your traits to the test by taking the Entrepreneurial Aptitude Test, a Meyers-Briggs-type personality survey available at For example, one questions asks if business leaders credit their success to “intellectual horsepower” or “initiative to do things others feared”?

The test was designed in conjunction with Hearts, Smarts, Guts and Luck, a new book by venture capitalist partners Anthony Tjan and Richard J. Harrington and business adviser Tsun-Yan Hsieh. According to Tjan, the test and the book can help entrepreneurs better understand their strengths and blind spots. Here, find out how the project started and what you should do with your own test results.

Anthony Tjan Book Cover

Profit: How did you design the Entrepreneurial Aptitude Test?

In 2008, my coauthors and I set out to create a new model for venture capital that would be really focused on human capital and thought capital. We started interviewing entrepreneurs who came through our venture capital firm, Cue Ball, for anywhere from five to even 30 minutes.

As we collected these interviews, we noticed certain patterns, certain attributes all entrepreneurs had. So, we said, “Why don’t organize this more formally into a piece of research?” We collaborated with people experienced in working on psychometric tests, as well as with some research assistants, to put greater structure around our observations. That began our survey work.

Profit: What should business leaders do after they take the test?

Tjan: The pattern that comes out in your test results shows how you tend to be biased. We want business leaders to enhance their self-awareness through reflection across the framework. There are certain tools that can help with self-awareness, such as simply writing down what you predict will happen based on a decision you made and then looking back once you have results. This is what Peter Drucker called “feedback analysis” and unfortunately, while it sounds very simple, it’s not commonly done. It’s only through understanding what you’re biases are, codifying them, and then reflecting back that you really have a chance for improvement without revisionist history.

Profit: Does the perfect entrepreneur score evenly across all four categories: Heart, Smarts, Guts and Luck?

Tjan: No, there’s not one single profile that creates success. We want business leaders to appreciate that there are different ways of winning. It’s a fallacy to think that someone could be a superhuman and be above average in every single one of these categories. You might have been more heart driven with secondary trait of luck, and that’s fine. There are lots of people who have been successful like that.

Also, becoming aware of your biases can help you figure out the other types of team members may compliment you. If you are a Heart-Luck driven person, and you are trying to scale up a business, a Smarts-Guts person be a good compliment.

Profit: We often think of entrepreneurs as people who strike out on their own. But you stress the importance of people and having a network. Why is that?

Tjan: In founding Cue Ball, our venture capital firm, we have lived by the philosophy that people always matter more than the idea. In our line of work, we see people coming in time and time again who spend a long time talking about the market, and there’s a page thrown in the middle or the end about the team. We fundamentally believe the team comes first.

Relationship building is really about having a spirit of authenticity, generosity, openness — and vulnerability — that allows one to connect in a real way with someone. This means you don’t want to necessarily try to overly strategize your way to the exact right relationship you may want. Imagine you went to a networking event. It’s probably not a bad idea to look at the list of attendees and pick the top five people you want to meet. But imagine if you were more relaxed and just talked to anyone wearing red that day, just to see what would happen. Often times you can’t predict, a priori, what a relationship is going to give you down the road.

Profit: What trends are you seeing with Millennials hitting the workforce?

Tjan: One thing that gives me great encouragement is that there’s a great degree of hope, aspiration, idealism, and purpose-led leadership among Millennials. You can create businesses for different reasons. At the end of the day, obviously, there is a money making motive that comes about, but the question is, is that the primary motivator, or a bi-product of a deeper purpose? We are certainly seeing a palpable segment of entrepreneurs coming out who have a vision that goes bigger than themselves and bigger than their companies. That doesn’t necessarily mean social entrepreneurship; it just means they have a bigger vision.

Profit: How do you see readers using your book?

Tjan: The book provides a set of curated business essentials gleaned from 100s of entrepreneurs that we interviewed. We put forward smart, simple, timeless habits, such as “A fast ‘No’ is better than a slow ‘Maybe’”, which means it’s often more efficient and effective to just come out and say if there’s something you know you don’t want to do. I hope readers will dog ear the book, and go back through these principles and habits to see how they can apply to their strategic thinking.

Also, I hope that readers will go back to the sections that really resonated with them about their strengths and then equally go to look at one of the traits that are not them as much. As they do this, they should try not get too caught up on if those are things that they can develop, because, again, there are different ways to winning, different ways of becoming successful. But being more self-aware — coupled together with a set of business essentials — will help increase your probability for effective decision making.