How Do You Get an Executive in Residence (EIR) role?
This is the third post of a multi-part series on being an Executive in Residence (EIR). The initial post outlining the full series can be found here. The previous post was “Should I be an Executive in Residence (EIR)?“
One of the most mysterious aspects of the Executive in Residence role is the relative obscurity about how these roles come into being in the first place. After all, you’ll never find a job posting on LinkedIn for an EIR, and as a result there is no obvious description of the requirements or the process to get one of these roles.
However, a simple search on TechCrunch or Pando Daily reveals a fairly regular stream of people joining top tier venture capital firms as Executives in Residence. How did they get that role?
Venture capital partnerships value relationships, and so it’s rare that you’ll find an Executive in Residence that doesn’t have some direct relationship to the firm that brings them onboard. The three most typical ways executives form these relationships are:
- They were an executive or founder at a company backed by that venture capital firm.
- They worked with one of the partners at the venture capital firm in a previous operating role.
- They sat on the board of directors of a company with a partner from that venture capital firm.
There are of course exceptions to these examples, but in most cases the most likely way to get an Executive in Residence role will be from one of the venture capital firms that you’ve personally worked with in the past, where they have a high opinion of your capabilities as an executive, your relationships in the entrepreneurial community, and your expertise in an area that the firm has prioritized.
The Executive in Residence role is typically opportunistic in relation to timing. There is some event, some inflection point where a talented executive ends up potentially free from an existing role, and yet will be looking for time to assess the market and decide on their next operating role.
The most common events that lead to this situation are:
- Acquisition of a company. During acquisitions, executives either leave on completion of the acquisition or after some reasonable transition period.
- Reorganization of a company. As companies grow, they periodically will hit strategic shifts or management inflection points where it makes sense for some executives to leave the company.
- Long tenure / Company size. Sometimes as companies grow, executives who prefer earlier stages of company culture and growth will decide they want to pursue a role a new startup, but don’t necessarily have visibility into the full field of opportunities.
Once again, while there are exceptions to the above, you’ll find that almost all Executives in Residence come from a situation that generates a need to leave their current role, without sufficient time for the research and match-making process involved in placing a CxO. These situations can also generate the catalyst for a venture capital firm to take the opportunity to deepen their relationship with a talented executive.
In the end, venture capital firms bring on Executives in Residence in order to bolster both their access to talent as well as their relationships in the startup community. As a result, the reputation of the executive matters quite a bit in terms of getting an offer to join a firm as an EIR. Common attributes are:
- An executive with a well known reputation, or strong ties to a recent, well-known successful venture-backed company
- An executive whose reputation will be compatible and additive to the brand of the venture capital firm
- An executive whose existing relationships in the technology community will be compatible and additive to the venture capital firm.
- An executive with expertise in an specific market or technology sub-sector that the venture capital firm is strategically interested in going forward.
You Don’t Ask, You’re Offered
The Executive in Residence role is, by its nature, a fairly opportunistic hire on the part of the venture capital firm. If you are a founder or executive at a venture backed company, and one of the situations described fits your condition, make sure you are investing some of your time in relationships and being “top of mind” with venture capitalists you’ve worked with.
My next post in the EIR series will attempt to answer the question: “Challenges of being an Executive in Residence (EIR)“