October 1, 2008
One of the things I spend lots of time doing is helping the entrepreneurs we back build their management teams. It is a big part of our job, and actually the part of it I probably enjoy the most.
It is pretty typical for us once we make an investment to huddle with the entrepreneur and to map out what the org chart should look like in 6-12 months, to define a bunch of job specs, and then to launch some searches, either with or without a search firm’s assistance. Sometimes, in fact, we actually do this before we even invest.
Usually it is pretty easy to flesh out the org chart — there is a CEO, a VP Eng, a VP Marketing, VP Sales, sometimes a VP of BD, and a finance executive. Give or take, this is a pretty standard org chart for a venture backed startup.
Sometimes, though, throwing a full troop of VPs into a startup is the last thing you want to do — particularly for a very early web company that has a technical founder and either has or could achieve pretty substantial scale without a very large organization. Hiring a “been there done that” CEO, and/or a bunch of VPs, would not only be overkill but could actually drag the company down. With the rise of Web 2.0 this is something we see more and more often. In these cases, the ideal scenario is to find the “first business hire” who can be a real partner to the technical founder and help him/her execute successfully and get the venture to the next level. In other words, someone who can wear a bunch of hats across a range of different functions. In many cases, the right person will be a “product guy” who is comfortable also with a smattering of bizdev and operations tasks.
Finding that person, though, defies the traditional search process — and, I might add, most professional search firms, who are accustomed to doing searches either for a CEO or for a VP __. They have a methodology for doing this, have a database of a gazillion people out there, and can quickly tap that database based on the role you are looking to fill. But “First Business Hire” is not a field in that database.
So, more often than not the person is found through the personal networks of the folks around the table. Which is why I am always looking to meet great early stage folks, with a strong product background and an ability to wear a bunch of hats and get their hands dirty. If you fit that bill, I want to meet you!