GRP Excited to add Sam Rosen to Its Ranks. How Did He Get the Role? Hustle. Here’s the Story.

Posted on Jan 16, 2013 | 83 comments


I’m very excited to be finally be able to announce that this week we’ve added Sam Rosen to our ranks at GRP Partners in the role of entrepreneurs-in-residence – EIR.

It’s the first EIR that we’ve had in the years that I’ve been with the firm and I hope will be the start of our investment in this program.

And it’s the latest in a series of investments we’ve made in building out our practice as the LA technology market continues to grow robustly and attract entrepreneurs and investors.

It made me realize that we’ve never properly introduced our associates:

We’re excited to continue to grow our investment professional staff and will continue to do so over the course of 2013 & 2014 with our new fund.

So what is an EIR and why Sam?

When I sit down to write every week I never really imagine what is going to end up resonating the most with people but it seems I’ve most often been defined by my post that I Invest in Lines, not Dots.

Sam in the perfect example.

I became aware of Sam several years ago as I started noticing his name repeated in the comments section of my blog. So I had a sense that I knew who he was. He pinged me that he was thinking about joining a startup based in LA with the CEO in NYC and would I be willing to meet him and give him advice on this process.

I’m always interested in young, talented people who want to move to LA. I looked up his bio, “UVA, banking analyst, doing some early startup work” and thought – sure – come meet me for a coffee.

I told him my strong biases. I don’t believe in distributed teams in early-stage business. Sure, there are exceptions. Of course – some people can be remote. But the CEO in NYC and the team in LA? Not for me.

At the time I was meeting Sam I was fishing off coffee with Jody Sherman. Hustler – meet Baller.

They collected each other’s information and Sam immediately built a relationship with Jody. I could see how he took one small intro and thought, “this guy could be useful” and made sure to follow up on the relationship.

I was a proud angel investor in Jody’s company, EcoMom. At the time of that investment I had exchanged notes with Dave McClure who also invested.

Sam later decided he wanted to do a startup. His first seed investor came from an intro Jody provided him. And he decided he wanted to be part of the 500Startups accelerator.  So he leveraged his relationship with Jody to lobby Dave. And voila – he was suddenly fast and furious buds with Dave. He of coursed required me to lobby on his behalf as well. He was in the inaugural class of  500Startups and became chief evangelist as far as I could tell.

I thought that was the end of it. Nice kid, but I see lots of nice kids.

Sam had different plans. He found creative ways to politely stay on my radar screen. He sent me a few nice emails. He used the 500Startups platform to uber network in the Bay Area where he was living. He founded a company and tried to persuade me to use his product (and invest). It wasn’t for me but I love his … hustle.

He invited me to play Word with Friends. I normally decline because I have my 2-3 WWF friends and don’t really have the time to expand that. But he caught me while I was on vacation so I thought, “WTF, I’ll show him who’s boss!”

And …

He started sending me messages through WWF. Clever MoFo. He wasn’t in my face or over the top. Just things like, “hey, are you going to come by 500Startups to meet the companies & give a talk?”

Um … are you here to play or to talk?! Just kidding. He was polite about it.

Months later I did agree with Christine Tsai that I would come out and talk to the class.  And by my Instagram photo or Tweets he must have realized I was in San Francisco and would need to get to Mountain View (an hour away) to speak. He texted me and offered to give me a ride down there. I was planning to take a taxi – so perfect!

Of course he pitched me the entire ride down ;-)

His business concept wasn’t for me. But I loved his hustle.

A year or so passed. We had talked from time-to-time. But nothing major. I was going to be in NYC and I was combing the market for people to join Launchpad LA. I thought Sam might know some talented young entrepreneurs to apply. We love out of town people who apply. In fact, applications are still open if you’re interested.

So I asked if he wanted to grab coffee. I tend to do this a lot when I travel and it’s often impromptu as Justin Stanwix will tell you (great Twitter bio, btw).

At coffee he told me he had shut down his startup and was thinking about “what next.” He had two ideas. We never got to the second idea. I LOVED the first. Loved. That is rare as 98% of the people I meet can tell you.

I told him that he needed to ship product before we could fund it. But … we had committed to setting up an EIR program where we would fund people to work on their ideas in our offices and also get the dual experience of working inside a VC. Come to entrepreneur pitches. Come to partner meetings. Help us review a few deals. Intro a few entrepreneurs. The choice of how much VC work and how much start-your-company work you want to do is up to you.

We hadn’t really formalized the program yet but I had been wanting to get started and always best to do so with a real rather than theoretical person. Was he interested? Yes. Great.

But would my partners buy into Sam? And think as highly of him as I do? And the idea? They’d have to love the idea, too.

I told Sam he’d have to come to LA. I was going to be traveling a lot and it was near the end of the year so I’d try to help him organize a day where my partners would all be in the offices.

I got home the next week and asked my assistant to look into a time on the calendar where all partners would be together to meet a potential person whom we were considering investing in.

“Ok, send me his contact details and I’ll find a date for him.”

“Sam Rosen. He’s in my contacts.”

“Sam? SAM! I know Sam. It’s already set up. He’ll be in the offices in 2 weeks. He’s on everybody’s calendar. He asked for separate one-on-one meetings. I hope that’s ok.”

Hustler.

They loved him. They loved the concept. Sure, let’s have Sam Rosen by our first EIR.

Boom.

I’m excited to see what he produces. I’m ecstatic to have in the LA community. I look forward to working with him on GRP business.

And I welcome him to GRP. I hope you will, too.

[update: judging by the reaction & stories in the comments and on Twitter / Facebook it's clear that had this same impact on many people!]

  • http://www.bloovue.com/ Seyi Taylor

    Amazing, amazing story and obviously an amazing guy! Well done!!

  • http://www.doubledigg.com Steve Schofield

    That’s a great story which really speaks to me about the fine line between productive hustle and destructive pestering. There’s sometimes a fine-line, it’s a very grey area and very subjective – a lot is to be said for the personality compatibility of the people involved. One man’s hustler is another man’s stalker. But fair play Sam, boy done good!

  • Mark MacLeod

    I met Sam when he was at 500. You made a great choice.

  • http://joeyevoli.com/ Joe Yevoli

    That’s right. We’re everywhere!

  • http://eastagile.com kenberger

    Sam (@Sir) is indeed pure hustle.

    Jody– now he may have invented the term.

  • http://www.livecube.co/ Aaron

    Congrats Sam. Good work.

  • http://about.me/kirsten.lambertsen Kirsten Lambertsen

    +1 about Jody. I’ve known him since the late ’90’s, and he is just amazing in all ways I can think of.

    Love this story about Sam.

  • http://eastagile.com kenberger

    same here re Jody. I was introed to him in ’98 as the “go-to guy” in the dot-com world. He was at xoom then and later did a comedy thing, but evidently kept that stellar reputation till today.

  • http://about.me/kirsten.lambertsen Kirsten Lambertsen

    I worked with him at XOOM, and he had a fund that invested in my first startup. I love him because he’s a badass with a heart of gold.

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    thanks, jodi

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    yes, tough line. requires charm. persistence but knowing when to back off.

  • Guest

    Nice Mark, Can’t wait to see what Sam brings.
    Finally got the change to use this as well!

  • http://byJess.net/ Jess Bachman

    Nice Mark, Can’t wait to see what Sam brings.

    Finally got the change to use this as well!

    edit: Disqus saves gifs as jpg…boo.
    http://i.imgur.com/YFQR9.gif

  • Brian Allman

    Great to see when some good old fashion persistence and hard work pay off; good for him (it paid off big time) and good to see people in busy positions (that’s you) still recognize this as a trait they want in their employees.

  • Caroline Dahllof

    Great story, and congrats to all of you.

  • http://twitter.com/ianjmatthews Ian Matthews

    Sam’s story is one of many reasons why I read this blog – thanks Mark. Want to play WWF?

  • http://twitter.com/elliotPR Elliot Tomaeno

    So proud of Sam. His hustle is infectious and I owe a lot of my success to him. Cannot wait to hear what he comes up with at GPR.

  • http://www.facebook.com/kellyreid Kelly B. Reid

    Fantastic. I’ll be bookmarking this for those mornings where I’m staring down a day full of networking coffee meetings with fear and remember…this is what comes out the other side.

    I am reminded of a comic from Chris Guillebeau’s $100 Startup that I should probably frame and put in my office; WORK + TALK = HUSTLE.

    Interesting choice with the EIR program; as a starter I’d want to overtly avoid being distracted by working at a VC. Not because I’m not interested. Precisely the opposite. I would imagine it would detract from my ability to actually run my company. What’s the logic behind the program, in light of that concern?

  • http://twitter.com/arteeninLA arteen arabshahi

    Congrats to Sam and GRP- this looks like a great fit for everyone involved, glad to have him joining in LA! Mark, wanted to let you know builtinla.com is now live and we cross-posted this news on our platform, too.

  • http://culttt.com/ Philip Brown

    Great story. It’s good to see how your “lines verses dots” can be played out in the real world.

  • http://www.facebook.com/murphyjillk Jill Murphy

    Congrats Sam. Great post Mark. Will be curious to see if your WWF game requests increase now. That wasn’t just hustle, that was hyper creative hustle! Well done.

  • http://www.ericgfriedman.com/ Eric Friedman

    Sam is great! Congratulations on adding a great EIR

  • http://www.kineplay.com/ben Ben Milstead

    Mark, what a great story. Grats to GRP and to Sam. Sounds like the perfect guy to reboot your EIR program. And I’m so glad to hear the LA tech scene is growing — it’s about time!

  • NeilCocker

    And he went out of his way to personally thank the many, many people who tweeted about him or congratulated him on Twitter: http://twitpic.com/bwav3w Nice guy as well as having hustle!

  • http://twitter.com/SpotJ Scott A. Johnson

    Jordan Hudson FTW!! He is sorely missed back in Kansas.

  • http://twitter.com/JD_Hashomer Jake Diner

    Respect to Sam for getting what he wants!!! However I am not sure what Mark is bragging about here? If all the qualities EIR must possess to get a job at GRP are hustling and failing, then poor us, entrepreneurs, trying to get a foot into GRP’s door. We will be evaluated/reviewed by a failed hustler (or a hustler who knows how to fail and can play WWF and doesn’t cross the line between being persistent and annoying).

    This comment is in a no way bash at Sam, rather a question – what are the values celebrated today in a VC world (article is written by VC). The more VC I meet (over 30 by now) the more I get disillusioned in their “wisdom” or “ability” to pick winning startups to invest. Its a click, you either in or show me the plan to scale to $100MM in 5 years. What a joke.

    What really set me off here is the fact that this article is posted by a VC! If Sam would brag about it – I’d give him 2 thumbs up, but Mark should at least write what an asset this guy is, instead of a hustler.

  • James Mitchell

    If an entrepreneur is not annoying some percentage of the people he interacts with, he is not being pushy enough.

  • http://twitter.com/jodysherman jodysherman

    Nice work, Sam. I remember when we met and all the discussions we had thereafter while you were at 500. I’m so pleased to see you take this next step. Best of luck to you at GRP and with your next big thing. Mark, thanks for the kind words, as always they are appreciated.

  • http://twitter.com/MelissaLim Melissa Lim

    I noticed that persistence is when you add value while annoyance is when you subtract value. It helps if you demonstrate that you understand the person you’re reaching out to by listening and engaging in conversation of mutual interest. You can add a lot of value by being perceptive to someone’s pain points and then trying to solve that pain (great mindset that translates not just to courting investors but also when it comes to customer empathy). In this case, Sam offered a timely ride to Mark’s place of destination. :)

    Inspiring story as always, Mark. Thanks for sharing and congrats to Sam!

    P.S: I’ve shared one of your articles (the JFDI one) when I was still working in Asia to my previous bosses and team members, which really helped clarify and explain the thought process behind our actions. The start-up scene is quite different and a lot more risk-averse back home.

  • http://www.blurbpoint.com/forum-link-building.php Sanket Patel

    Personally I believe that You should maintain balance of these two things. But there are many things affected like timing and the luck as well.

  • Alex Miller

    @twitter-35606098:disqus I dont think thats it. I’ve never met the guy, but from this post it seems Sam’s hustle is sustained, and that’s what you need more then anything as an entrepreneur. The better you hustle, the more likely you’re going to be able to hustle your way into customers and a great team. The more likely you and your business will succeed.

  • http://twitter.com/nJohnLe John N Le

    how about we call it professionally persistent ;-)

  • nannasin smith

    I’m so glad to hear the LA tech scene is growing — it’s about time!
    MC34063