What SPC Looks For in Applicants
Submitted by Finn Meeks
As a member of South Park Commons, I contribute back to the community by serving on our membership committee. This role affords me the opportunity to meet with dozens of applicants to SPC every month. Speaking with these ambitious and accomplished technologists is the highlight of my week. While no two conversations are the same, one question does come up frequently: “what makes a good SPC member?” This post will hopefully shed some light on what makes a good member of our community and the framework that our membership committee uses when evaluating potential members.
Those familiar with recruiting processes will have heard about hiring for slope versus y intercept. We have adapted this to our evaluation process in an attempt to weigh the benefit of experience with the upside of potential. We call it Velocity and Acceleration (yes, we have several physicists in the community). Great SPC members are high velocity, high acceleration, or a compelling combination of both.
Here are a few things that high velocity members demonstrate:
Bias for Building
SPC is a home for technologists in the exploration phase. We have found that the most effective way to harness the uncertainty of this phase is to build (often alongside others in the community). We look for members that have the skills and motivation to build prototypes and run experiments when validating an idea. It is easy to get stuck in exploration, and we’ve found that it is effective to build your way out of it. Moreover, our shared love of building brings us together and forges durable communal bonds and friendships. Natural builders will usually have built software from the ground up before. This is part of the reason why 90%+ of our community is technical. While we make exceptions for exceptional non-technical members, we expect everyone to be able to take ideas from -1 to 0.
One of the unique things about SPC is that we are a self-governed community. This anon on twitter put it well: “isn’t SPC the original DAO?” Our members volunteer to lead core areas of the community like membership and culture, or step up to create new initiatives that they want to see exist. In fact, our most popular activities like squads and forums started because a member decided that they wanted them to exist. Our leaders define the direction of the community and galvanize other members to help us get there. These are the types of folks that have started companies before, led impactful teams as a manager, or demonstrated leadership capacity in a tangible way.
Deep Domain Expertise
A common misconception about SPC is that people come here to start companies. The reality is that people come here to explore what’s next. While about 50% of members start companies as their next step, the other half pursue other endeavors like research, writing a book, or contributing to OS software. We try not to be prescriptive about what someone is pursuing or in which domain they have expertise. Instead, we focus on the depth of their knowledge and their desire to teach others about it. This levels us up from focusing on what markets are “hot” right now and orients us towards the frontier of possibility. It is perhaps unsurprising that the first discussions at SPC in 2015 and 2016 avoided topical areas like SaaS and startup building in favor of frontier markets like Space, AI, and Crypto, well before these were popular. Nowadays we attract many members exploring the markets of tomorrow like Biotech, Climate tech, and Creators. This diversity of expertise is one of the things that makes our community special.
A community with only high velocity individuals would fail, in no small part because it would empty out rather quickly and run the risk of feeling transactional. We also look for potential, or as we call it, applicants with “high acceleration”. Here are a few of the traits that indicate high acceleration:
High Risk Tolerance
Starting a project that might take 5–10 years to come to fruition requires incredible conviction. Great SPC members are authentic to themselves (and with others) and aren’t afraid to dive off of the deep end. We get excited when we meet members that have made non-traditional career moves, have chosen to pursue challenging domains, or have taken on moonshot projects. They push our collective boundaries so that we can do our best work.
We search for members that want to push the frontier of what they know and what is technologically feasible. Genuine curiosity feeds a virtuous cycle of knowledge sharing and peer learning. We find that curious people are as interested in giving as they are in getting. Members who join the community without too many preconceived notions about what is possible or what they can build are far more likely to build something interesting, and enable others to do the same. The world doesn’t need another note-taking tool.
When asked how SPC is different from other communities, I often find myself speaking about the depth of relationships that members form. I am not alone when I say that I have met close friends at SPC. Exploration can be a lonely journey, filled with many highs and lows. Members with the capacity to be connectors and with the openness to form genuine relationships make the community durable. We want to support each other in every step from -1 to 0.
You don’t need to be an experienced founder or thought leader to be an exceptional SPC member. We count recent graduates and Thiel Fellows in our ranks. The world of technology is defined by the future, not the past. We want members who are eager to bring that future to life.
If you have reached this point, I hope you have a better understanding of what makes a great SPC member and how we identify those qualities when meeting applicants. None of these traits absolute qualifies or disqualifies applicants. We also don’t expect members to be perfectly well-rounded in all of them — a community full of people who spike on different traits is more interesting than one where everyone looks approximately the same. It is most important for us to understand what makes you unique and how you can bring that uniqueness to our community.