Too Much Experience? You're Fired

Trump You're Fired

Ben Horowitz’s recent article about the futility of trying to predict whether a start up executive can scale (it’s both counterproductive and demoralizing) was completely right.

But I’ll go out on a limb and say that in fact, when it comes to staffing your start up, it’s not too little experience that’s a potential problem… it’s too much.

Here’s why.

Experience breeds caution -- what you need is fearlessness

To scale, scrappiness means more than pedigree

Start ups create asymmetric value relative to our costs. What does that mean? We need to do a lot, with very little time and resources.

In order to do that, you need people can push toward scale, and not be limited or discouraged by operational leanness. If someone's entire frame of reference comes from big companies with big budgets, a risk you take is that he or she may not be able to demonstrate the kind of scrappiness you need to push your business forward.

Don't get me wrong. I've hired a bunch of really smart people from really big companies (Google, Microsoft, Amazon, IBM) -- but during the interview process, I care more about whether they can think on their feet and get their hands dirty, and less about the SWOT analyses and product roadmap presentations they did there. Sure, those things can come in handy, but in at a place that's constantly changing, the raw materials matter more than line items on a resume.

Before I get a bunch of angry emails from industry vets and MBA grads, let me give you a couple of real world examples to show you what I mean.

American 4th graders

Barack Obama

I'm not advocating that start ups go out and hire people with no experience...

In fact, I generally try not to hire people straight out of college. We absolutely look for candidates with relevant work history.

However, there's a difference between people who have the chops to contribute directly and immediately to your business, and people who purport to already have all the answers.

As a founder, you risk a lot when you start a company. Hopefully, you'll create something that changes the world. But you won't know until you get there.

The same goes for your team. The best investment you can make is in people who share the same passion you do, and are unafraid to do what it takes to see whether it'll work. They'll learn that Excel macro along the way.

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