Associate means a lot of different things at different venture capital firms. I started my venture career as an Associate at General Catalyst Partners in 2006. I was hired by a guy who came out of Summit Partners. For those that don’t know, Summit is one of the original practitioners of the “outbound associate sourcing model.” At least when I joined GC, they had an army of associates, working through pipelines, calling 100s of companies a week, looking for the diamond in the rough that was bootstrapped, with $xx Million in revenue, growing at 100% a year, and associates were measured by how many deals they sourced for the firm. Something like that. Anyway, he had left Summit to build a similar, but scaled down sourcing program at General Catalyst, and I was the 3rd Associate he’d hired to the team. When I got to GC, I was told I’d be measured by the volume of companies I spoke to, and I’d have weekly checkins where we’d talk about “getting my numbers up, etc.” The surest way to get your numbers up was to indiscriminately call down lists of companies or conference attendees, but to me that felt dumb. In my own head, I measured my progress by the bottom of my funnel, not the top. Was I brining high quality companies into the firm and were the General Partners interested in the work I was doing? As I got a bit more comfortable with the landscape, and observed how the Partners at the firm spent their time, and with whom the partners at the firm spent time (as opposed to how the other associates did), I decided that I would be independent, essentially breaking out of the program for which my boss had hired me. The guy who hired me stopped managing me, a few GPs tried to take over that role, and eventually it became clear to everyone that I was not manageable (I’m not proud of that, it was a weakness that I only saw years later). This was a huge pain in the ass for the firm, but I was doing good work and from there I just kind of carved my own path, collaborating with many people at the firm, and trying to contribute first principals thinking to our collective understanding of what the fuck was going on in the world, and what might happen in the future.
Since that experience, I’ve hired a number of Associates and in doing so, gravitated toward collaborating with people who could confidently work alongside me, as opposed to beneath me, irregardless of title or experience level. I hate paint by numbers, rigid, formulaic, contrived management frameworks or styles. I like self starting, independent thinking, self-motivated, figure-it-out minded, sponge brained, curious, hungry, self aware, authentic teammates (who just happen to have been born 10-15 years after me). I have the deepest faith that someone’s age or level of experience does not mandate the quality of her thinking, and I expect to learn as much from any Associate I’d hire as she would learn from me. I don’t measure the Associates with whom I work by how many deals they source, how much leverage they give me in diligence or investment memos, or the number of meetings I can pass off to them that I don’t want to take. I measure Associates by how quickly and creatively they are advancing our collective thinking within the context of any thesis or area of interest that’s in focus.
I don’t want to represent the job as completely autonomous because it’s not. One of the things you are signing up for is allowing me to route your attention toward questions and problem spaces that I choose. That’s a bit of the trade you make for getting to do one of the best jobs in the world without the natural ceilings or constraints that most analogous jobs would present at larger firms. Of course, I expect and want you to take us in new directions, into new problem spaces, etc…but at the end of the day, you kind of have to persuade me to care about what you care about, or it’d be hard to justify a lot of time spent there. I think this is one of the biggest differences between an Associate and a Principal…I initially thought I might hire either at Pace, but I realized through a few conversations that a Principal can and should define their own focus and time. An Associate, at least in my view, gives that up in the name of learning and mentorship and experience.
If I haven’t stated it explicitly yet, it might be obvious that I’m starting an Associate search to come work with me at Pace. I think it’s a unique role for someone interested in practicing a very bottoms up, Series A, first principals approach to venture investing. You’ll be working primarily with me, but we’re a (VERY) small team at the moment, and you’ll get to enjoy plenty of time with Chris and players to be named at a later date. I’ll write another thing with more of what I’m looking for and more about Pace, but I’m very open minded to different backgrounds and past experiences. Beyond the character stuff, I have a bias but not dogmatic attachment to at least semi-technical if not technical backgrounds. I work well with extroverts partly because I skew introvert. And investing experience of some kind would be nice, but entrepreneurial, product, academic, or engineering experience is all relevant.
If you are interested or know someone who might be, please get in touch. I would especially love to hear from you if you come from a background that is not yet well represented in the venture capital world: firstname.lastname@example.org
Pace is an early stage venture capital firm primarily focussed on Series A investments. We are generalist and are investing in any market at any layer in the stack. Previously Chris was a founding partner & GP at Thrive Capital where he invested in companies like Twitch (acq. by Amazon, Patreon, Unity, ClassPass, Grailed, MM LaFleur, and Flatiron School (acq. by WeWork). Previously I was a founding partner & GP at Lerer Hippeau where I invested in comapnies like Seatgeek, Sunrise (acq by MSFT), Moat (acq by Oracle), Soylent, Smartthings (acq by Samsung), Groupme (acq by MSFT), Cue (acq by AAPL), MongoHQ (acq by IBM), Tapad (acq by Telenor), Adaptly (acq by Accenture), Floored (acq by CBRE) and a number of others. Concurrent with my investing role at Lerer, I also started and served as CEO of two venture backed technology companies, one of which (Hyperpublic) was successfully acquired by Groupon (GRPN) shortly after they went public.
We closed our first fund, Pace I, at the end of June. It’s $150M (more than half of which comes from leading university endowments who we are very proud to work in service of). While we invest across the United States, this job is sitting next to us in our New York office.