Eigenvalues are numerical values associated with a square matrix in linear algebra. They offer fundamental information about the behavior and properties of matrices. But what if the same theory could be applied to companies? What if we could use eigenvalues to understand how a company works and how we can benefit from it?

I want to explore the concept of "eigenpeople". Discovering that just like eigenvalues, they provide valuable insights into the behavior and properties of companies, how they work, and how they collaborate.

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If you want to understand how a company works, you need to focus on the key people - the eigenpeople. These are the individuals who hold the power, influence, and knowledge to provide you with valuable insights into the company culture. You don’t need to speak with everyone. This holds whether you are an external, such as a potential investor or a candidate looking to join the company. Often you get limited access to the company.

In the case of an interview, you are speaking with your future manager and colleagues and maybe a skip level ahead. Are those giving you the truest representation of the company? It’s not always so simple. You need to speak with the essential stakeholders who can offer you an in-depth understanding of how the company behaves and operates. It is crucial to understand how different stakeholders view your team, how they work together, and what the company culture is like. Is it a high-performing team? Is it a team that collaborates? Is it a team that uplifts everybody? To do this, you need to talk with different departments and subject matter experts, which gives you a broad perspective of the company.

And similar for VCs. When they approach a startup for an investment, they usually speak with the founder and maybe with high-level managers. They are not getting an accurate representation of the company. How the culture is, what are the problems, and who the company hires. VCs rarely speak with other employees or individual contributors. I think they are missing out.

There are ways to find eigenpeople and get an accurate representation of how a company functions effectively. You should approach it methodically. Here it is up to your experience to find the best framework. 

First, going wide (breadth-first). Speaking with people in different departments, not just the ones who will be immediately relevant to you. Speak with somebody in sales, speak with somebody in marketing, speak with somebody in engineering.

Second, you should be going deep. Don't stop at just the surface level of conversation. Speak with a variety of people across different hierarchical levels, such as bosses, executives, and senior management. Understand the company's strategy and future growth plan to give yourself an insight into your career progression.

Go for breadth, and speak with different departments: sales, marketing, human resources, engineering, etc. And go deep, speak with people at different levels: directors, managers, and individual contributors. You can get more and more efficient once you are practicing and thinking about this process.

Once you know that this is the size of the company, the stage of the company (seed, series A, etc.), and its business model, you can create patterns. You can create your playbook regarding this. For example, speaking with three people in different departments and having a conversation at three skip levels. Trying to have real conversations. One-to-one unshielded conversations.

Just like eigenvalues in linear algebra, eigenpeople give us the crucial information we need to understand the properties and behaviors of companies. As a venture capitalist, potential investor, or job seeker, focusing on eigenpeople is a key factor in getting to know how a company behaves, operates, and collaborates. The best way to achieve this is by going breadth-first and speaking with people in different departments and functions. Then, going deep by speaking with different hierarchical levels to get a comprehensive view of the company's culture and strategy. In the end, focusing on eigenpeople is the most efficient way of getting to know a company. Time to dust off your linear algebra textbook?