You often hear how important it is to look at a person or company’s history before hiring, investing, etc., and although it is crucial, it is also crucial to do more than look superficially. Conversely, just looking superficially can cause significant damage and lead you into a bad decision.
Using track record when hiring
Probably the most important factor when considering a candidate is what they have previously done in their career. While a weak candidate can shine for a day of interviews and a great candidate may not be good in an interview environment, what a person has done previously in their career is a strong indicator of what they can do for you.
The challenge is how to analyze a person’s track record. If you look on LinkedIn, 90 percent of people are all in the top 10 percent. In some cases (though I have found it rare among candidates for senior positions), people lie about their prior roles and achievements. This issue is easy to uncover; you just need to ensure you do your due diligence on background and reference checks. The one caveat is not to rely on the references that you are given, as almost anyone can find three or four people (often friends) that will say good things about them. You need to dig deeper, for key positions and achievements figure out who they reported to or worked with, then reach out directly to those people (I usually use LinkedIn) to get the real story.
The other key element of checking candidates’ track records is understanding their true roles on the major achievements they tout. Continue reading
I have been intrigued for years that a huge financial sector has continued to rely on intuition while industry after industry has discovered that using analytics give you a better chance to succeed. Moreover, it is a sector that brags about the fact that it fails 99 percent of the time yet fails to embrace methods to improve those odds. I am talking about venture investing, the venture capital industry.
Moneyball and the venture community
For those who have seen the movie or read the book Moneyball, which I have written about multiple times, one of the most poignant scenes is the Oakland A’s smoke filled draft room where scouts with years of experience determine the best prospects to select based on their gut of what makes a great baseball player. When I first read about it, the parallels to how game company executives select what games to green light were incredibly apparent and I was certain you would see a similar transformation of the game industry. We did, with analytics driven social game companies putting many old school game companies out of business.
The venture capital space has uncanny parallels to the pre-Moneyball baseball industry. You have investors with years of experience sitting in Red Bull filled rooms deciding which investments to pursue based on intuition. The claim that they are investing in the management team is another way of saying they are selecting those leaders who feel like rock stars; who they think look like a star. They are basing it on measurable that they feel are important but have not proven empirically are the keys to success (just as baseball executives undervalued walks and over-valued defense).
Correlation Ventures, the Billy Beane of VC
A recent article in Forbes, “Venture By Numbers,” shows this situation is changing. Correlation Ventures started in 2011 with the philosophy to bring a quant-based approach to venture investing. Their mission was to stockpile 25 years of data on every venture deal consummated, evaluate this data with proprietary algorithms and then pick investments via pattern-matching software. Continue reading
One of the questions I am most often asked is how to raise capital in North Carolina (or some other place that does not have many venture capitalists [VCs]) or whether the company should just give up and move. Until recently, the only advice I could give was “Keep plugging away and once you get traction you will be more attractive to non-local investors.” But given the success—some would say dominance—of game companies outside the San Francisco area, I have a more positive outlook. A recent blog post by Mark Suster also does a great job of providing tactical advice on how to raise money if you are not located in a major VC area.
Suster, a serial entrepreneur who is now a partner at GRP Partners, provides a lot of practical suggestions that improve your chances of raising capital. Suster points out that yes, it is easier to raise money if you are in a major VC center (San Francisco, New York, LA or Boston), and if you do not have a strong tie to the local area it would be easier to raise capital if you relocate. That said, he pointed out that some great companies have raised large sums outside these regions and provided some very useful tips for doing so. Continue reading