I Want That Job!

Good news!  I got the go-ahead from Softbank to blog about my experience as an EIR.  Actually, I’m not surprised at all since I’ve found Softbank in general and Steve Murray in particular to be very laid-back and open to entrepreneurs.  It is one of the things that attracted me to them as an investor originally and later as an EIR.

One of the things I’ve been asked most frequently over the past couple of months is, "how did you land your EIR-gig?" usually with the sub-context of, "how can *I* get that job?!?"  Over the past couple of months I have spoken to a bunch of EIRs and to a person they have all came to the role through an existing relationship with the venture fund–which was my experience with Softbank.  I have never heard of a VC advertising a job posting for an EIR.

So what exactly is an EIR?  I have spoken to a number of friends and acquaintances who are or have been EIRs and one consistent theme is that there is very little structure in the role and it is pretty much what you make it.  It reminds me a lot of that initial phase of a startup when you don’t have anything except a vague notion that you’re going to start a company.  You could work on almost any aspect of the business…what you do is up to you.  I think the main reason behind this is that venture funds are loosly defined startups to begin with.  Aside from a few regualar partnership and investment meetings, most of the folks at VC funds are pretty much working by themselves in an unstructured environment.  In my case, I took it upon myself to write up a "plan" for my EIR stint, but I get the feeling that not much is going to go according to plan.

So what do you do as an EIR?  Like I said, it’s pretty much up to you, but it basically falls into five buckets:

  1. Sourcing deals.  Every venture fund is continuously on the hunt for good investment opportunities.
  2. Helping with diligence.  Having been on the other side of the table and with first hand, recent operating experience, EIRs can add value to the business and technology diligence process.
  3. Helping existing portfolio companies. In the case where an EIR has functional or industry expertise or just generally in the process of growing a company, they can help existing portfolio companies.
  4. Special projects for the fund.  VC funds always have projects that they wish they could do but don’t have the bandwith to pursue.  It could be launching a new investment strategy (I talked with one EIR who was helping a fund evaluate whether they should expand into alternative energy investments) or just changing the way they market and position the fund.
  5. Creating a new company.  VCs view this as proprietary deal flow and the EIR gets to use the resources and expertise of the fund (not to mention the inside track for funding).

Usually and EIR will spend 3-12 months and focus on one or two of these areas.