Entrepreneur in Residence
Bringing entrepreneurial perspectives and strategic partnership opportunities to corporates
An Entrepreneur in Residence's (EiR) role is to bring entrepreneurial perspectives and strategic partnership opportunities into organisations. Often, an EiR can be in-between running their own business or hold a position within a corporate’s co-venture portfolio. In return for providing guidance, support and cementing partnerships for the ‘host organisation’, they will typically be provided with office space, administrative support and remuneration. This isn’t typically a high paying role or permanent position, but rather a mutually beneficial relationship.
Typically, an EiR will assist the host organisation with due diligence on any potential investments, while bringing an entrepreneurial perspective to internal initiatives. In the setting of a VC firm, an EiR will work with them to identify and develop a concept in which the VC could fund and the EiR can run or be a co-founder of, expanding their portfolio and chances of success.
Strategy behind the play
The core idea is generally for the EiR to create the next opportunity that the VC firm will fund. Another way in which an EiR might help a VC firm is by providing expertise on a particular industry or topic in which the organisation wants to further explore and understand the landscape. Consequently, EiR’s should have strong skills in market research, and the ability to validate and present evidence-based business cases for new investment opportunities.
Corporate EiRs can act as a bridge between the corporate and startup world, bringing value to both parties with the objective of creating win-win situations.
As Ingrid Vanderveldt, Dell’s first EiR noted, many of the programs she worked on at Dell were things that “[she] would have loved to have had when [she] was an entrepreneur.”
EiRs can cultivate innovation by bringing outside perspectives into an organisation.
They can introduce the organisation to new business models, technologies, and strategic partnership opportunities.
They act as a bridge into the startup community and an ambassador for the investors and large organisations they work with.
Limitations & Risks
In order for an EiR to successfully fulfil their role, the host organisation must be willing and comfortable with changing their business practices to better serve entrepreneurs and their startups.
Initiating the Play
Launching this play requires a relatively low initial capital outlay.
The chosen EiR should have:
First-hand experience as a real-world entrepreneur in one or more successful startups.
The ability to act as a product manager and overcome challenges as they arise.
A large network of contacts that they can use, both to secure new opportunities, and to assist and accelerate existing initiatives.
Running the Play
The EiR is a low resource intensive play.
EiRs should be viewed as an investment in the organisation’s future by helping to solve large problems and promoting social responsibility; they help to advance the firm’s core mission and vision.
Ensure that both parties (organisation and EiR) understand the EiR’s role, and there is transparency around both parties’ goals.
Ensure that the hired EiR has the space and time to pursue new ideas and opportunities and where possible, limit red tape which might impede on this ability.
Typical variations of this play include:
Investing in an existing company
Doing a roll-up
Buying a distressed company
Venture capital advisors
Take care when hiring an EiR to ensure that they complement and add value to your organisation.
A good EiR should have a diverse skill set and be able to work across multiple units and functions within the organisation and newly formed partnerships.
The role of each EiR is likely to be different and there is no one-size-fits-all job description.
Play in Action
Dell's first EiR, Ingrid Vanderveldt, acknowledges that every company will have slightly different EiR roles and job descriptions. Her role however, she describes as “providing access to three things:
Expertise in navigating a daunting regulatory environment”
Ultimately, Vaderveldt’s role was to bring an entrepreneurial perspective into Dell and the corporate world. As part of this, she helped to create Dell’s ‘Office of the Entrepreneur in Residence’ which includes several innovation and entrepreneurial services. As part of this process, she also sought to extend corporate expertise to startups, thus acting as a bridge between the two worlds.