I’m thrilled to announce that I’ll be joining Balderton Capital on a part-time basis to work with the firm and its portfolio companies on topics related to enterprise software, strategy, go-to-market, marketing, and SaaS metrics. You know, my usual stuff. In addition, I expect to do some more VC-style work such as helping with diligence, sourcing, best practice sharing, thought leadership, portfolio-company events, and maybe even expressing the odd opinion on how to best message and position the (already well positioned) firm. Once a marketer, always a marketer.
The Why Behind the Move
So why did I decide to do this?
- The people. I’ve been highly impressed with everyone I’ve met at Balderton and believe they have built one of the top VC firms in Europe. In particular, this opportunity gives me the chance to work again with my old boss, Business Objects founder and Balderton managing partner, Bernard Liautaud. Without singing his praises to excess, let’s just say that there aren’t many people in the world who have founded an enterprise software company, took it to $1B+ in revenues, then co-founded a second company (Dashlane), turned that company into a unicorn, and followed all that with a highly successful second career in venture capital. It’s enough to make you feel like an underachiever.
- The work. I very much enjoy doing all the things that Balderton wants (see below) and relish the opportunity to do my two absolutely favorite things: teaching and learning. I’ll spend time sharing what I’ve learned over the past 30 years in enterprise software all while simultaneously learning a ton from the Balderton team and their portfolio company executives. As Steve Jobs said: “learn continuously, there’s always one more thing to learn.” The best way to learn is to surround yourself with great people and challenge each other.
- The chance to help European companies. With nine years experience at Business Objects (five of those based in Paris), nearly five years serving on the board of Paris-based Nuxeo, and my fairly recent appointment to the board of Tallinn-based (Estonia) Scoro, I have significant experience in both Silicon Valley and in Europe, enjoy bridging between the two, and have always been interested in the challenges faced by European companies launching and growing in the US and other global markets. And if helping those companies involves the occasional trip to a farmhouse in Oxfordshire or the Luberon, well that’s just a sacrifice that I’m prepared to make.
What is an EIR Anyway? Typically, Entrepreneur-in-Residence
EIR typically stands for entrepreneur-in-residence, a pretty varied role itself, but one whose core is this: the entrepreneur-in-residence wants to return to an operating role and works on a mid-term basis at a VC firm, helping with what needs to be done while watching the deal flow and hoping to find an appropriate company (possibly in formation) that they can either join as a co-founder or as an executive, often CEO. Sometimes startup CEOs (particularly non-founders) think of this type of EIR as “CEOs-in-waiting” and approach them cautiously as a result. This is not the kind of EIR role that I’ll be doing.
The Other Kind of EIR: Executive-in-Residence
The less common use of EIR is as an acronym for executive-in-residence. This is what I’ll be doing and the premise is different. An executive in residence typically is an experienced C-level executive who is looking to “stay in the game” but who is not seeking a full-time operational or venture capital role. They’re typically looking:
- To keep working, but not with heavy demands of a startup C-level executive
- To get exposure to the inside of venture capital (often after having worked at VC-backed startups for decades)
- To give back to entrepreneurs and startup executives by sharing their hard-won lessons
- To find prospective companies for ongoing advisory or board roles
- To find investment opportunities either through the VC funds themselves and/or through co-investment opportunities alongside them.
Basically, if the entrepreneur-in-residence is looking for their next gig and wants to spend 6-18 months looking at high-quality deal flow to find it, the executive-in-residence is looking to stay active, give back to the startup community, and find a few high-quality board or advisory roles in the process. I have several friends, including Max Schireson at Battery, who do executive-in-residence roles and quite enjoy the depth and variety of the assignment.
What, Where, and How Much?
I expect the work to fall into two buckets, composed of the following:
- Advising portfolio companies on strategy, go-to-market, marketing, planning, and SaaS metrics as well as on more CEO-specific subjects like board management and organizational development.
- Supporting Balderton on diligence, sourcing, best practice sharing, thought leadership, portfolio-company events, and marketing.
In terms of location, part of the point is to bridge between Silicon Valley and Europe, so I will continue to be based here in Silicon Valley, but I do expect — as Covid hopefully gets back in control — to build up to periodic trips to Europe.
Regarding time and commitment, this is a part-time engagement. While I expect it to be my largest single engagement, I also expect to have more than enough time to keep working with my existing advisory and board companies, and even take on a few more as those invariably ebb and flow over time.
I am very excited to be starting this new role. My only regret is joining after the Patagonia branded vest ban. Hopefully, Balderton has an XXL left over.
See you on the blockchain.