Common Catalyst's Katherine Boyle and Peter Boyce are in search of “obsessive” founders

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General Catalyst has made early bets on some of the biggest companies in the tech space, including Airbnb, Lemonade, and Warby Parker.

We sat down with Katherine Boyle and Peter Boyce, who leads the company's seed stage investments to discuss what to look for in founders, what industries they are most excited about, and how business has changed after the COVID-19 pandemic.

This conversation is part of our broader Extra Crunch Live series where we sit down with VCs and founders to discuss startups' core competencies and get advice. We spoke to the likes of Aileen Lee, Mark Cuban, Roelof Botha, Charles Hudson and many others. You can search the full episode library here.

Check out our in-depth conversation with Boyce and Boyle in the following YouTube video or skim the text to see the highlights.

Which personality traits are most important in founders?

Katherine Boyle: I'm looking for what I would call an obsessive trait, where they learn more about the regulatory complications and are constantly trying to figure out how to solve a problem.

I would say that the common theme among the founders I support is that they have that type of obsessive gene or personality where they will go deeper and deeper and deeper. When we invest in these companies, it becomes very clear that they often have a contrary view of the industry. Maybe they don't come from industry. You come from a different perspective of problem solving. You had to defend this thesis for a very, very long time in front of a large number of different customers and people. In a way, it makes them much stronger in the way they approach problems.

Peter Boyce: I think the first one would be a magnet for talent. This ultimately affects the learning and development speed. Really incredible founding teams who can be attractive to talent and who are really good at learning out of control spirals over time. I'm really looking for the speed and the sources of learning. And can people really be on purpose? Can you have the right advisors and teammates around?

The second would be the personal connection to the problem space. It's like there's this kind of deep-seated power and fuel source that actually won't run out. Catherine and I have been fortunate to work in different subject areas but what they have in common is just that personal connection to how and why their business needs to exist. Because I just think this fuel won't run out, you know what I mean? That is renewable.

About fundraising and building trust from a distance

Boyle: If you love to showcase on Zoom, connect on Zoom, or use Signal and Twitter and be very online, you can be 100% investing, building communities, and building connections across digital worlds and digital platforms. If you really enjoy this personal connectivity, you can consider staying in a tech hub or taking some sort of those detached walks until things return to normal.