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What Is an entrepreneur in residence and why you need one

Fredric Paul | Oct. 10, 2013
Entrepreneurs in Residence were once found mostly at venture capital firms, but the role has expanded and you can now find them at a variety of companies -- including tech companies. But what exactly does one do?

Initially, Vanderveldt adds, she was "on the road 80 percent to 90 percent of the time, being in the community and listening and taking action." "We dreamt up the EiR role," for me, Vanderveldt recalls. But things have gone farther than she ever imagined. "I was supposed to be here for six months, with two weeks on and two weeks off." She's now been at it for more than two years.

What Does a Corporate Entrepreneur in Residence Really Do?
Bringing the entrepreneurial mindset to the corporate world can sound a little touchy-feely, but execs who built their careers in large organizations may not even know what they don't know about entrepreneurs, Lesonsky says. Fundamentally different from both enterprise customers and consumers, entrepreneurs often don't get what they need from their tech vendors.

That makes it the EiR's job to tell their corporate overlords what they don't know — and to help them cut through the red tape to create products and programs that are actually valuable and accessible to startups. "There's no point in having an EiR if you're not going to implement what they say," Lesonsky adds.

Unfortunately, companies are not always comfortable changing their business practices to better serve entrepreneurs. It's not enough, Lesonsky warns, to simply offer the same products, only smaller... to "cut off some arms and legs and put it in a smaller box." It's the EiR's responsibility to say, "This is how you make it designed for entrepreneurs."

Dell's Vanderveldt acknowledges that "every EiR program is a little bit different," but describes her job as providing access to three things:

She helped create Dell's Office of the Entrepreneur in Residence, which includes the Dell Center for Entrepreneurs, the Dell Founders Club and the $100 million Dell Innovators Credit Fund. There's also an opportunity to extend corporate expertise to startups. To share how Dell leverages social media, for example, Vanderveldt pulls in Dell experts for one-on-one conversations with entrepreneurs.

She has also been working to foster entrepreneur-friendly legislation at the state and federal levels. "We work with governors and legislators on state-specific efforts to bring in EiRs to make it easier to do business." The idea is that:

"A select group of EIRs would be placed in key departments for a couple of years at a time. Reporting to agency heads, these innovators would advise on efforts to make operations more efficient and responsive, while exposing federal officials to new ideas... Entrepreneurs could help with pinpointing any duplicative procedures for obtaining a business license and improving how to inform someone starting out a business about environmental or labor regulations and would be able to provide an outside perspective to government agencies as to how they might be able to take a more innovative, or entrepreneurial, approach to solve top problems."


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