What is an Entrepreneur in Residence (EIR)?

by | Operations

Entrepreneurs in residence discussing strategy

What exactly does an Entrepreneur in Residence (EIR) do? The short answer is: it depends. But in general, an entrepreneur in residence is a person who works with a company to provide guidance and expertise in an industry in which they have experience.

EIRs are often hired for early-stage startups where they act as a CEO, founder, or co-founder. If you’re driven, ambitious, and thrive in a fast-paced environment — then becoming an EIR might be a great next step for your career.

What is an Entrepreneur in Residence (EIR)?

EIRs are hired to play an important part in a company’s growth, strategy, and operations.
One day it might mean developing the company’s business plan. Another day it might mean working on the marketing strategy. And another day it might mean providing mentorship and team guidance.

This can be especially helpful for early-stage startups and accelerators where the nature of the EIR role matches the ever evolving day-to-day environment. Our EIR program at Harmony Venture Labs is designed with this in mind. Ultimately, the program goal is to develop leaders for our growing portfolio of B2B SaaS startups.

Take Derrick Magnotta, for example, who began his EIR experience at Harmony Venture Labs and went on to become the CEO of ListedKit.

To provide some context, we asked our EIRs some questions to provide a sneak peek into the day in the life of an Entrepreneur in Residence.

A Day in the Life of HVL EIRs

Kellie Clark – CEO of AppThink

What does your average day look like as an EIR?
On a perfect day (whatever those are!) each day has a different “theme” that I work on for -hour chunks of time uninterrupted, no slack notifications, emails, etc.

  • Monday=Admin and Product
  • Tuesdays=Customers/Founders
  • Wednesday=Marketing
  • Thursday=Meetings
  • Friday=Read/write/learn/plan for next week

What characteristics would make someone a good EIR?
Someone who is completely attached to the journey but detached from the outcomes, has a growth mindset and enjoys learning above all, and a dash of ego death doesn’t hurt either.

What do you wish you knew before you started?
There are three roles it’s impossible to prepare for no matter how many books you read or podcasts you listen to: Parenting, Marriage and Entrepreneurship. This is why a growth mindset is important.

What’s a tool or software (other than your own) you couldn’t live without?
Superhuman. I HATE email with a passion. I’ll gladly pay $20-30 for this tool.

What’s your favorite part about being an EIR and why should someone apply to HVL’s program?My favorite part of being an EIR at HVL is the camaraderie between the teams. We have our own little village of support, feedback, etc. As a founder, community is EVERYTHING.

This journey is for folks who want a professional and personal challenge. The doers and provers. It’s not for everyone (because entrepreneurship isn’t for everyone) but if you aren’t afraid of risk and want to embark on a path that will leave you better than when you came – this is for you.

Ethan Summers – CEO of Extelli

What does your average day look like as an EIR?
Every day is very much the same and also totally unique. I try to create a “north star” for each day by answering the question, “What is the most impactful thing I and the team need to do today?” before I dive into backlogs, Slack, and email;then I build my plan for the day. From there, I work through standing meetings, like a daily standup with our development team, try to make major progress on the most important item for my day. I then move on to the second, then the third task,etc and work in that direction.. A lot of interruptions come up along the way, too.

What characteristics would make someone a good EIR?
I’ve had a lot more success asking the question, “Who do I need to be in this context, today?” Some situations need a hard-charging team leader who gets it done no matter what. Other situations need a quiet listener who is eagerly open to changing paths. A good EIR can play either role in back-to-back situations. A great EIR can shift between them in the same situation.

What do you wish you knew before you started?
I wish I had understood just how much you need to focus. When you think you’ve focused enough, you’ve just started. Taking a product to market requires an intensity of focus – on a highly specific customer, pain, gain, solution, channel, etc. – that feels like you’re leaving the entire market behind. But really, you can only create a foothold in a new market by recruiting a small roster of passionate customers who can’t live without your product. Or so I’m being taught every day by the market and the HVL team.

What’s a tool or software (other than your own) you couldn’t live without?
Extelli, naturally. Who wouldn’t want a point-and-click solution for turning software product education into a reference library for your teams and customers?

Oh, “other than your own.” A tool that surprised me with its sheer value and simplicity is Grain. Grain turns notes taken during virtual calls into timestamps for dead-simple reference in the future. It’s like a tl;dr with bookmarks for recorded virtual calls. Just type notes and Grain does the rest. You can easily review a 30-minute discovery call to glean its gold nuggets in seconds. What really stunned me was that I needed zero onboarding; the UX is basically perfect.

What’s your favorite part about being an EIR and why should someone apply to HVL’s program?
This is a really hard question because there are several things I love about the role.
Personally, I get to work on an innovative solution to a problem that is the most interesting topic in the world for me: extelligence, or all the collective knowledge we store outside our minds. People are generally brilliant; it’s the daily chaos that makes it hard to learn from each other. So I get to help brilliant people help other brilliant people share their brillance to make the world a lot cooler.

Professionally, working with HVL is like having a cheat code for startups. Instead of scrambling around the proverbial garage with whoever I could convince into working with me for no money on an impossible deadline, we’re a studio of deeply experienced professionals working together to make amazing products.

Derrick Magnotta – CEO of ListedKit

What does your average day look like as an EIR?
I usually begin my day by setting micro goals for the day, reviewing company slack channels, preparing for a morning developer call and meeting with the engineering and design team. I spend the rest of my morning writing dev requirements, syncing with the design or dev team. Once that is taken care of, I move on to growth items like building prospect lists, adjusting cold email campaigns, and analyzing data. And then I focus my afternoons primarily for housekeeping, micro goals, and customer outreach.

What characteristics would make someone a good EIR?
Ability to multitask, prioritization skills, managing customer and business needs, communicating clearly, self-confidence, a knack for setting goals and leading teams, and plenty of resiliency and adaptability.

What do you wish you knew before you started?
Early-stage companies have a lot that needs to be done. Setting weekly and daily goals is incredibly important to make sure the right work gets done. I learned this a couple of months in.

What’s a tool or software (other than your own) you couldn’t live without?
Our product team’s tech stack is Notion + Google Sheets + Figma + Jira. We’re able to ship an incredible amount of features with a decentralized team collaborating through these tools.

What’s your favorite part about being an EIR and why should someone apply for HVL’s program?

As the early stage CEO, every ounce of effort you put into the business can push things forward. Your individual contributions are incredibly effective. This is an extremely rewarding experience that can’t be matched by being part of a larger organization.

The Opportunities and Challenges of Being an Entrepreneur in Residence

While there are many benefits to being an EIR (as shared by our own EIRs), there are also some challenges.

One of the biggest challenges is finding the right fit between the EIR and the company. Every EIR is unique and so is every company. An EIR should have experience in the industry and should be knowledgeable about the company’s operations, so finding someone with the right mix of skills and experience can be difficult.

At the end of the day, the reason we hire EIRs at HVL is to launch companies that solve interesting business problems.