This is the fifth and final post of a multi-part series on being an Executive in Residence (EIR). The initial post outlining the full series can be found here. The previous post was “Challenges of Being an Executive-in-Residence (EIR)“
As I’m writing this post, I’m feeling a bit sheepish as I promised the to finish this series last year. I was reminded last weekend that people are finding significant value in the series, largely because so few people actually write about being an EIR. In my previous four posts, I stayed objective and incorporate lessons from other EIRs that I’ve had the opportunity to both know and work with.
Despite the series, I still receive questions about my time as an EIR, and the most common question I still get is:
Did I like being an Executive in Residence?
For those who want the short answer, it’sYes, I did.
For the complete picture though, I’ll try to put into my own words why I liked the experience of being an Executive-In-Residence at Greylock Partners, and why I’m grateful for the opportunity.
My Three Top Reasons for being an EIR:
1. The Typical Benefits
As I wrote in my earlier post, “Should I be an Executive-In-Residence (EIR)?“, there are a number of benefits to being an EIR, and my case was no different.
The position gave me the opportunity to create, build and grow relationships. While I was heads down at LinkedIn, it was often hard to do this well outside the company. My time as an EIR definitely helped me go into my next role better reconnected into my professional (and personal) networks.
My time as an EIR also allowed me to both broaden & deepen knowledge about multiple markets. I had both the time and the connections to explore a wide variety of product categories and sub-sectors, and more importantly, learn more deeply about what strategies and tactics were finding success.
One of the most obvious benefits of being within a firm like Greylock Partners was the incredible visibility into the startup community. There are so many incredibly talented entrepreneurs and executives building new businesses, and being an EIR provides not only exposure to them, but the opportunity for deep & frank discussion & debate.
Lastly, at a venture capital firm you quickly discover what are the unique knowledge sets where others in the startup community find value. At Greylock, I had the time and focus to both clarify both my thinking and content around product leadership and growth, two topics that continue to be in high demand. The investment in thought leadership, that I was able to make during my EIR role has continued to pay dividends well beyond the relatively short time I spent in the role.
2. A Time for Self Discovery & Clarity
About six months into the role, I had the good fortune to experience one of those rare life events that gives you both the time and the catalyst to think deeply. In May 2012, my wife & I welcomed our daughter into the world, and I took a month off to both manage the chaos that comes with a new addition, and reflect a bit on next steps. (For fans of my blog, this is when I wrote my piece on the Combinatorics of Family Chaos).
During that time, I came to a new level of clarity about what I was looking for:
- Product. As someone passionate about product & design, it had to be a consumer product & service that I was passionate about.
- Stage. I’ve had the good fortune to work for both startups and large companies at almost all stages. That being said, there’s no question that I deeply enjoy the technology, product & strategy issues that come with hypergrowth.
- Role. After a range of technology & leadership roles, I realized that I wanted the opportunity to help build and lead a company. I wanted to be the CEO.
Finding a company that fit the above felt a little bit like finding a needle in a haystack, but fortunately Silicon Valley turns out to be one of the better haystacks in the world, and the EIR role gave me time to find my needle.
3. Finding My Needle
In the summer of 2012 I met Andy Rachleff for the first time, through an introduction by Jeff Markowitz at Greylock. While I knew of Andy by reputation, we had never had the chance to meet in person. Wealthfront was not a Greylock investment at that time. I told Andy that I loved what Wealthfront was doing, and that I had opened an account almost immediately after it launched in December 2011. That being said, I told him that the only way to make Wealthfront succeed would be to find the right talent and the right growth strategy.
Over a few months we met and debated different ways to attract the right talent to Wealthfront and find a growth strategy that would succeed. One day, as I was discussing the company with my wife, Carolyn, she provided me with exactly the final clarity I needed. She said, “It seems like you really like Wealthfront and want it to succeed.”
It was true. I not only liked the idea of Wealthfront, but I also liked the idea of a world where Wealthfront was successful. I signed on before Thanksgiving (Wealthfront had about $79M under management at that time), and formally joined after the new year. Andy wrote his own version of his decision to bring me on as CEO on the Wealthfront blog, but I credit the EIR role with the time, the relationships, the clarity and the opportunity to find my dream job.
Right product. Right team. Right role. Right time.