General Catalyst’s Katherine Boyle and Peter Boyce are looking for ‘obsessive’ founders

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

We sat down with Katherine Boyle and Peter Boyce, who co-lead the firm’s seed-stage investments, to discuss what they look for in founders, which sectors they’re most excited about and how business has changed in the wake of 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 startup core competencies and get advice. We’ve spoken to folks like Aileen Lee, Mark Cuban, Roelof Botha, Charles Hudson and many, others. You can browse the full library of episodes here.

Check out our full conversation with Boyce and Boyle in the YouTube video below, or skim the text for the highlights.

Which personality traits are most important in founders

Katherine Boyle: I look for what I would call this obsessive trait, where they are learning more about the regulatory complications, where they are constantly trying to figure out how to solve a problem.

I’d say that the common theme among the founders that I support are that they have this sort 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 sort of a contrarian view of the industry. Maybe they are not industry-native. They come at it from a different perspective of problem solving. They’ve had to defend that thesis for a very, very long time in front of a variety of different customers and different people. In some ways, that makes them much stronger in terms of the way they approach problems.

Peter Boyce: I think the first would be being magnetic for talent. It ends up influencing the speed of learning and development. Really incredible founding teams that can be magnetic for talent and learning just kind of spirals out of control in really good ways over time. I really look for the speed and the sources of learning. And can folks be really intentional? Can they get the right set of advisors and teammates around them?

The second would be the personal connection to the problem space. It’s like there’s this kind of deep-seated source of energy and fuel that actually isn’t going to run out. Catherine and I’ve been lucky to work across a number of different particular thematic areas, but the thing they have in common is just this personal connection to how and why their business needs to exist. Because I just think that that fuel doesn’t run out, you know what I mean? Like, that’s renewable.

On fundraising and building trust remotely

Boyle: If you’re someone who’s comfortable presenting on Zoom, making connections on Zoom, or using Signal and using Twitter and being very online, then I 100% think that you can make investments, build community and build connections through digital worlds and digital platforms. If you really like that in-person connectivity, then you might consider staying in a tech hub, or you might consider sort of these distanced walks until things go back to normal.

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