Hire the yin

Jyri Engeström
2 min readMay 19, 2015


Founder last week: “I need more time to get to know [cofounder candidate] better.”

But when you’re that founder, time is the one thing you don’t have. So how do you know if they’re the one?

You don’t, of course. But you can listen for two stories about that person.

The first one is the epic — their yang.

If you are a CEO hiring into your senior team, you are looking for someone you want as your roommate when the dorm catches fire. For example, there is a legend about our firm’s CFO surviving a plane crash and immediately flying another plane to an important meeting around the time he was taking a company public. Or it can just be about breaking your toe carrying your daughter up the stairs. People with an epic story stand out because they’re heroic. When they face adversity, they become selfless and fearless.

The catch is, many imposing people also take themselves too seriously. They aren’t comfortable with their own fallible, comic side — their yin.

The comic one is the better story. It’s about a time you made a terrible mistake. Great people genuinely laugh at themselves, and aren’t afraid to admit being wrong. They have “strong beliefs, weakly held” as Marc Andreessen put it. They listen, learn, are humble, and get over it. They love themselves enough to let go of their own ego. They have a sense of humor.

Those are the two stories to look for: one’s epic and the other comic. They are the yin and the yang of hiring. Often you hear them from people’s colleagues rather than the candidates themselves, but great people have both, and enjoy telling them in first person too.

There are more dragon-slayers out there than Buddhas. The yin is much rarer. With everybody celebrating entrepreneurship, it’s easy to forget we ultimately owe our triumphs to others.



Jyri Engeström

Yes VC, Rare Cancer Research Foundation, Primary Diagnostics