How hunger factors into success
By Adil Wali , 11th Oct 2011

I was enjoying dinner recently with an investor friend of mine and we got to talking about the importance of hunger when building a team. It seemed to make sense to both of us that you want to find people who are hungry – who really want to do something good. It seems only too logical that the more someone wants something, the harder they’re willing to work to make it happen.

Being smart, having skills and the right kind of experience, are the fundamentals, sure. They’re the price of admission. But beyond that – or maybe even more important than that – is hunger.

I had a few glasses of wine, so I was ready to start making contentious statements.  I said: “If I were an investor, I would invest based on hunger alone. I think it is the single most important factor to consider when building a team.” I left it that – for the moment.

Not so fast.  My friend’s comeback was:  “yes, hunger’s really important, but you have to balance it with egos.  If egos get too big they get in the way.”  Touché.  Maybe not with just one person, but if you’re talking about a team, the clash of egos can be destructive to the point where you get bounced off the path to success.

So, in essence, we’re talking about aggregate hunger level compared to aggregate ego level.

The hunger quotient

So I got to thinking – couldn’t this be represented mathematically, as a code snippet or maybe a combination of the two? Something to represent the idea that when the cumulative sum of hunger is greater than the cumulative sum of egos, great things happen.

Here’s what it might look like.

h=hunger level of an individual
e=an individual’s ego
ps=probability for success:

if sum(h1…hn) > sum (e1…en)
#ps = promising; start focusing on building a great business
call greatness_building_methods
#ps = doubtful; start arguing about stupid shit
call self_descruct_methods

In a chart, maybe it would look something like an aggregate demand curve does in economics:

How Hunger Affects Success
The 'Hunger Quotient'

The takeaway

Yes, hunger is very important for startup and team success. But when you start putting 4, 5, 6 or 7 hungry people together, their cumulative egos can cause real problems and derail the likelihood for success.  So when you’re building a team, consider this: aggregate hunger must be greater than aggregate ego.

About the Author

Hi, I’m Adil Wali. I became a Microsoft certified professional at age 14 and started my first web development company. That led to a career as a serial entrepreneur, advisor, and startup investor. I got my first “real job” at 33, and I’m now a FinTech executive with a passion for the markets.