What is Entrepreneur in Residence? (EIR)
Welcome the first ever post of my personal blog. In fact, I have been wanting to start a proper personal blog for many years. But I guess I lacked the motivation and the time to start one until now.
For the last couple of weeks I managed to get the blog up and running and here comes the first ever post!
When I was thinking about which subject I should select to write for the first post, I realized that the what my uncommon job title would be interesting to start. So let's get started!
What is Entrepreneur in Residence?
Before I was hired as an Entrepreneur in Residence at Softtech, I didn't know what I was supposed to expect from this role.
Before we define what Entrepreneur in Residence (EIR) is and what EIR does, it's a good idea to revisit what entrepreneur is and what they do. According to Wikipedia, Entrepreneurship can broadly be defined as the creation or extraction of value, and Entrepreneur is the person who creates this value in several areas.
But I liked this definition more:
Person who sets up a business or businesses, taking on financial risks in the hope of profit.
In my opinion, entrepreneurs are hard working gamblers who bet on their time and money to find the right fit for their ideas to raise money, create a successful business out of it and then to maintain it. They basically are risk takers and they mostly take these risks with their own money and time for some time in the beginning, and investor's money at later stages.
Entrepreneur in Residence is the person
Entrepreneurship can broadly be defined as the creation or extraction of value[](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Entrepreneurship#cite_note-1)[](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Entrepreneurship#cite_note-2)[](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Entrepreneurship#cite_note-3). With this definition, entrepreneurship is viewed as change, which may include other values than simply economic ones.
AnEntrepreneur in residence, orExecutive in residence(EIR), is a position most often held by
successfulentrepreneursinventure capitalfirms,private equityfirms,startup accelerators,law firmsorbusiness schools. The EIR typically leads, or has led, asmall, early-stage, emerging companydeemed to have high-growth potential, or which has demonstrated high-growth in its number of employees, annual revenue, or both. Aninstitutional fundmay provide an entrepreneur in residence, or executive in residence, with theworking capitalto nurture expansion, new-product development, or restructuring of a company’s operations, management, or ownership.[](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Entrepreneur_in_residence#cite_note-1)[](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Entrepreneur_in_residence#cite_note-2)[](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Entrepreneur_in_residence#cite_note-3)[](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Entrepreneur_in_residence#cite_note-4)[](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Entrepreneur_in_residence#cite_note-5)
This is no surprise, as the role is pretty uncommon, especially in Asia where the accelerator scene is still relatively young.
his is no surprise, as the role is pretty uncommon, especially in Asia where the accelerator scene is still relatively young.
As I see it, EIRs have three key responsibilities:
- Attend all-cohort sessions and provide feedback based on their own founding experience (typically EIRs have recently exited their company) — in a way that accelerator managers and investors may not be able to
- Host office hours for founders looking for discussions on company-specific challenges
- Support the accelerator management team in optimizing the program, e.g. via constant feedback, participation in management meetings
The EIR position is generally not a full-time position and it’s expected that the EIR is also exploring their next opportunity in their free time.
What do I bring as an EIR?
My experience is primarily in B2B, spanning across multiple industries and geographies. Prior to taking up the EIR role, I have also consulted for and advised startups at various stages, from concept to Series B. I specialize in helping founders in what I call SOS functions — see below. Lastly, I also have a few founder-friendly bonus features, just having gone through the process myself.
For more details on my history and the startups I’m currently working with, check out jahyingchung.com.
1. B2B Expertise: Industries And Geographies
My professional experience is primarily in the B2B space. Through my own startup, companies that I’m consulting for or advising, and previous organizations that I’ve worked for, I’ve accumulated deep networks in the following industries:
Industries where I have substantial understanding and networks:
- Advertising and marketing, influencer marketing
- Climate change and environmental NGOs
- Environmental (risk) technology (software and hardware)
- Venture philanthropy
- Social enterprise
Industries where I have access to key contacts:
- Health, fitness, wearables
Geographies where I’ve done business:
- Primary: Hong Kong, China
- Secondary:Taiwan, Singapore, Australia
2. B2B SOS: Sales, Operations and Storytelling
Depending on the stage of the startup and the founder’s strengths, I may work on different types of projects projects:
Concept stage — typically one person with an idea
- Customer discovery: Leveraging my network to set up meetings / organizing events for founders to meet potential customers
- Interviewing potential customers to verify problem / need exists
- Pitch development
Validation stage — a small team, selling early version of the product
- Pitch optimization: working with non-sales founders to improve sales script and approach, providing feedback in post-meeting debrief
- Attending sales meetings and asking key questions to validate customer needs and value proposition
- Investor relations: introductions to and /or gathering feedback from potential investors, developing pitch materials, setting up investor update
Growth stage — an established team, experiencing internal growth pains as they scale
- Clarify and document user personas to inform sales strategy and product roadmap
- Documentation and optimization of sales and internal processes
- Amplifying and/or automating direct sales efforts with B2B marketing initiatives and infrastructure, e.g. developing industry newsletter
- Analyzing customer sales data to identify low-hanging opportunities for growth
- Establish internal communications infrastructure to facilitate knowledge sharing and a shared vision amongst team members (often across multiple offices)
- Setting up efficient investor communications
3. Bonus founder features
- Tools: Trying to decide what tool to use for: CRM, marketing, automation, UX, analytics, internal comms… just ask — I’ve tried them all.
- Accelerator feedback: Feedback to accelerator program management team: some things may be hard to say directly — I can be the go-between
- Investor discussions: something on our mind that you don’t feel comfortable discussing with investors?
Want to know more? Head over to jahyingchung.com
The role of Entrepreneur in Residence, or EiR, has never been well-understood. That wasn't a big deal in the tech industry when EiRs were found mostly at venture capital firms, but the role has expanded to educational institutions, governmental agencies, and -- increasingly -- technology companies.
The transformation signals a new appreciation of the importance and opportunity presented by the startup economy.
Traditionally, EiRs worked with VCs to scout and vet investment. But according to startup expert Rieva Lesonsky, CEO of Growbiz Media, "the more exciting part is how EiR's have graduated from there and are now going into very big corporations." The EiRs generating buzz now are typically "hired to bring the entrepreneurial perspective to corporate execs who may not truly know about entrepreneurs," she says.
The Transformation of the 'Traditional' Entrepreneur in Residence
Entrepreneurs in Residence came about as temporary roles for startup veterans who could help VC firms with high-level strategy and introduce other entrepreneurs and potential new deals. In return, the EiRs drew a salary between startups and could score a possible investment in their next venture. VCs that employ these kinds of EiRs reportedly include Accel Partners, Foundation Capital, Bessemer Venture Partners, Redpoint Ventures, Greylock Partners, Venrock, Norwest Venture Partners, Sutter Hill Ventures and Trinity Ventures.
But even at VCs, the EiR role is changing. Russ Wallace is an EiR at RAA Ventures, where he came on board "to run something, we just didn't know what." The goal was to bring his "strategy and tactics toolbox" to whatever project he was placed on.
Currently working on the fantasy sports site DoubleUp, Wallace was able to choose which idea he'd be attached to -- and then hash out the arrangements on that particular project. Right now, he says, "I do everything the engineers don't want to do."
Beyond VCs, Entrepreneurs in Residence are also finding homes in academia. Universities like MIT, Cornell, and Harvard Business School all have EiRs in advisory roles, helping students and faculty make the most of their ideas and turn breakthroughs into businesses.
The Poster Child for Corporate EiRs
The real Entrepreneurs in Residence action, though, is in the corporate world, where Dell's Ingrid Vanderveldt may be the best-known example. (With the possible exception of Craig Walker, who became an EiR at Google Ventures in 2010.) When Vanderveldt became Dell's first EiR in 2011, there were only six or seven others in Fortune 500 companies, she recalls. "It's still not common," she allows, "but it's definitely a trend."
At Dell, Vanderveldt says, "we set up my work in a different way." The idea was to "intentionally leverage me and my role for outreach to into the [entrepreneurial] community." Her task was to bring the perspective of the entrepreneur to the corporate world. Vanderveldt says that Dell gave her the opportunity to leverage the power and insight of a Fortune 500 company to shape the future of business, "to help entrepreneurs early on, when they need it the most."
Initially, Vanderveldt adds, she was "on the road 80 percent to 90 percent of the time, being in the community and listening and taking action." "We dreamt up the EiR role," for me, Vanderveldt recalls. But things have gone farther than she ever imagined. "I was supposed to be here for six months, with two weeks on and two weeks off." She's now been at it for more than two years.
What Does a Corporate Entrepreneur in Residence Really Do?
Bringing the entrepreneurial mindset to the corporate world can sound a little touchy-feely, but execs who built their careers in large organizations may not even know what they don't know about entrepreneurs, Lesonsky says. Fundamentally different from both enterprise customers and consumers, entrepreneurs often don't get what they need from their tech vendors.
That makes it the EiR's job to tell their corporate overlords what they don't know -- and to help them cut through the red tape to create products and programs that are actually valuable and accessible to startups. "There's no point in having an EiR if you're not going to implement what they say," Lesonsky adds.
Unfortunately, companies are not always comfortable changing their business practices to better serve entrepreneurs. It's not enough, Lesonsky warns, to simply offer the same products, only smaller... to "cut off some arms and legs and put it in a smaller box." It's the EiR's responsibility to say, "This is how you make it designed for entrepreneurs."
Dell's Vanderveldt acknowledges that "every EiR program is a little bit different," but describes her job as providing access to three things:
- Expertise in navigating a daunting regulatory environment
She helped create Dell's Office of the Entrepreneur in Residence, which includes the Dell Center for Entrepreneurs, the Dell Founders Club and the $100 million Dell Innovators Credit Fund. There's also an opportunity to extend corporate expertise to startups. To share how Dell leverages social media, for example, Vanderveldt pulls in Dell experts for one-on-one conversations with entrepreneurs.
She has also been working to foster entrepreneur-friendly legislation at the state and federal levels. "We work with governors and legislators on state-specific efforts to bring in EiRs to make it easier to do business." The idea is that:
"A select group of EIRs would be placed in key departments for a couple of years at a time. Reporting to agency heads, these innovators would advise on efforts to make operations more efficient and responsive, while exposing federal officials to new ideas... Entrepreneurs could help with pinpointing any duplicative procedures for obtaining a business license and improving how to inform someone starting out a business about environmental or labor regulations and would be able to provide an outside perspective to government agencies as to how they might be able to take a more innovative, or entrepreneurial, approach to solve top problems."
Texas, for example, just passed Senate Bill 238, which authorizes the state to hire an EiR to "improve outreach to the private sector."
In fact, EiRs are popping up in many governmental organizations: The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) created an EiR program last year and Elizabeth Gore is a Resident Entrepreneur at the United Nations Foundation, where she chairs the United Nations Global Entrepreneurs Council.
Does Your Company Need An Entrepreneur in Residence?
"If entrepreneurs are your market, or if you want them to become your market," Lesonsky says, "then hiring an EiR cannot do you any harm... as long as you are open to what they say."
For tech vendors, she adds, it can really help to talk about how entrepreneurs actually use your products. Small business and startups typically don't have IT experts on staff, and they are not CIOs. They don't care about speeds and feeds -- to properly reach them, you need to speak the language of entrepreneurship, of the benefits, not the technology itself. "It takes an entrepreneur to do that."
Vanderveldt agrees on the importance of convincing companies to share their expertise. "If a large corporation is going to stay relevant, they have to be innovative," adds Vanderveldt. Those corporations that reach out to embrace entrepreneurs can be the innovators. They are leading the way."
What Makes A Good Entrepreneur in Residence?
Everyone agrees that an EiR's first qualification is experience as a real-world entrepreneur. "I've been a lifelong entrepreneur, I've built and sold a number of companies in a number of industries," notes Vanderveldt. That kind of experience is essential to understanding the startup market and the needs of entrepreneurs, but also to gain corporate credibility.
EiRs must also be great two-way communicators, able to listen and distill knowledge to their entrepreneurial customers and their corporate employers. Third, they need an unquenchable passion to make things happen. Bringing transformative change to entrenched corporate cultures can be frustrating, and EiRs have to believe in the importance of the mission -- that it really does matter.
It's also important to have transparent goals, to understand that the EiR job is "in service to the corporation and also to the community. To act as that bridge and always be open to collaboration. [To ask] How can we do even better business together?
Wallace, at RAA Ventures, has a simpler list of EiR requirements:
- A robust network of contacts to bring in new deals and expedite current projects.
- Startup experience -- knowing what it takes to make a startup successful.
- Technical chops -- being able to fix problems as they occur, sort of like a "super product manager."
The Value of Entrepreneurs in Residence
For corporations, EiRs can be "self-serving in some aspects," as they're designed to boost sales to startups, Lesonsky acknowledges, but they also "can really help entrepreneurs."
Ideally, corporate EiRs create value for both tech vendors and their startup customers. At best, it's a win/win, a chance to build opportunity for startups and loyal customers for vendors. As Vanderveldt notes, the programs she's worked on at Dell are things "I would have loved to have had when I was an entrepreneur."