Seeking CEO+team for VC-backed startup: Identify and move the hidden levers of power

Looking 4 entrepreneurial CEO/product mgr/biz-dev killer 4 a network-based service.. pre-launch, BIG equity, big peeps involved–ANY TIPS??

  • Many of us support certain political candidates, nonprofits, or other non-governmental organizations. They all struggle to get elected or to change policy in their preferred direction. Do you want to identify and move the hidden levers of power, to help NGOs get their job done?
  • Do you want to make America functional again?
  • Are you thinking of applying to Y Combinator without an idea?
  • Do you have a great team at your seed startup, but your product just isn’t working?
  • Would you like to have a salary from day one that you work full-time on your startup?
  • Do you think NGOs spend too much energy raising money, and not enough time just executing their mission?
  • Do you think corporations don’t take full advantage of their extended network: social media followers, their employees’ families, their suppliers’ relationships, etc.? 

If the answer is yes to any of these, keep reading.

Briefly, we think there’s a substantial market for a business which helps enterprises to execute initiatives which require coordination with outside stakeholders, e.g., make a large sale to a critical client, or lobby for a change in regulation.  We want to use our proprietary technology and network to tap the relevant players to take the relevant steps forward; and identify, document, and disseminate best practices. We envision this is an enterprise SaaS company with a strong consumer-facing component.  

Our initial test market: We want to make America functional again by helping our initial users promote their preferred policies.  These might include, e.g., fighting terror, mitigating climate change, strengthening democracy, enforcing ethics in government, promoting national security, and protecting against information warfare.  

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Where did your idea come from?

Since 2015, I’ve been struggling to think what I can do to help make America functional again, in light of how broken our governance is.  We’re so dysfunctional, we can’t even implement policies which the majority of people agree on, e.g., fixing our broken roads and bridges, or promoting ethics in government. I finally had a brainstorm, and started writing a business plan. Although America is the obvious initial market, this business model could work in almost any developed country.

Q: Is this civic tech?  A nonprofit?

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The company has a long-term vision far beyond working with advocacy organizations. As a VC, I’m interested in working with companies with large-scale revenue potential, and that’s the company we envision.  We assume we’ll be structured as a traditional Delaware C corporation.  Although we envision we initially use our technology for serving non-governmental organizations (NGOs), that’s only the test case. BTW, NGOs alone are nearly a $20 billion market.  

Q: Is this a political company? 

We are a nonpartisan, bipartisan startup of concerned Americans.  Our goal: make America functional again by helping to empower people to promote policies they care about. By developing innovative technologies and taking a new approach, we believe that we can find alignment across various institutional and individual stakeholders with the means to leverage their networks and effectively push for progress. We’re a platform, and don’t take policy positions.  

Q: Who’s on the team?

We do not yet have any full-time team members.  I’m a VC in New York with a decade of experience; more about me here.  I’ve recruited an Advisory Board including officials from the CIA and the State Department; leaders from major family offices; and a former major party Presidential candidate.  

Q: What have you built so far?

We’ve put together a detailed, confidential business plan; a high-powered Advisory Board; and a pool of funders eager to get this launched with the right team.   

Q: What are you looking for in the team?  

Ideally we’re looking for what other VCs have called the 3-person unicorn startup or Magical Founding Team Mix For Web Startups. At a minimum, we are looking for a team (2 or more people) with a pre-existing working relationship.  We will consider individual applicants (e.g., a CEO without a team) but strongly prefer people who come with a team pre-assembled.  Maybe you’ve gone through an accelerator together, or maybe you and your friends are working through an idea on nights and weekends.  It’s preferable that you live in the New York tri-state area.

Ideally we are looking for team members (full-time and advisory) with some DNA from:

– tech (especially sales tech, marketing tech, expert networks, B2B2C consumer internet);
– communications (especially sales, PR, speechwriting, playwrighting);
– public policy, legislative analysis and drafting,  and/or policy or legislative advocacy.

I am only interested in talking with people who want to work full-time on this, once we have raised capital (or ideally before).

The CEO is ideally a successful serial entrepreneur who has taken a startup all the way to an exit.  However, we’ll consider first-time CEOs. You must have a strong product management pedigree. Given the size of the company, we emphasize this is a hands-on, roll-up-your-sleeves role.   When we put together a well-qualified team to build this, we can put together the financing, recruit other board members, etc.  

For more on what I’m seeking, see The 8 characteristics of the perfect startup team; Early Teams: The Impact of Team Demography on VC Financing and Going Public; New Report Identifies Key Characteristics Of Successful Startup Entrepreneurs. For insight into how VCs evaluate teams, see Five VC Team Evaluation Techniques.

How do you envision we work together?

This is the process I envision that’s most likely to result in success:

  • Assuming you have relevant qualifications, I share the detailed business plan. No NDA or contract of any kind required. 
  • If you’re still interested, we meet; get to know one another; do mutual due diligence.  See Ready to Join a New Management Team? Here’s How to Do Your Due Diligence First.
  • We build a basic deck together and ideally a simple demo.  This work is unpaid, as with any other startup at the napkin stage.
  • We agree on an equity split for the team, vesting, and initial compensation structure.  We agree that upon raising capital, each team member will earn $X, perhaps with an automatic bump to $Y upon achieving agreed-upon milestones. See Should you co-found a company with your friend? And how do you split the equity?
  • Once we’ve executed all the steps above, we raise seed capital. Most likely, my firm would lead that round, although we’re wide open to other structures.
  • We’re off to the races!

Sounds great!  What’s next??

Ask each of your team to join Versatile VC Founders’ Next Move and mention you’re particularly interested in this opportunity.

Alternatively, less preferred, send an email to info(@) with the following information:

– detailed resumes of the entire team, including your online identity (personal website, LinkedIn, etc.);
– How long you each have worked together, and in what capacity;
– How quickly you could start part-time, and how quickly could you go full-time;
– Compensation expectations.  

I have identified some initial possible team members, but we’re definitely seeking additional cofounders/leadership.

Source for the tweet which began this blog: Uber’s first employee, who’s now a billionaire, credits his success to this 1 tweet

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