For the past six months, I’ve met some very interesting entrepreneurs who at some point in their professional lives where an “entrepreneur-in-residence” (or “EIR”) for a venture firm. Generally, these individuals had started (and sold) at least two companies and had left the EIR position to pursue a third+ company. The more and more I’ve been thinking about the spectrum between entrepreneur and VC, I started to see the EIR as a role that maybe somewhere in the middle. But, I don’t know this field that well, so I started to ask around, and am trying to learn more. I’m reproducing below some parts of a dialog I’ve had with a really sharp (and nice) climate technology VC, who himself is the type of person that fits the EIR bill. My hope is to get more comments from folks who have opinions on the matter, and thanks in advance!
Here is the very sharp answer I got from my friend:
EIRs are typically either (a) a successful entrepreneur, or (b) someone a particular VC partner really wants to work with. In either case, EIRs walk in with a bit of a heavy weight resume. If you have built a company and either successfully exited, or at least did something interesting with it, you at least have a shot. One or more VC partners have to want to back you…I don’t think EIRs are chosen without one of the partners raising their hand and saying if this guy come sup with something interesting, they would want to back him up. Often EIRs enter with some idea of where they would like to focus (and have some reason why they might be successful): eg I might be a candidate for an EIR in either chemicals or automotive space unless I could show I have an interesting view on some other space.Let me say it this way: if an EIR does not start a company within 12-18 months, he/she is probably looked at as someone who is either (a) one trick pony, (b) not really interested in doing a startup, (c) maybe not creative/entrepreneurial enough.