At the moment are Andrew Sullivan, for his politics, Paul Graham, Mark Suster, and Fred Wilson for their wisdom about start-ups and venture capital (in that order), and Zadie Smith for her effervescent (if at times wrenching) essays. I don’t have time – well, patience – for novels anymore. I’m about to go on spring break, and I plan on reading zero books, and getting through two software development kits. That isn’t a happy turn of events, but it is a digression. Mark Suster’s most recent essay titled “Whom Should You Hire At A Startup” should be required reading for every new founder or founding team out there. I have been on the receiving end (an employee) in two start-ups that went from under a dozen people – in the first case two people – and made combined almost 30 hires. There was one that fell into each of the various buckets described in the essay, and what stood out to me is this passage:
“You said, “Eff experience. I want to know whether you can deliver. If you can, you’re golden. You’ll go a long way. If you can’t – you’re toast. Are you up for it?” It’s Tristan Walker of FourSquare. They hired him when he was an MBA. He had no right asking for a senior biz dev role at one of the hottest companies in the US. But he was ready to punch above his weight class. And he pushed for it.
And heavy-weight he has become. He is out innovating people with 10 years’ his experience. He is hungry. He is an A player. His innovation and execution are proving his worth”
It’s easy to get stuck in protective mindsets, because so often risks don’t reap rewards. But making calculated risks, and understanding the difference between someone who blows smoke and somebody who GSD is worth its weight in gold. Based on my work thus far, I’m a ways away from being an A-player. But knowing where you want to go, and how to get there, is more winning than losing. And as I start to make investments and look at other teams, I’m learning more and more about what it takes to be an entrepreneur. And, importantly, I’m learning not to take failure personally, and to encourage others not to, either. Because you learn most impactfully and effectively when you’re failing, so long as you “always make new mistakes.”