Our Methodology

Our Data & Scientific Research

The Entrepreneur DNA Assessment has been developed since 2009 specifically to identify the evaluate entrepreneurs.

The Science Behind our Assessment

FI has worked closely with clinical psychologists, I/O psychologists, data scientists, and several social science PhDs to develop our assessment and update our scoring algorithms.

In addition to over a decade of assessment results and performance data, our assessment takes into account the latest peer-reviewed research in this domain.

Decoding the DNA

Great companies start with great people, so the application to Founder Institute startup accelerators has always focused on quantifying entrepreneurial traits through a battery of personality and aptitude evaluations.

Our Assessment leverages data since 2009 spanning 180,000+ entrepreneurs, 7,000+ portfolio companies, and 6 continents.

Psychographic Testing

Rather than subjectively judging startup ideas, our admissions criteria for the FI accelerator contains a 30 minute online assessment designed to identify 'Entrepreneur DNA'.

Pre-Seed Accelerator

Accepted founders join an intense 4-month accelerator to launch a startup. Each week they get numerical ratings on their progress from peers, program leaders, and experienced mentors.

Track Market Performance

After graduation, the FI Portfolio Success team continues rating the founders on their company performance 'in the real world', with all data fed back into the weighting of the assessment.

Analyze and Calibrate

Through a flow of continous data, regression analysis from PhDs, and frequent test updates, FI has built and can maintain a statistically validated test for identifying the highest potential entrepreneurs.

What we evaluate

The latest version of our Entrepreneur DNA Assessment, which was formed utilizing our own data and extensive peer-reviewed literature, analyzes 25 dimensions of entrepreneurship. Below are just a few.


Can you work effectively in the context of a team?


Are you resilient and intrinsically motivated to succeed?


Are you a self-starter that takes initiative in unclear environments?

Problem Solving

Can you learn quickly and apply that learning to solve complex problems?

... and 21 more traits!

Assessment History and Research

The DNA Assessment actually began as a hiring ‘test’ for startup employees in the mid 2000’s. At the time, Adeo Ressi was trying to find the best hires for a fast-paced, venture-backed technology startup in New York City named Gametrust.

To do so, they engaged a renowned clinical psychologist to develop an online assessment to screen job applicants, with a goal of identifying applicants that would be a culture-fit at a company that prioritized aggressive growth goals and constant iteration. This first test focused on IQ and the ‘Big 5’ Personality Traits, and was instrumental in several key hires. Gametrust was acquired by RealNetworks in 2007.

When Adeo Ressi and Jonathan Greechan founded the Founder Institute in 2009, they engaged this same clinical psychologist with a simple question: if an online test was able to properly identify the right people to work at a startup, then could we design a new test to identify the right people to start a startup?

They hypothesized that an objective test could predict the likelihood that any person could build a successful technology company - regardless of their locale, profession, race, or demographic.

Such a test could scale the evaluation of idea-stage entrepreneurs by removing subjectivity. This was of particular interest to the Founder Institute - a unique accelerator that works with entrepreneurs at the pure idea-stage, where objective data is mostly non-existent.

Assessment v1-2

The initial version of this “Entrepreneur DNA Assessment” used the ‘Big 5’ personality traits as the base, along with sections focused on both IQ and Fluid Intelligence. The ‘Big 5’ was selected due to the large amounts of research correlating those traits to entrepreneurs (1,2).

Assessment questions are presented in a forced-choice format in order to reduce instances of response distortion or “faking” (10). Respondents are forced to select answers that may not be the most socially desirable in order to get more accurate results. This forced choice format has been shown to curb instances of faking in increased validity and reliability (11).

To ensure geographic diversity in our testing, the Assessment was translated into 9 languages using professional business translation services. Significant measures were taken to ensure that their translations did not introduce any bias into the test results.

From approximately 2009-2013, all applicants to the Founder Institute startup accelerator were given a variation of a 45 minute to 3 hour long battery of personality and aptitude tests, and then were carefully measured and monitored for an 18 month period thereafter. All of the performance data below was given to a team of social scientists to compare with each Founder’s initial Assessment results.

Performance Measurement in the Accelerator Program

Performance tracking during the FI ‘Core Program’, which lasts approximately 4 months, if comprehensive. As many as 100 separate 1 to 5 ratings (5 being the best) of the Enrolled Founders are collected from their program Mentors (typically experienced startup founders, executives, and investors), Directors, and peers. Each Founder is rated weekly on their business idea development, pitch, and progress. In addition, there are two detailed “Review” weeks during the program where more detailed ratings are collected on the Founders.

Performance Measurement After the Accelerator Program

Graduate performance is tracked quarterly after Graduation through self-reporting on key metrics, such as revenue growth and market traction, with validation of this progress by the Founder Institute's Portfolio Support team.

Definition of “Success”

We define the success of early-stage entrepreneurs by their ability to quickly execute the strategy and short-term goals they defined in the Founder Institute program, that were validated by their Mentors and peers. Depending on their specific business and goals, metrics such as revenue, adoption, profitability, capital raised, recruitment of top talent, product milestones achieved, and more can all be factored into determining their relative level of success.

Assessment Score Accuracy in the Program

In addition to the personality assessment, the Predictive Admissions Test also provides the Institute with 1 to 5 “Founder Score” that predicts a candidate’s minimum performance within FI. In our most recent analysis;

  • Just 14.9% of Founders performed at ratings below their Founder Score.
  • 85.1% of Founders either performed as expected or outperformed the test.

Control Groups

FI ran several control groups of both traditional application review, and random admissions, to validate the impact of the test.

Assessment Variants

As our social scientists began to identify patterns and predictive traits, we began removing parts of the Assessment that focused on traits where we found no predictive correlations, such as IQ. Assessments during this time period were assigned to FI chapters randomly, and varied in length from 45-minutes to 3 hours.

Ultimately, this resulted in the standardization of “Assessment v2” across all FI applicants and chapters in mid 2013, which required approximately 45-60 minutes to complete.

Scoring Algorithm

From 2013 to 2018, the scoring algorithm was updated every 1-2 years after a thorough round of regression analysis from social scientists.

Assessment v3

In 2018, FI began its most comprehensive update, designed to leverage not only 2MM+ data points from our applicants to measure successful outcomes, but also the most recent academic research on entrepreneurship (a fast-growing field of study).

To accomplish this, FI hired a team of I/O psychologists and data scientists specifically focused in the area of creating and deploying valid online assessments.

Their approximately 2-year long study and study led to the launch of Assessment v3. Of the exhaustive list of 304 dimensions which were collected and analyzed by our team, only those that were valid and reliable in testing were included.

Assessment v3 is written at a third grade reading level, has no colloquialisms or slang for ease of translation, and has been professionally translated into Spanish and Portuguese. In an effort to eliminate cultural bias we conducted validity and reliability studies with a diverse group of test-takers.

The Assessment v3 measures 15 higher-order personality dimensions and 44 sub-dimensions that are associated with entrepreneurship. Each of these dimensions leverage our proprietary testing and performance data from 2009, peer-reviewed research, or a combination of both. All traits were mapped to Big 5 dimensions, so we were able to correlate FI's previous iteration’s results with even the oldest versions of the Assessment.

Academic Research

The team of I/O psychologists was tasked with completing an exhaustive literature review, designed to uncover new opportunities and potential cuts/ additions to both the Assessment and the scoring algorithm.

As a result of their review and analysis, we introduced the measurement of several more personality traits (e.g., innovativeness, proactivity, adaptability) that have shown to be relevant to entrepreneur success based on peer-reviewed research (3); with ‘success’ being defined as revenue growth, employment growth, or long-term business survival (4,5).

Moreover, we began to distinguish between traits and test results that specifically correlate with ‘early-startup success’ versus ‘later-startup success.’ Research on this topic showed that personality traits such as motivation, confidence, and risk-taking predicted early entrepreneur success, measured by first sales revenues, but not longer-term business survival (7). In the later, mature phases of startup companies, research showed that entrepreneurs who scored high on risk-taking and motivation attained higher revenues compared to entrepreneurs who scored low on these traits (9).

Assessment v4

In 2022 we conducted another analysis of our assessment results, broadening our definition of ‘success’ to include completion of the FI accelerator, ratings within the program, successful fundraising, revenue growth, company survival rate, and more. As a result, our proprietary algorithm was updated to reflect this performance to better predict outcomes.

As of year end 2022 we have had over 100,000 people take the Assessment from 126 countries.

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Ongoing Improvements

FI intends to initiate a thorough regression analysis and algorithm review approximately every two years, with the next review scheduled for late 2024.


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