5. Pre-founder: People-focused investing

Internet Basics

📓Online Commodities

How the Web Works

How HTTPS works

Consumer and Creator

📓1. Creator = Consumer📓2. The Active Consumer📓3. “Creator-GTM”📓3.A. Where the Viral Things Are📓4. The Anonymous Economy📓5. Pre-founder: People-focused investing


📓5.A. Pre-founder: Nontechnicals

Creator Studies

📓1. Intro to Creator Studies📓2. Creator Policy🪟2. View: Research📓3. A Spectrum of Influence📓4. Influencing Influencers


📓TCM/C-TAM📓Revisiting Community Investing📓Rethinking Consumer LTV📓“Organic” = unpaid?📓Introducing: On-Page Collaboration, LiveWriting, anti-Press Publish📓VC Managers: Finding your style📓Women’s Consumer (2022)📓The “online” button



Personal Journal

📓An intro to Personal Journal📓Advice for a Y1/Y2 woman in VC📓Advice for a Y3 woman in VC 📓My love letter to Journalists📓Women and Wikipedia 📓“Pedigree”📓Why I dropped out

© EM 2024

Pre-founder: People-focused businesses

Good talent is good talent. Getting back to basics: investing in talent.
Pre-founder: An individual with operational experience that fit expected qualities that would make for a good founder.

The stage before pre-seed? Pre-idea? Do you want some money?

What is “pre-founder”?

Pre-founder or PreFounder, depending on however the Pre-/Preseed debate pans out, has been commonly defined as the stage before pre-seed. But to me:

Pre-Founder is a type of venture investment into a current operator for founder potential foreseen by the investor and acknowledged by the operator themselves.

Who is a Pre-Founder?

Pre-Founders can be determined in the following positions:

Venture Studio. The scouted, and then hired, CEO.

Incubators. Specifically the ones that decide to not continue with their entered idea.

In-house Recruiting. Candidates brought together for a specific role. Haven’t left their current job, but were open enough to take the call.

Zeal-type of recruits. Outsourced equity for

Who does Pre-Founder?

The Pre-Founder track can be found in many Founder-adjacent roles to the investor.

Pre-Founder can be found by both:

The Investor. Meeting with very early founders.

Head of Talent. Recruiting for portfolio companies.


My first few months full-time in VC happened around a VC bubble. As you can imagine, I didn’t care too much about it being that I was starting off at an emerging, pre-seed/seed/A-ish kind of firm. As time went on and I befriended some other investors that worked specifically at pre-seed-to-series-A, I found myself familiar to stage-specific, and most importantly price-specific funds. It always starts off with the price amount preferred.

We like to be one of the first (30) checks in.

Does not equate to:

We like to lead or semi-lead the absolute first round.

And at first, I thought this was all standardized: “Early….” “Earliest stages”, etc.

Had to mean whatever that first round is… because they want to work with that founder. Because they’re “worth the price.”

But, what I’ve come to find out is that stages are complete malarkey.

Define “talent”

talent: An individual person with expertise, and maybe network, in an industry.

Talent: A “star quality”, independently-thinking individual. An “it-factor” person with creativity and skill in a very specific space.

Why I care

In the startup ecosystem, “talent” has been broken up into two buckets: technical and nontechnical talent. Although there seems to be a never-ending shortage of technical talent, there’s no debate that almost half of venture dollars spent go to GTM and ads - and someone has to run that part.

My main petition is that there might be a shortage of GTM hires with enough product and SV context to really rip it.

Talent issues

There are also two main issues to talent, regardless of startup or not: recruitment and retention. For VC funds, in particular, retention in particular has been entirely difficult.


Founder→Market Fit: Founder has experienced the problem, has potential to sell accurately to potential Product→Market Fit: A product that solves a problem so well it generates demand within a market.

Founder→Customer Fit: Built in distribution to potential customers. This can be someone with a lot of followers or someone with a niche dentistry blog. Or a previous sales operator with a rolodex of potential customers. For this blog, I’m mostly thinking about a founder with online influence.