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Venture Capital and Human Capital Investment

The other day Fred Wilson announced on his blog that Union Square Venture’s junior analyst, Andrew Parking was leaving.

Fred and his partners aren’t shy about their vision for USV;

Ever since we started Union Square Ventures almost seven years ago, we’ve envisioned it as a partner driven firm where the partners do most of the work. We don’t have a career path for young people, and we emphasize that with a two year and out analyst program.

I talked with Fred about this the other day. I asked him how they were going to replace Andrew and he said he wasn’t sure.

This got me thinking.

I suggested to Fred that they do replace him in the same way they found him, that USV should take on a newbie, someone non-traditional.

If you read Andrews post about his experience at USV and Fred’s you’ll see that the experience had a big impact on both parties. But particularly on Andrew.

I really like this concept of putting non-traditional candidates with experienced professionals. I think more companies would benefit from this practice.

I shared with Fred what I thought:

You have the ability to introduce your craft to talented people who may normally never be introduced to venture capital. Charlie, Andrew, or some unidentified person you mentor in the future, could be the person to fundamentally change the world of VC and/or find an investment others didn’t see that makes a huge impact on business or society.

I think there are two sides to this coin, the business, data driven side; the side that asks, do we NEED a junior investment professional? Then there is the other side that asks; do we want to influence the future of venture capital by mentoring and introducing talented people to it?

Fred agreed with me, but also shared his thoughts on the challenges with executing on this idea.

I thought it was an interesting perspective based on the outcome of Andrews time at USV.

I think there is tremendous opportunity for people and companies to invest in non-traditional talent.

Finding people today is very linear. We build job descriptions with very rigid qualifications and required experience. Talented people become pigeon holed into specific roles with little opportunity to change direction. This does little to help anyone.

I’d love to see large organizations, VC firms, and other professions create programs that invite non-traditional candidates into their organization.

Bringing in non-traditional talent creates fresh ideas. The people want to be there because they are making a change. They work harder and in many cases take a pay cut. Creating opportunities to find fresh, talented, exceptional people who know little or nothing about your business is the ultimate in capital investment.

If done right, it could generate huge returns, for both parties. If Fred looks to replace Andrew the same way he found him, something tells me there will be a lot of applicants, and justifiable so.

What do you think? Should companies do more to attract and recruit non-traditional talent? Is it smart or risky?

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  • http://twitter.com/anqinglaowang Steven Wang

    Thank you Keenan, for your great shout-outs for our un-conventional job seekers.

    You are dead on.An non-traditional applicant usually is a person who has figured what s/he really want in life. Also, besides fresh perspectives you mentioned, I believe some fundamental skills (especially soft skills),like understanding and communicating with people, can be easily transferred. For example, I worked in non-profit area so was ridiculed by my classmate who was sales before B school as too “non-traditional” to understand sales. But the building trust, in other people's shoes and nurturing relationship things I read in your blogs and Tom Peters' book have been used by me for long long time.

    But still, it takes lot of pioneers like you to change the system. But at least, you have made a strong and clear declaration. Again,thank you!

    Steven Wang
    MBA Candidate
    Boston University
    @anqinglaowang