And Then There Were Three

Posted on October 28, 2019. Filed under: startups, venture capital |

For the past 50 days I put way more energy into our Associate recruiting process than I did looking for investments. That may seem out of whack, but I think it was an incredibly important decision for our firm. Yes, the stakes are lower than adding a GP to Pace, but when you are a team of 2 people, any 3rd person you hire will have a profound impact on the culture of the firm. I sort of sketched out the process before posting for the position, but found myself evolving it in a real time as conversations were happening. Here’s how it turned out:

1) We got way more applications than I was expecting. Roughly 300 people applied for the role largely referencing this post:

2) After reviewing everyone’s “cover emails“ and CVs, I took the top 30 applicants and invited them for 30 minute Zoom video screens.

3) In my initial post I encouraged folks from underrepresented backgrounds to apply. Of the candidates who received Zoom invitations, 43% hailed from underrepresented backgrounds.

4) To try to eliminate bias and make the best objective decisions, I structured the Zooms to be identical and asked the exact same questions to all 30 applicants. The primary purpose of the Zoom screens was to evaluate my communication plane with each candidate.

5) Each Zoom was broken into 4 parts:

  • I started with 5 minutes on my background and sharing more on Pace
  • I then asked candidates to spend 10 minutes on their background, focussed on the decision points in their career and how they approached them.
  • Then, I asked candidates to spend about 10 minutes teaching me about a business I might not know about. I asked them to pick a company, explain how it worked at a business level and a technical level, what they found interesting about it, and to the extent they had an investment thesis, to share that as well.
  • The last 5 minutes I asked candidates if there was a single venture investor, irregardless of whether they’d met or not, who they most admired (based on their public body of work, online persona, content, or potential previous interactions). The goal here was to get at a softer read on personal taste in people/businesses/style.
    • Side note: most popular answer wasn’t Marc Andreesen or Mike Moritz. It was Charles Hudson from Precursor (by a lot)

6) As soon as the video call ended, I ranked the candidate on a 10 point scale.

7) Once all 30 Zoom screens were over, I selected the 7 candidates who scored above an 8.5 and invited them for 3 hour in person meetings. For those meetings, I created a structured discussion topic outline, similar to what we use in our GP process, and used it as a rough guide to anchor the conversation.

8) All 7 of those candidates were incredibly impressive. I fully expect to collaborate with all of them in the coming years, but we whittled it down to 2 finalists.

9) Each finalist, neither of whom had any background in blockchain, was given the Ethereum White Paper and asked to read and understand as much as possible. The goal here wasn’t to pick the candidate who would best support Pace in crypto (we are a generalist firm), but rather to understand each person’s system level thinking and mechanical/technical comfort.

10) The last round of interviews was an hour with the candidate teaching me how Ethereum worked, followed by a dinner with Chris and I to get a feel for our group chemistry.

So out of all that, I am so pleased to welcome Blake Mandell to Pace Capital. A bit about Blake: He grew up in Florida and is a first-gen college student. His parents had a friend who attended Northwestern that said it was a good school, so Blake applied to go there. To help pay for school, Blake became a Cutco knife salesman, and at one point was the #1 Cutco salesman in the country (out of 15K people). He spent a year at Northwestern, though it was too vocationally oriented for him, so he took a year off, started a peer to peer storage business, sold it, and then transferred to Brown University, where he double majored in Math and Contemplative Studies. From there, Blake was granted a full scholarship to attend the Yenching Academy at Peking University (China’s version of the Rhodes), where he got his MA in Economics and won awards for his research. Somewhere in there he also had a stint doing applied machine learning research at UPenn. Last stop after Peking University was Boston Consulting Group (BCG), where he worked on some awesome technology and healthcare projects, and now he’s moving to New York to work with us at Pace. He’s a good person, good heart, extremely authentic and self aware, and I encourage anyone to reach out and spend time with him:

If you’re a venture firm looking to bring on an associate or analyst, the other 6 semifinalists were all super impressive. As I said, I plan to collaborate with each of them in the coming years and I’d be more than happy to make intros to anyone hiring for a similar role:

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    I’m a NYC based investor and entrepreneur. I've started a few companies and a venture capital firm. You can email me at (p.s. i don’t use spell check…deal with it)


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