That Person Won’t Scale

One of the best things to happen to startup land this spring is the arrival of Ben Horowitz as a serious blogger. Like his partner Marc Andreessen, Ben has a ton of great experiences to share and he is doing just that right now.

I particularly like his post on evaluating whether an executive "will scale." Ben writes:

evaluating people against the future needs of the company based on a theoretical view of how they will perform is counter-productive

I see this all the time in VC and startup land. An entrepreneur will come into our office and we will be discussing him or her after they leave. Someone will ask "will they scale into a big company CEO?" The answer as Ben points out so well is "who knows?"

Ben also points out that managing a lot of people well is a learned skill:

Managing at scale is a learned skill rather than a natural ability. Nobody comes out of the womb knowing how to manage a thousand people. Everybody learns at some point.

This is why I am a huge fan of getting mentors on the board and CEO coaches into the picture. Good VCs will try to help an entrepreneur "scale" but there is always going to be a tension between the investor and the entrepreneur and it is a good idea to get some other people involved if the entrepreneur wants to "scale" into a leader of hundreds or thousands.

The next time I hear someone says "that person won't scale" I am going to send them to read Ben's post.

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