It is a truth universally acknowledged (as Jane Austen once wrote), that VCs prefer to work with Founders as CEOs, and not hired hands.
To the uninitiated, that might seem strange. Many of the founders involved in early stage startups are first timers, learning as they go, like new parents. They’ve read the books, but haven’t yet got the T Shirt, they may not have hired anyone before, and they likely don’t boast a network of a 20-year industry veteran.
Why entrust this potential rocketship to a rookie astronaut? Isn’t a startup risky enough, why not de-risk things by bringing in an experienced person to run things, while the Founder gets on with developing the product or whatever else floats their boat? Why this apparent preference for CEO Founders?
The answer comes from an unlikely source; tennis champion, Martina Navratilova.
One of the greatest exponents of her sport the world has ever seen was once asked the difference between involvement and commitment. “Ah, easy”, she quipped, “it’s like ham and eggs. The chicken is involved, but the pig? The pig is committed”
And by and large, your typical VC prefers swine to fowl.
That’s because the best Founder has passion, a deep seated desire to change something, to grow this germ of an idea into a thriving, growing organization that can take on the world. And when things get tough, when another trial fails to convert to a longer term contract, when someone else says “no”, you need that burning desire, that steel, not a hired hand who can use his or her network to land a well paid job at the drop of a hat or the sign of adversity.
You want commitment, not involvement.
Oh, and VCs? The biggest bunch of chickens you’ll ever meet 🙂