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Hiring old people: The dangerous but necessary steroids of the startup world

Hiring old people The dangerous but necessary steroids of the startup world


Stashed in: @bhorowitz, startup

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But CEO beware: Hiring senior people into a startup is kind of like an athlete taking performance-enhancing drugs. If all goes well, you will achieve incredible new heights. If all goes wrong, you will start degenerating from the inside out.

In order to make all go well, if you are considering hiring a senior person, do not chase an abstract rationale like “adult supervision” or “becoming a real company.” A weak definition of what you are looking for will lead to a bad outcome. The proper reason to hire a senior person is to acquire knowledge and experience in a specific area.



Lessons are repeated, until they are learned.

Many senior hires are there to try to garner stock cash-in quick, not for the long-haul or the mission, not because they love the product or anything else.

It's quite possible, if difficult, to find those rare senior gems.

Ben Horowitz never defines "old" in this article.

 I think the definition is implicit. Folks who have years of experience working at or with large corporations.

So, not Sean Parker: Mark Zuckberg old, but Eric Schmidt: Larry/Sergey old. 

I wonder how often it actually happens.

 How wonder it happens successfully? 

Everyone young is wowed by anyone more experienced than them; initially, at least, once they get over their own hubris. How many entrepreneurs would *love* to have Zuck as an advisor an employee? Or Sheryl Sandberg, even? Or Marissa Mayer? Or Eric Schmidt? 

These people impress by virtue of their experience and *success.* Less experienced folks (even if they are "older,") then hire these folks hoping to benefit from their wisdom and experience. 

But, we all know that saying about old dogs and new tricks. Most old dogs benefited and/or are accustomed to their old tricks; therefore, even if the situation or setting is ripe for a new experience, the natural order of things is for an experienced things to attempt or demand things to be done their own way.

Which results in a failure of epic proportions, otherwise known as a train wreck.

I'd urge startups to exercise extreme caution; better to hire an experienced folk first as a mentor or advisor to see how they interoperate with the team before making the full leap. 

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