I really like Marc Andreessen's recent post: How to hire the best people you've ever worked with- it should be essential reading for everyone involved in startups.
In particular Marc's comment: "beware in particular people who have been at highly successful companies", rings very true:
Our portfolio companies are always looking to raise new cash, and in the UK in particular, management with a track-record is a key attraction for much of this follow-on money. So we can be very tempted by someone who has a CV which shouts "prior blue-chip success" and helps drive a positive fundraising round.
But, we've learnt in practice that such candidates must be approached with caution:
- No-brainer CV's usually involve larger companies- and in some of these the main attribute for success can be the person's ability to manage "work politics"- something we'd hope to avoid in our tiny investee companies
- Attribution of success can be very unreliable- the number of people who claim responsibility for successes, strangely, seems to be somewhat larger than those who'll admit to the mistakes!
- Serendipity matters! It's dangerous to assume that someone who was lucky once will, NECESSARILY be lucky in the startup.
Our biggest (avoidable!) hiring mistakes have been when we've been tempted to bring in management who had "no-brainer" CV's to help raise follow-on funding, but where we harboured doubts ourselves.