So you want to become an entrepreneur-in-residence?
Entrepreneurs-in-residence work in both business and academia. What they do can vary a great deal, yet all have one thing in common: They’ve been involved with at least one – and usually several – successful startups.
At venture capital firms, where most EIRs reside, there’s no single job description. Indeed, “EIR” can be a catchall title for someone whom the partners want to work with but doesn’t actually join the firm.
Ike Nassi, CEO of cloud startup TidalScale, spent time as the EIR for a Silicon Valley venture firm. His work there included “bringing in interesting startups that are looking for investment.” Other tasks included evaluating deals and undertaking due diligence by visiting possible portfolio companies.
“I charged a monthly consulting rate for a while and they gave me office space,” Nassi says. As a benefit, he could invest in startups alongside the VCs. “I did that a couple of times and broke even.”
Still, the EIR role allowed Nassi to meet some interesting people, “and you sometimes can leverage those introductions later,” he says.
Brian Blum was EIR at the Israeli firm Jerusalem Global Ventures and was hired “while I was trying to raise money for a startup. JGV made me an offer to come on board as EIR rather than invest in the company I was pitching.”
“My ultimate role as EIR was to come up with an idea for a company that JGV would fund and that I would work at, presumably as CEO although not necessarily,” he says.
“In the process, I sat in on pitch meetings and gave my input, and researched promising business and technology directions which I presented to the partners for their consideration. In the end, I didn’t start a company that JGV funded. Rather, I was hired by one of the companies that JGV turned to for advice on vetting ideas.”
“EIR is not a very clear-cut term,” says Mark Tebbe, EIR at the University of Chicago.
A veteran of multiple tech startups — including technology consultant Lante Corp. and Answers.com — Tebbe says he became an EIR as a way to pay forward to future generations of entrepreneurs. “My job is to come in and leverage my experience to help students,” he explains. He considers himself a “general, friendly resource” not only to business school students but also to professors and others in the academic community.
Sometimes a VC firm’s EIR will be a former executive of a company the firm helped fund. Tebbe says one of his personal startups chose the EIR of one of its VC firms to become its CEO.
Another EIR in academia is Neil Kane, who works for the University of Illinois system to put together deals for professors and university research centers. “Venture capital won’t fund a professor as CEO,” says Kane, who brings experience at IBM, Microsoft and startups to his position. Sometimes, his role involves working as an interim CEO while a company is formed around university research.
Hard to Find
Whatever an EIR does, don’t expect the position to appear very often in job postings.
“It’s not a job you apply for, mostly,” Nassi says. “You need to have a broad background to cover the deals that come your way. You have to think like an investor, not just as an engineer.”