Patrick Chun on Juxtapose's Experienced CEO Thesis

Good day. Venture capitalists sometimes say having the right person in charge can make or break a startup, particularly at the earliest stages. Juxtapose, a venture firm that both creates and invests in startups, has an unusual approach to ensuring companies have the right leaders: it picks the CEOs. The New York-based firm, which was founded in 2015, says it chooses chief executives who are more experienced and thus oftentimes older than the typical tech startup founder.  

Patrick Chun, Juxtapose’s founder and managing partner, detailed for WSJ Pro the upside as well as the challenges this thesis brings. The interview has been edited for length.

WSJ Pro: Does Juxtapose tend to hire older CEOs? What’s the thesis when it comes to picking CEOs?

Chun: One of Juxtapose’s core pillars and differentiators is that we partner with experienced entrepreneurial CEOs to help build and lead our companies. Given that we seek leaders who have built multiple companies, created and scaled high-functioning organizations, and accreted real company value, they do tend to be older than the traditional startup CEO—our average CEO has over 20 years of professional experience. This usually includes decades at the C-level or CEO level.

WSJ Pro: Is it oftentimes difficult to get more experienced CEOs to take a job at a seed-stage startup? How do you attempt to draw them in?

Chun: It’s unique for somebody to be both an experienced and entrepreneurial CEO, and also hard to find them at the right point in their career to get them to join us. So yes, the short answer: it is difficult! Finding the absolute right CEO for a business, with the bar we have, is probably the biggest limiting factor in our space. This often means we end up creating only one or two businesses in a given year. Juxtapose’s model invests heavily in the concept development process. This level of diligence and support is attractive to CEOs who want the unique opportunity to start a new company without the typical risk profile.

WSJ Pro: How does your CEO thesis fit into the current realities of the venture market?

Chun: Despite it becoming much harder (and theoretically higher risk) today to start a business, what that also means practically is that there is more availability of talent, more forced discipline, and less puffed air in the ecosystem. We are in an environment that will demand (and ultimately reward) rigor, focus, and results, where competition from both early-stage and incumbent companies will be less abundant, and where exceptionally talented people are available.