Approaching Homebrew’s one-year anniversary which means getting some materials prepared to update our investors. Taking stock of the last twelve months emphasized two things for me. First, how excited we are about the founders we’ve backed and how easy that makes working hard on their behalf. Second, how fortunate I am that along the way in my career, certain people have helped out. For example, David Hornik who I *think* was the first VC I encountered post-graduate school in 2001 when he was poking around my employer Second Life. David’s proclivity for being “nice” is well-documented in Adam Grant’s book Give & Take and in my case it translated to spending time answering questions, inviting me to events, and generally giving me the Donnie Brasco “he’s a friend of mine” treatment. He bet on me prematurely.
Betting on people prematurely factors a lot into my current business too. We back plenty of first time founders. Their passion isn’t going to wait so we get on board, hang on and try to clear the path ahead of them so they can move as quickly as possible.
Betting on people prematurely can also be a great hiring strategy. Find the superstar who’s just a bit less experienced than your job req suggests and give them the chance to step up. Especially from larger companies where promotion criteria is too firmly specified, good folks can find themselves locked into junior roles for distressingly long periods of time. Bring them on board, elevate them but also provide the support they need. You might need to spend more time with them ongoing, not micro-managing but helping structure and think through their decisions. Find them a functional mentor, either within your organization or outside. Invest a little in training if there’s a specific area they want to build confidence. Often I don’t want to bet on someone who has done the job before, but someone with the headroom and capacity to do this job and beyond.