Photo courtesy of Burst

What do you look for in a Series A? (Part II)

In the first installment of this series, I outlined 3 less discussed tenets for raising a Series A and dove into the first — prioritizing sustainable revenue.

In this post, I will focus on the second — scaling team.

Building a high quality team that can scale the business is key.

The best advice I received was early in my career from Richard, the CEO of skedge.me — to hire great talent and prioritize it above all else.

As the business lead, I was behind on hiring because I was so bogged down with nearer term deadlines and customer requests. I had deprioritized recruiting in favor of what felt like more pressing initiatives.

One day Richard popped in to my office to check in. He asked me how the recruiting pipeline was looking and when I responded that I was too swamped to focus on it, he said,

“That’s what the people you will hire are for. To help you with all of these milestones. Put everything else down and focus on that first. How else can we continue to keep up?”

It was an important lightbulb moment because I had never looked at recruiting through that lens. It always felt like a time consuming extra activity that was always less important than growth and customers.

In fact, (1) recruiting and (2) hiring the best should be the top priority of the company.

Failure to hire at all can lead to missed deadlines, low morale, and burn out. Failure to hire top talent that is also a cultural fit can be disruptive to the whole company’s culture, slow growth, and hamper the company’s ability to hire high quality people in the future as well. The compounding effect of these choices is extremely difficult to reverse so thinking through them carefully is key.

One other important reality to keep in mind is that recruiting takes time. Doing it well takes even more time.

I strongly believe that having the right person for the role is almost always more important than filling it quickly. It is very unlikely that you will find this person immediately after kicking off the search. This seems obvious but requires stating explicitly because I have seen countless entrepreneurs fail to take these timelines into account. What this means in practice is that it is important to start a recruiting process early — 3 to 6 months before filling the role will be critical — and to maintain a high bar to ensure that you find the right person.

A few tactics I’d suggest to effectively put this intention into practice are to:

  • Design the recruiting process with the same care that you would use to design the customer experience. This investment will make an outsized impact on your ability to get good quality talent
  • Tap into your and your team’s networks for referrals — this is often the best source of great talent
  • Put a great deal of diligence into the screening process — be rigorous about the interview structure, set clear criteria, do extensive reference checks— the cost of a mistake it too high to not do so

As an investor, I look for rockstar founder(s) with an inspiring vision and the drive to make it a reality. I also look for early signs that they are able to hire A+ talent that will help the company scale exponentially. Prioritizing this early is the most important decision for the company and sends the right signals to potential investors as well. No one can build an enduring, impactful company alone. It starts with the founders but they need a solid team of executives and operators around them to succeed.


I’d love to hear your thoughts and feedback in the comments below or via Twitter @mkhandel. If you’d like know when I post the next installment of this series, please follow me on Medium as well.