Are All Startup Founders Psychopaths?

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Because at the end of the day, a psychopath is just someone with a different personality type.

There’s no reason to believe that a “successful” psychopath won’t be able to build an awesome company. It takes all kinds, and there are plenty of “normal” people who run startups that don’t go anywhere either.

What is a Psychopath?

Psychopathy is a personality disorder with certain consistent characteristics, and it is usually diagnosed in adulthood. People who are psychopathic are highly manipulative, have no remorse or empathy for the pain they cause other people, and they are impulsive, callous and sometimes reckless. They can be superficially charming but tend to have an inflated sense of self-worth.

“the odds of a company being run by a star CEO are between two and three times higher if it has a psychopath as a chief financial officer than if it has an ordinary CFO.”

The psychopathy checklist includes items such as:

Is Donald Trump a Psychopath?

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The short answer, according to Dr. William Hirstein, is “yes.”

Hirstein, a neuroscientist and philosopher at Northwestern University, has pointed out the similarities between Donald Trump and a psychopath. For example:

On the other hand, there are some who disagree.

For example: “That’s just what psychologists do when they don’t have a clinical diagnosis for someone — they go out and invent one,” said John D. Gartner, a psychologist at Johns Hopkins University Medical School. “He doesn’t meet the criteria for any personality disorder listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) or the International Classification of Diseases (ICD), so you can only diagnose him with something else if you stretch things. And that is what has been done here — beyond all recognition. It is ridiculous to say this man has no personality or character defect whatsoever… Just because he is not diagnosable with a formal disorder does not mean he is mentally healthy… It simply means we don’t have a good way to classify him using our current system of classification… There are some things wrong with this guy; we just don’t know how to classify them yet.”

Founder of Cudy Technologies (, a full-stack EdTech startup helping teachers and students teach and learn better. I am also a mentor and investor.