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The Blueprint For Finding and Attracting World-Class Entrepreneurs, with Amanda Poole

November 22, 2023

The founder recruitment function has historically been wildly overlooked at startup studios. Many GPs often want to lean on their networks for recruiting, believing it's integral to their success. However, it's crucial to have dedicated talent professionals focusing on this endeavor every day.

How do you find the best entrepreneurs out in the wild? How should you craft your deal with them? What's the best way to pitch your studio? How should you think about building a diverse bench of talent? These questions, and so many more, are critical to a new studio's success.

I sat down with Amanda Poole, the former Director of Talent & Network at High Alpha Innovation and the current VP of Talent at DVx Ventures, to get her take on the topic. This was a meaty, insight-packed conversation. I highly encourage you to watch or listen to the full interview after reading the following Q+A overview (linked above).

Amanda has been in the startup studio space for about six years and has over a decade of experience in startup talent. She worked with High Alpha Innovation, a startup studio based in Indianapolis, in various roles. Recently, she joined the DVx Ventures team, focusing on founder recruiting. Over the years, she's been involved in launching over 50 portfolio companies and recruited close to 100 founders. Her role extends to advising CEOs on various aspects like headcount planning and equity distribution.

From my perspective, finding and nurturing talent in studios is often underrated. How have you seen this evolve, and what are your thoughts on its importance?

Amanda Poole: It's a critical role. Studios should focus on assembling great ideas, the right timing, a strong founding team, and suitable funding. Partners often want to use their networks for recruiting, believing it's integral to their success. However, it's also important to have dedicated professionals focusing on this aspect every day.

How has the process of recruiting founders for studios changed over the years, especially as the studio model has become more recognized?

Amanda Poole: Initially, there was a lot of educating potential founders about what a venture studio is. Now, it's more about showcasing our unique approach and how we fit into the larger landscape. We've moved from explaining the basics to discussing our specific studio model.

Have you noticed a change in the caliber of founders you're encountering now compared to several years ago?

Amanda Poole: It's hard to compare directly, as many founders from earlier years have achieved success. However, today, we often work with founders who have a proven track record and previous exits. They see the value in the studio model, even with access to capital and ideas.

In the context of new studios, how important is it to demonstrate potential founders to investors during the fundraising process?

Amanda Poole: LPs often seek confidence that the studio can cultivate successful ventures. However, the focus should not be too granular, like scrutinizing every founder's resume. It's about understanding the studio's ability to identify and support talented individuals.

Let's discuss the importance of diversity in the studio space. How can we address the current lack of diversity among founders and leaders in studios? What actions can we take to foster a more inclusive studio ecosystem?

Amanda Poole: Diversity is crucial. The key is recognizing that talent is distributed equally, but opportunities are not. Studios and investors need to focus on creating opportunities and nurturing potential founders from diverse backgrounds. It's about balancing the need for experienced founders with the responsibility of fostering diversity.

It starts with acknowledging the systemic barriers that have historically excluded underrepresented groups. Studios, alongside LPs, can be part of the solution by focusing on potential rather than just proven track records. It's about investing in and nurturing founders with diverse backgrounds.

Could you share some insights into how you identify and engage with potential founders? What strategies have proven effective?

Amanda Poole: The most effective strategy is not leaving it to chance meetings at conferences. It's about being strategic and using resources like analysts to map out markets and identify key individuals with relevant experience. Once the potential founders are identified, it's about reaching out and engaging in meaningful conversations.

In your experience, what are the key elements new studios should focus on when establishing their founder recruitment strategies?

Amanda Poole: Studios should have a clear understanding of what they offer founders and be transparent about their expectations. This includes clarity on equity, control rights, the support provided by the studio, and how services are charged. It's about establishing a mutually beneficial relationship based on shared understanding and respect.

How do you tailor your approach to meet the specific needs and goals of the studios you've worked with?

Amanda Poole: Each studio has its unique approach. For instance, DVx focuses on scaling ventures and brings in CEOs at the product-market fit stage rather than the initial building phase. It's about aligning the studio's methods with its overarching goals and resources.

Can you delve into the typical questions and discussions that occur during the later stages of founder recruitment?

Amanda Poole: Founders should be asking about board controls, cap table structure, studio support, and the specifics of the studio's involvement. The studio's job is to ensure founders are well-informed to prevent any surprises later on. Transparency and setting clear expectations are key.

Would you say the venture studio environment requires a different approach compared to traditional VC interactions?

Amanda Poole: Absolutely. The venture studio model is about collaboration and support, not just investment. It's critical to be transparent and treat the relationship as a partnership rather than a transaction.

How can people reach out to you and what's your call to action?

Amanda Poole: I'm open to speaking with anyone interested in the venture studio model. Reach out to me on LinkedIn, Twitter, or via email at I'm happy to provide guidance and insights into the venture studio space.

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