I had the privilege of attending the Massachusetts Technology Leadership Council annual meeting this morning. Governor Deval Patrick spoke: "what a breath of fresh air" was a common refrain, followed by "I hope he can make it stick."
The final speaker was Dave Girouard, VP & GM, Enterprise, Google. At the end of his talk, Dave spoke about his bi-coastal job search in 2003. He noted that in the Boston area VCs and executives seemed to be hiring for "someone who has done it before", while on the west coast the interviews was for "someone who could do it". He also noted the Boston VCs expected more sweat equity (ie below-market salaries) from founding teams, while on the west coast there was a better recognition of the competition for talent and the need to pay at market rates.
I think this commentary is absolutely valid and we East Coast VCs should take it to heart. (Whether a leopard can change its spots, or an old dog learn new tricks is yet to be determined!)
Dave had other commentary, which I will chat about in another posting. However, now consider how this applies in the non-profit world. When I was involved in the search committee for a new head of school at JCDS, the Board specifically recognized that if we found someone who had done it before, we would be looking at someone with no interest in growth. The best candidates would be looking for a challenge, and so someone who had "done it before" would by definition likely not be of the caliber we sought. Instead we had to look at likely capabilities - can she or he do it? And, yes, several months on, we absolutely feel we made the right choice hiring someone who had not headed a Jewish day school before.
Dave's comments generalize the entire geographic region, and we think at Sigma that we seek out first time executives pretty aggressively, just as JCDS did. In the end, this is a firm by firm (and organization by organization) behavior... but we have been warned.