Startup Studios

The Three Personas of EIR

How PSL defines their EIR personas

How PSL defines their EIR personas

by: T.A. McCann|

January 9, 2023

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Articles | Startup Studios | The Three Personas of EIR

“Our promise to our EIRs is simple. All the work we’re going to do is theirs for free, and they may choose to pursue that idea on their own, but hopefully, we’ve been able to provide value.”

When it comes to finding your next Entrepreneur in Residence (EIR) it’s important to narrow down the profile of who you are looking for and define the technical skills needed. T.A. McCann heads up one of the most successful venture studios in the world, Pioneer Square Labs (PSL). We interviewed T.A. McCann to find out PSL’s top three personas for an EIR.

1. Repeat Founder

We have our Repeat Founders; pretty logical there. That means they’ve been successful in returning money to their investors in a venture-scale way. They know how to run a company and many of the key “functional” skills. They often have a built-in list of investors (the ones they made money for previously) and know how to recruit, might even bring some additional people, have run a fundraising process, and sell a company, all important skills that you only learn on the job.

2. PM to CEO

The second is what we call a PM to CEO, which is a product manager. Generally, they’ll be senior or director-level, and it can take between 5 to 7 years to turn a PM into a CEO.  PMs have a good blend of customer engagement skills as well as product development, so they can translate customer needs into viable solutions. They often have good “pricing and packaging” skills, knowing how to capture value from the customer, and depending on their background, they might also have direct go-to-market skills with sales, marketing, or channel engagement skills. Finally, many PMs have actually run a P&L for their projects or business units, also a valuable skill for a CEO.

We’re very fortunate in Seattle that Microsoft and Amazon recruit thousands and thousands of these people and train them particularly well. Amazon disproportionately so, meaning that of all the companies in our area, their PMs are the best because they are the most ready to become CEOs. They have a wide latitude of running and building businesses that has given them great entrepreneurial skills whilst being inside a large organization. It means that the Amazon PM to CEO pipeline is quite strong.

Of course, not everyone has Amazon, Microsoft, or other great tech companies in their backyard; the key here is to utilize the resources (including large corporations) around you to build out your pipeline.

3. Young Tech Builder

Then the third persona is what I call YTB, Young Tech Builder. These are usually people in their twenties. They’re usually software developers by background. They are the sort of people that act as hackers at night, and they are building side projects.

They are excited to start with any kind of small project, and I call that YTB.”  These founders can ship quickly and are often most interested in the newest technologies, but lack the company-building skills, but are a good fit for a Studio (or Accelerator).

"Validation as a service has been very powerful, and I think we're just getting going on this”

- T.A. McCann

How do you engage with these people?

Similar to product design, think about how you are providing value to the end user, what you can bring to the table to help them, and in the process, test their ability as an EIR. 

  1. Host Events

    Twice a year, we host our Path to Founder event. We specifically invite usually somewhere between 70-100 people, and that is almost all PM to CEO persona.

  2. “Validation of the service”

Another method that’s really gained a lot of momentum is what I call validation of the service. Let’s say you’re a PM at Amazon, and you realize that you want to be a founder someday:

Studio: You want to be a founder, great; what ideas are you working on? 

EIR: I don’t have any ideas yet. 

Studio: Okay, start working on some ideas. What category are you interested in? 

EIR: I’m interested in healthcare. I want to do something like this… 

Studio: Great, we’re going to help you. But first, keep your day job because nine out of ten ideas we’re going to validate will not be good enough for venture scale, and that’s all we’re interested in building. If you can give us 5 to 10 hours a week for four weeks, we will help you validate that idea or, in some cases, invalidate that idea.

This has been a very powerful approach because it first helps us vet the EIR. Can this person allocate the time needed to validate the idea? If you’re going to be a founder, you have to easily be able to do your day job and find five or 10 hours to do this.

Second, you see how they allocate that time, and that’s not five or 10 hours on site. We say; let’s spend two hours on a Tuesday night. We’ll go through our progress, and we’ll make a plan for next week. We’ll do this, we’ll do that. Then we might squeeze in another five or 10 hours; alongside that, we’ve got two weeks of a run that usually looks like a Tuesday to Tuesday kind of sprint. More often than not, the idea doesn’t pan out. And our promise to them was; Hey, all the work we’re going to do is yours for free, and you may choose to pursue that idea on your own, but hopefully, there was some value there.

We learn so much about that person, and they’ve learned a lot about us. We’ve added a tremendous amount of value to them and their idea, whether that be the content or the frameworks themselves.

It means that validation as a service has been very powerful, and I think we’re just getting going on this.

Pioneer Square Labs work with world-class entrepreneurs in the Pacific Northwest to turn the best ideas into market-defining, venture-funded companies with rapid customer adoption. PSL is your dream swiss-army-knife co-founder.

They design and build a fantastic products, solve the toughest data science problems, and navigate the way to finding strong customer pull through rigorous validation and digital marketing.





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