Back in July of this past year, we put up a job posting for an associate role for Lightbank. The role is demanding – I often joke with the team that I know they’re ready to be promoted when they look haggard, cynical and tired (the mark of an experienced associate). The job entails doing a ton of research and analysis, working under tight timeframes, meeting with hundreds of entrepreneurs per year and interacting with the partnership on a daily basis.
That all might sound daunting, but we think the role is a unique opportunity.
Based on our past experience, the criteria we were looking for was someone with 2-3 years of investment banking or strategy consulting experience (battle hardened by long hours and polished by meeting with clients), a passion for technology (all we do is look at technology companies), and an intellectual curiosity about entrepreneurship (we encourage our associates to consider a move into an operating role with one of our portfolio companies at some point).
That formula seems to have worked well as we’ve been happy with the performance of our current associates. Marina Dedes, our first associate hire, came from an investment banking and analysis background. Her ability to quickly carve through a startup’s growth assumptions, as well as her ability to research the competitive landscape, has been invaluable for us to quickly learn about new spaces. David Wald and Sasha Gribov came with experience as analysts for Bain Consulting, which allowed them to quickly pull together frameworks that help our portfolio companies to think strategically about which milestones they need to achieve.
So when it came to targeting potential candidates, we were looking for the same criteria as when we hired Marina, David and Sasha. We interviewed somewhere between 50-60 qualified applicants from a pool that was substantially larger. A sizeable majority (~80%) of the applicants had the functional qualifications; a good percentage (~40%) had an intellectual curiosity about entrepreneurship, and/or a demonstrable passion for technology. After an exhaustive interview process, there were a handful of candidates we were ready to extend offers to.
Then I got an email from James Dickerson.
We had met James about a year ago when he had graduated from the Brandery, a brand focused incubator out of Cincinnati. He was pitching his startup, Leap – a mobile app for social challenges between friends (“let’s see who can get her phone number first!”). We weren’t crazy about the idea, but we definitely liked James. His energy, quick thinking and mostly his hustle shined through in the meeting. We passed on the investment and he decided to move to San Francisco to pursue his dream of getting his startup of the ground.
Fast forward nine months and I get an email from James with the subject line “associate at lightbank” and the following presentation attached (shared here with James’ permission). The pitch outlined his background, what he had achieved, what had happened since we passed, and why he wanted to apply for the Lightbank associate role. All of this was done in a creative, non-traditional way.
The other really helpful thing about James is that his body of work is transparent and present on the Internet (go ahead and Google “James Dickerson” and “Leap” and you can see for yourself). We could see that this wasn’t a passing fancy for him; he’s been blogging and hustling in the startup space for a number of years. So, instead of a resume, a link to his LinkedIn, or a request for coffee, he cut to the chase and went all in.
Now, I’m not saying that everyone should randomly email people with PowerPoint presentations of themselves, but in this case (knowing what we knew about James) the presentation was perfect. We flew James out the following week and he met with the partnership and the rest of the team. He didn’t have the traditional banking or consulting background, nor did he have the transactional experience that we would have preferred. But we loved the fact that he had tried and failed with his startup, gained significant operating experience, and had been transparent about his passion for technology and entrepreneurship.
So why am I writing this post? To be completely honest, I wrote for selfish reasons. Our associate program is meant to be a transition role into a startup role or a more senior role within Lightbank, and I’m afraid we’re doing entirely too good of a job. Marina Dedes was promoted to Vice President. David Wald recently joined the startup world where he will head up operations at a Lightbank funded stealth startup. Sasha Gribov accepted an outside promotion to be Chief of Staff at Groupon. Finally, James Dickerson, our associate referenced above, is leaving to start our growth hack team (more about that in a future post).
So…. All that said. We’re hiring new associates. If you want to take the journey, be creative and get at us by sending your materials to email@example.com (please mark “Lightbank Associate” in the subject line).
Our friends at Chicago Tech Academy made an awesome video reflecting on a recent visit from Brad Keywell. Brad sat down with a small group of students in the class of 2016 to talk about his journey as a tech entrepreneur in Chicago and share a few lessons he learned along the way. Two of the students, Josh and Tommy, decided to share their reflections in this video here.
Thanks, guys! We love it.
Lightbank’s Founder Cocktails are back, and we kicked 2013 off right last week with our guest Sam Yagan, founder of OKCupid.
We started Lightbank Founder Cocktails awhile back for our portfolio company founders and other friends in the tech community to get together outside of the office, drink a few brews and learn a thing or two in the process. Even though some of the Lightbank companies work out of the same space, not all of them are able to set time aside each day to collaborate with members outside of their team and hear about new ideas or strategies they might be implementing.
So…we thought Founder Cocktails would be a good way to change that.
We usually invite an industry leader (like Sam) as a guest who can talk about his or her experiences with everyone, too. In the past, we’ve had guests like Ron Conway, Kevin Willer, Shervin Pishevar and Dave McClure…to name a few. The format is pretty laidback – there’s a brief intro to the guest (after a drink or two…of course) and then the floor opens up for a candid Q&A session.
Sam shed some light on what his entrepreneurial journey has been like, building the right team, raising money in the “vintage” VC days (pre-2008 recession), how you look at an industry in need of disruption and make a fundamental change happen (in terms of both product and branding), as well as what it’s like to go from no-hierarchy-or-rules entrepreneur to C-level at Match.com.
All eyes were on Sam even as delicious smelling wings and nachos made their way out of the kitchen, which is a pretty good sign that he had some great insight to share. A couple of our founders said they even went straight to their teams the following day to brainstorm some of the knowledge bombs that Sam dropped.
Thanks to Sam for hanging out with us. We’ll see you on Tinder
If you’re in Chicago and interested in joining us for the next Founder Cocktails event, just let us know. We’re aiming to have one next month!