Aaron Patzer had come to a crossroads. He knew he was onto something with Mint–but he realized he couldn’t be a successful CEO and also run product for the company. “He’s one of the very few founders I’ve seen who knew it was time to let go and hand things to someone new,” says First Round partner Rob Hayes, who worked closely with Mint. “He wound up hiring this great guy Aaron Forth, and it helped move the company to the next level. That moment when a CEO gives up their core competency to someone else so they can focus on running the company is the moment they become a great leader.”
Hayes started investing in early-stage startup founders a decade ago, and he always gets the same question: “What should I be doing right now?” Through this experience, he’s narrowed down his answer to three things. Patzer did a brilliant job at all three, and notably the most important thing on the list: Hiring the right people. “The other two are don’t run out of money and always have a North Star,” says Hayes.
While each of these pieces presents a huge challenge, this framework can be very powerful. “Founders who achieve these goals always succeed,” says Hayes, citing Mint’s lucrative sale to Intuit. “If they’re constantly thinking to themselves, ‘Okay, this work is in front of me–am I actively achieving one of these three things?’ they don’t fail.” We recently sat down with Hayes to delve into these three areas of focus and tactics to win at each one.