Episode 16: Startup Talent & Trends

I often pondered the makeup of successful founders and founding teams. At FJ Labs we spend a disproportionate amount of time screening for EIRs. We only build 1 or 2 companies per year, so we cannot afford to get it wrong.

I was fascinated to talk Magnus Grimeland and Vegard Medbø of Antler because they filter through 50,000 candidates per year in 30 locations around the world including the US, Europe, Asia, and Africa. Out of the 50,000 candidates, Antler selects 1,500 and ultimately funds around 250 projects.

Potential founders join Antler pre-idea to find potential co-founders and get to an idea. Think of them of the pre-YC YC. Companies coming out of Antler would then be at the stage to go to YC.

Some interesting takeaways from our conversation:

  • They look for 3 characteristics in founders: spikiness (someone good in something rather than someone well rounded), passion and grit.
  • It is ok if founders have weaknesses, it is often the flip coin of being spiky and can be compensated with the rest of the team.
  • You can identify grit in candidates’ backgrounds by making sure they are not jumping around too often and asking the applicants to talk about times when they had staying power in the face of adversity either in a personal or professional context.
  • The most common mistake they made was overvaluing applicants’ “impressive” backgrounds and resumes.
  • Their most successful founding teams have 2 or 3 cofounders, but solo founder teams can also succeed.
  • More than 3 cofounders are not advisable.
  • Recent trends:
    • Making work from home less painful
    • Healthcare
    • Deep tech
    • Low code / no code
    • Continued geographic arbitrage of bringing successful models from one country to another.

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