Hey Tobin, happy to share some of my thinking at the time! Feel free to shoot me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) if any of this feels unclear.
1. Post-product/MVP, yet otherwise as early stage as possible (ideally 5–20 employees)
I thought that anything post-20 people would already feel like a completely different organization than the ‘early days.’
Des Traynor, one of the founders at Intercom, has a really insight here that even with linear headcount growth (e.g. going from 10 to 20 people), the # of interpersonal relationships that exist between employees grows exponentially. As a result, there’s an added level of complexity to group decision-making and processes that can make it feel completely different.
2. Location that is not Silicon Valley, NYC, Chicago, Boston, or Washington D.C (b/c Venture for America will only accept placements in an emerging city)
Venture for America, for me, was a non-negotiable because I had already committed to the program during my junior year of college. I believe(d) in their mission of revitalizing communities through entrepreneurship, and everything I heard from older UNC alumni doing VFA was incredibly positive. They all lauded the strong sense of community.
3. (In a dream scenario) a company that has gone through either Y Combinator or Techstars
I wanted to work somewhere that embraced the lean startup methodology, and my bet was that any company going through YC or Techstars would have either been selected for (originally) and/or developed (over time) the lean startup tactics and mentality of rapid iteration.
4. Non-technical hiring needs, particularly in sales and marketing or account management
I was a Religious Studies major, so these were really my only choices in terms of functional role :-)