January 27, 2010
I’ve written before about the dangers of “over-executive-ing” early stage startups, particularly during the early phases when entrepreneurship is much more needed than executiveship.
But the flip side is also true: as a startup approaches the moment of product-market fit, bringing in execution-oriented, market-facing, though still entrepreneurial, “business” talent is really helpful and important.
In my experience great young, technical founders often find this a worrisome prospect, imagining all the ways a business guy could spell ruin for their startup. I call this the “Frankenstein problem.” Founders imagine this horrible Frankenstein business guy — the fast talking, gum-chewing, slicked-back hair executive guy who wears fancy clothes, has his own assistant, and sits at his desk giving orders but rarely actually does anything productive himself. While belittling this image by calling it Frankenstein, I also am the first to say that VCs often DO urge founders to hire a business guy who ends up being exactly the wrong type for an early stage startup culture. I’ve learned this the hard way — about 7 years ago I recruited a fancy, big salaried Chief Revenue Officers to one of my portfolio companies who more or less fit the Frankenstein description above to a “T.” Needless to say, he didn’t last long.
But, I’d still argue that the risk of hiring the wrong person, while real, is very often less than NOT hiring someone and substantially underachieving the company’s potential. I still haven’t figured out the best remedy to the Frankenstein problem, but am hoping the success seen by some great founders who brought in great business “guys” (Facebook, Twitter) will help debunk this myth. In the meantime, the best I’ve been able to come up with is “Just do it.”