37 minutes | May 25, 2021
EPISODE 30: The Great Ad Divide (w/Asaf Yanai of yellowHEAD)
Follow The Startup Stack Apple PodcastsSpotifyGoogle PodcastsAmazon MusicStitcherSoundCloudPandora The online ad landscape is changing — and fast. To understand how, we’re joined by Asaf Yanai, a longtime marketer & the VP of growth at yellowHEAD. Asaf and Louis talk about the increasingly automated art of buying ad space online, the implications of Apple’s new iOS, and why having a “viral business moment” isn’t really a thing. “I think AI is going to become more and more normal in our products and in our lives. I think that in a year or two probably 50% of applications will have some sort of an AI engine behind them.” –Asaf Yanai Highlights include: What are the basics of growth & performance marketing? How are AI and machine learning tools playing an increasingly important role in online marketing? When does it make sense to hire a growth marketing agency? How has the paid ad landscape changed in 2021? Where is it headed in the next five years? How has Apple’s new privacy rules changed user behaviors — and what does that mean for advertisers? FROM THE EPISODE: Asaf mentioned a code to download Woah’s beta AI dance app. That code is: Woah421 & you can download it here: www.woah.ai/learn-to-dance This Week’s Guest Asaf Yanai VP of Growth @ yellowHEAD Asaf Yanai is an experienced digital marketer and entrepreneur. He’s currently the VP of Growth at yellowHEAD and gives lectures on the topic in his home city of Tel Aviv. The Startup Stack’s Host Louis Beryl CEO, Co-Founder of Rocketplace Rocketplace is a curated marketplace of high quality professional service providers. A 3x founder, investor, and board member, Louis began his tech career as a partner at Andreessen Horowitz. When he’s not working or podcasting, Louis enjoys cooking for his family. His pizza, he’d like you to know, is incredible. Full Episode Transcript [00:00:00] Asaf Yanai: Why is it difficult to date a religious digital marketer? They won’t stop trying to convert you. [ Music starts] Louis Beryl: [ laughing] That’s good. I think that’s a good one. Asaf Yanai: I’m very good at jokes. Not sure about the performance marketing ones, but yeah. Louis Beryl: Today we’re talking about the changing rules of internet advertising with performance marketer. Asaf Yanai. Asaf who previously founded two media companies of his own now leads growth at yellowHEAD an AI and technology based performance marketing agency based in Tel Aviv. YellowHEADs clients include both scrappy young startups and giant companies like Proctor & Gamble and their AI creative tool, Alison has been deployed on projects at every scale. In our chat Asaf and I discussed the rapidly evolving online ad landscape, including the ongoing battle between Apple and Facebook for your advertising dollars. And what all this change means for marketers and the internet in general. Plus [00:01:00] AI marketing tools, the future of advertising and why going viral isn’t even a thing anymore. There’s a ton to cover. So let’s get into it. [Music ends] Maybe to start why don’t you tell us a little bit more about yellowHEAD. Asaf Yanai: Absolutely. Yeah. So yellowHEAD is a technology based performance marketing agency. Um, we serve a very large variety of clients, uh, more than 600, uh, different brands. We’re working with small scale startups just started and they’re looking to find their way, you know, into the growth ecosystem, but also medium size and lot size and even huge organizations, uh, that we’re working with. yellowHEAD was a, it’s a funny story because yellowHEAD was actually founded nine years ago by two Israeli entrepreneurs. They had a very long career at the 888.com the gaming company and then they found the yellowHEAD. And the first ever service that they offered was organic services, [00:02:00] both SEO and ASO. Louis Beryl: What is SSO and ASO? Asaf Yanai: Okay. So ASO is App Store Optimization, basically how you optimize the store listing, uh, offer a mobile application to appear, uh, higher in rankings to, uh, gather more organic users and SEO is for websites, kind of the same, uh, same thing we cheaply call it, uh, ranking first and Google, but it’s not that easy. Um, so it’s basically improving your organic traffic and site ranking. So this was the first ever service that we offered then since then the company is really booming. I’ll give you a reference. So I’m the VP of Growth here at yellowHEAD. And I joined the company seven and a half months ago. And just for reference, we were 80 people and now we’re 120, so we’re going very rapidly. Um, and outside of the organic services that I’ve just highlighted, we also offer a very sophisticated, uh, paid user [00:03:00] acquisition that we obviously use our proprietary technology for creative analysis, and we combine it with our creative production capabilities. So basically we’re a, we’re an agency that provides a very much of an holistic uh, approach to digital marketing and digital growth, uh, overall, we look at both organic paid, but also technology, meaning AI and computer vision algorithms. For example, we take all those three main, uh, pillars or factors as you know, for us, these are the keys, the keys to success it’s paid organic and technology combined together. Louis Beryl: I know that yellowHEAD does a lot of, um, that has a big focus on AI and using AI to really enhance performance marketing. I’d love to hear a little bit more about that but also about how did, how did that get started? Asaf Yanai: That’s a brilliant question, actually. So you know, now, now there’s the many AI solutions for [00:04:00] marketing, for, uh, analysis, um, many different implications, but actually our, uh, AI engine came, uh, out of a necessity. So we’re performance marketing agency. We serve the biggest and the best clients in the world, and we want to offer them, you know, the best, um, uh, platform for growth. So we’re very much on top of the industry and we’re very much alert to everything that is going on. So I’ll give you a few, few hints to why our technology or why we started the technology. So Google and Facebook, you know, they’re shifting very, very heavily their ad campaigns. They’re shifting very heavily towards full automation, uh, full automation. They’re saying, just give me the, give me the creative, give me a simple, targeting a little bit of bids, and then I’ll do the trick, like a black box. So by doing that, they, uh, shifted most of the focus [00:05:00] towards the creative, but it didn’t provide us as marketers or even, you know, uh, companies that advertisers, they didn’t provide us with additional layers of data that we can rely on when analyzing or building on creatives. So this is one aspect. The second aspect is that we wanted to come up with different angles, to creative, to production, to, you know, innovation within digital marketing and this display advertising. So we really boosted our creative production capabilities with 3D, uh, creatives, playable ads, and, you know, state-of-the-art assets basically. And then what we do is we combine it with our AI engine. So the, this mix all together creates a winning formula that we can out beat and kind of crack both, uh, the automated, uh, campaigns by, uh, by Facebook, like the AAA, [00:06:00] but also the Google Lacey. Um, So we’re really able to tap into this data, understand what’s really working within the creatives and then use our AI and machine learning, um, together with the computer and computer vision algorithms to find the best formulas for the next creative productions. Louis Beryl: Well, I want to really dive into this so that you, so that I understand and, um, cause I’m learning about this just now, but also, um, you know, our listeners. Are we talking about, like, when we’re looking at specific, is it specific words in an advertisement? Is it that, is it the pictures? Is it like, Oh, this, this cat jumping around is really good. Is that the colors? I mean, w what is the AI doing? Asaf Yanai: So I’ll give you an example. I think it’s the most easiest thing to do. So let’s take a creative, for example, a 15 second video. Okay. That we’re running on Facebook. Um. Louis Beryl: Okay. Asaf Yanai: This creative has a background, has a voiceover, [00:07:00] sound, text in it, characters, animation, the logo appears and all the technical aspects, like what’s the duration like, how long is the video? Right. Um, what animations do we have there? And what’s the purpose? So we are now able, okay to break those creatives. So it was very elaborate videos, 15 second, 30 second, even one minute or three minutes. We’re able to break them down into the little tiny elements that consists of the creative. And then we’re able to scan them apart and then cross reference with the performance that each element triggered. So basically we’re dismantaling these creatives into the elements within the creative, and we’re using the AI to find the best formulas. Louis Beryl: We’re we’re talking a lot about videos, right? And it sounds like you work with a lot of videos, but I’m wondering, like, you know, crafting a video is a [00:08:00] complicated thing. And if weli, like, how good is the AI at really helping, you know, in a video because, you know, if you like, Oh, well this is the element. It’s like the punchline of a joke. You, you still need the lead up or do I have it totally wrong? Asaf Yanai: No, no. It’s only one part of the equation and you’re absolutely correct there. So one part of the equation is using the right elements, right. Using the right, um, technicalities or the right, um, Uh, features within the creative to serve the purpose that you’re looking for. For example ROI. well, most of our clients, all they’re looking for is ROI. Everyone is looking for ROI. We all know it. So we’re able to then identify the exact elements that are actually triggering the highest ROI within the creatives. For example, then we obviously combine it with our, uh, concept building and storyboard building capabilities to come up with a winning formula for creative. But let me [00:09:00] give you another hint. So this is only two thirds of the equation. Why? Because our AI engine can also do that for our direct competitors. So for a client of ours, we’re not only able to tap into the data derived from their own creatives. We’re also able to tap into the data derived from their direct competitors creatives, and then combine it as a feedback within the creative production process. So in short, instead of just, uh, basing creative out of guesswork and the subjective skill or capability of a design person or a design team, we are now able to use data from your own creatives that’s already has performance attached to it. We’re able to take data from your direct competitors creative that also we can correlate with performance and to that we mix or combine [00:10:00] our human capabilities, our exceptional creative concepts and artists that they kind of take it all together and form the winning creatives. And I can tell you that we checked over a hundred thousand videos and we’ve evaluated over a hundred million elements and overall we were able, only by using the AI, we were able to increase our clients, uh, CTRs at least by 200%. And the return on ad spend at least by three times. Louis Beryl: Wow. Uh, well, okay. This is amazing. So I know yellowHEAD has something like 120 people today you mentioned. What is the team makeup look like in order to accomplish this? Like how many people are working on actual creative? How many, are there data scientists, AI experts? What does the team look like to do this? Asaf Yanai: So I don’t think many, uh, performance agencies could achieve this, this level of technology. And the reason is that you need so many different skills, right? You need so many [00:11:00] different little expertise, the Facebook expertise, because our platform runs on Facebook obviously and Google and Snapchat and TikTok and all of the social platforms and then all of the SDK. So this is only one position that we have within the team. And this is like the media buyer, the account manager, or the strategist. Then we mix it with the creative studio. So we have more than 40 professionals within the creative studio. So it’s graphic designers, motion artists, storyboard artists, concept artists, copywriters. So all working together. This is a, the design team. We have the, you know, the, the product team that is working on Alison. This is the name of our, of our technology of creative analysis technology. So they’re working on Alison making it, you know, as, as slick and as unique as possible. And then the AI and the, uh, data team working tirelessly on perfecting the algorithms and perfecting the statistical [00:12:00] models behind those AI engines. So this is kind of how the team looks like. Yeah. I would say that the product team has probably 10 or 15 people in it and kind of the same for the data and AI and our media team is actually. Uh, second largest or maybe third largest, because the better you go with technology and the better you get with technology, the less people you need, this is, you know, this is a very obvious, but we want to rely on the mixture on those, you know, the, the mixture of all those, uh, positions together. Louis Beryl: When you’re working with a new client or, you know, you work with some of the biggest clients in the world, Procter & Gamble. Are you putting a tech team plus a creative team together, or is it like a creative team plus strategy team and actually the tech teams kind of in the background working with all the clients. Asaf Yanai: So we form what we call it, partner squad. So within yellowHEAD [00:13:00] the, every new client has its own squad. So it’s an squad and it’s, it’s a team stuff consists with all of the different positions and the different experts. I’ve just highlighted. So basically every single client that we have that we serve has a very wide variety of experts on his disposal. So this is why we’re able to, you know, find as many areas, uh, for growth as possible. And for small startups or any company this is I think the most important thing, how you get, how you squeeze as much performance as possible from every single dollar. SUBSCRIBE ADLouis Beryl: [Music starts and ends] Hey, do you like our show? I do too. If you want to support The Startup Stack, the best way to do that is by subscribing and rating us on Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen to us. Also send dad jokes, or if you have them actual good jokes to podcast.rocketplace.com. Feel free to send us feedback there too. I want to kind of transition a little bit to, you know, you giving advice [00:14:00] to companies out there that might be thinking about working with a performance marketing agency. I’m wondering as I listen to you, the level of technology you’re employing it seems really unique from a performance marketing perspective. You know, if I’m a company out there, should I be coming to yellowHEAD as my first performance marketing agency? Or is it actually better? If you’ve been maybe doing it for a while, maybe a couple of consultants here and there, and it’s like, no, your ad spend is now actually at this level. And you really want to take your performance marketing to the next level. We bring this huge multi-disciplinary team. That’s when people are ready. I mean, you tell me like, when should, when should a company be hiring a firm like you? Asaf Yanai: I really want to put you on my team Louis, because you nailed it right there. Louis Beryl: [Laughing] Yeah. Asaf Yanai: You nailed it right there. It’s a perfect question. And I’ll explain why, um, you know, when we are the [00:15:00] first experience, the first agency that the company is experiencing, you always have difficulties understanding your own product, understanding your own performance, understanding what you’re actually looking for from a supplier. Then, or from a, from a, you know, a growth agency. And then things go sideways or things get, you know, uh, not, not on the best, results or best feelings. And, and also, I think it’s also hard. For, uh, for a small scale, uh, Startup to work with a company that has so much resources because you want, you want to have it all right. You want to have the, the, the app store optimization. You want to have the SEO, the search engine optimization, and you want to have this amazing AI technology for creative analysis. You want to have it all. Um, so I think it’s better that you’ll have some experience, at least working either alone in house or with a small scale agency. And then kind of shift and transition to a more, [00:16:00] um, um, to do a larger agency that can help you grow in many different areas, but also can educate you how to take you to the next level. So this is what we love doing. And I personally love doing, I don’t know if I told you, but I’m also, teaching my own course in an Israeli university on mobile app marketing. So basically I really love teaching and helping people step into the industry and help startups. Louis Beryl: And also let’s start there. So you’re teaching in a university. When, when you meet people that are really new to performance marketing…and maybe this is companies, maybe this is the people you’re teaching. What are the common misconceptions about performance marketing that you hear over and over again? Asaf Yanai: So I think that the biggest misconception is virality. Okay. There is no such thing as virality nowadays. Not for [00:17:00] a small scale advertisers. Not for newbies that it will happen. Not commercially, at least. Okay. That’s where I’m going to not commercially, maybe socially. Yes. Maybe personally, maybe as an item or as a news piece. Yes. But commercially to drive the product to gain more sales, more revenues. I wouldn’t count on virality. So I think this is the most common misconception. Let me ask you this. You remember the heat Gangnam style, the Korean song. You remember that? Sure. Yeah, of course. Yeah. So I think it’s the first one to ever hit a billion views on YouTube, maybe the second after Justin Bieber. I’m not, I’m not sure. But anyway, do you know how much money they spend in the first day? When they launched? You have no idea. $2 million in the first day. And people thought or thought that this huge boost that [00:18:00] they felt is actually virality and it wasn’t, it was ad spent plain and simple. Louis Beryl: Basically you’re saying that even the things that we think have gone mega viral are basically at least to some degree being driven by ad spent. Asaf Yanai: Absolutely. If it’s commercially, if it’s a commercial, then yes. Clients come in, and you know, they want a certain something, especially when they’re thinking about videos, they want something that’s going to be shared. You know, you’re kind of like, there’s only so much virality, if any. W, how do you, what’s the advice you give to clients on what are the ratios they should be looking for? What’s the level of spend they should be thinking about. Okay. So you’ve kind of built a business virality that’s for sure. And we all know it, right? You’ve worked with many startups and enterprises in yor days. And I also know you can’t build a business and you can’t build a [00:19:00] product on virality. It’s even good to have it within the mix. I would say somewhere between 15 and 20% of your ad spend should go to virality efforts like influencers, for example, social media influencers. So it’s also kind of a virality effect, but don’t be mistaken, you’re actually paying them. Right. So, uh, so this is a different sort of ad spend. So I would suggest to allocate anywhere between 15 and 20% of the marketing ad spend towards, uh, influencers, then another, probably 65 to 70% toward paid acquisition. And the rest for the organic services and some of the technologies that can really help you, you know, gain some advantage over the, over the competition within the market. Louis Beryl: How do you advise in terms of measuring results? You know when you’re [00:20:00] working with an influencer, what metrics are you looking at to be like this is working or this isn’t working and how do you measure results for yourself? Asaf Yanai: So for ourselves as a company, uh, at Yellowhead were always trying to align the expectations and understand from the client before we go live, before we start all the paid acquisition and everything, we trying to understand what they’re actually looking for. What are they going to be measuring us as an agency upon? How are they going to measure us for, I dunno, ROI, is it the lowest CPI? Maybe the most organic traffic that they can get. So we need to, it needs to be very clear. So we need to have this alignment and understand first what they’re going to track us and monitor our progression and our form in spot then. We would highly recommend to try and implement some tools. Some technologies free if it’s a, if it’s a [00:21:00] website, so obviously Google analytics, and if it’s a mobile application, then we highly recommend the use an MMP and marketing measurement platform. Like AppsFlyer just, or singular or others. Now Google has the Firebase also, it’s also fine. So every type of device or every type of channel has its own tracking tools. I wouldn’t pay so much attention to the tools, but I would say pay more attention to what exactly are you looking for and how you track those specific events that matters to you because you don’t want to track everything else. Right? It’s sometimes it’s too much data and you don’t have anything to do with tons and tons and tons of data. You just want the sweet spots, you want the key factors that drive the performance. So this is what I would highly recommend to focus on the major events that are driving either revenues return on investment [00:22:00] or any sort of performance that you would be looking for. Rocketplace Ad [00:23:00] Louis Beryl: I’d love to maybe ask you what you’re seeing out there in the market. Social influencers are actually very interesting. The [00:24:00] level of spend that you’re talking about towards influencers is. It’s actually something that I didn’t realize was so big. What other trends are you seeing out there today in terms of how you’re advising clients or what clients are asking for in the way they’re spending money or creating creative? What are you seeing out there? Asaf Yanai: Let me tell you a real life story. We’re actually working with a very cool startup called Whoa. They’re they have a mobile application that teaches people how to dance and they use a very sophisticated AI engine to kind of walk you through the entire training process and the learning process, and really with the movements and everything. And the reason I’m bringing you that the reason I’m bringing it up, because we’re seeing so many clever and intelligent applications to different AI tools. Right? So I [00:25:00] think that AI, you asked me what are we seeing in the industry? So definitely the takeover of AI is something that is here to stay and it’s going to be more and more normal in a regular part of our products and lives. You know now I think that in a year or two from now probably 50% kind of the application will have any, some sort of an AI engine behind it. So AI is definitely one aspect. By the way the application I mentioned, this is still in beta mode. But I highly recommend you all to try and get it. Louis Beryl: Cool. Put that in the notes. What about like…How are the big companies, Apple, Amazon, Google Facebook? How has everything that’s going on with changes that they’re making? How’s that changing SEO and app [00:26:00] store optimization right now? Asaf Yanai: Facebook and Google and then…THey’re the main driving force of the ad tech industry, I would say, of the online advertising industry. So they are now shifting, as I said, very heavily towards full automation. AI kind of a black box tools that make that the campaign management very easy, extremely easy to perform. Almost to the extent that a ten-year-old can manage, you know, a million dollar budget, without prior experience. So it’s a bit, I know, I know it’s a bit farfetched, but this is what they’re actually, aiming for to make their platform is as simple and available to everyone so everyone could scale. But there’s also a downside. They’re really trying to pull [00:27:00] and squeeze the ad spend out of the advertisers by not letting them understand and seeing what’s going on with their creative. Or what’s going on with their campaigns in general. So I think that the industry is really going towards full automation. The use of this AI and the driving force is definitely the tech giants. But I think that together with this, we’re seeing also a very big shift into the creative side. I think that these are the main reasons, but also that, you know, everyone is with their mobile phones or the iPads laptops. So the video or the visual aspect of our overall day to day life, it became more and more needed. I think so advertisers that may be used to do mainly a Google search or just a little bit of display advertising, focusing on banners, maybe focusing on blog posts and those kinds of things shifted [00:28:00] very heavily towards those videos and those. Innovative creatives with cool concepts, Coons cool storyboards that actually attract the attention of the user and make them stay longer. So now I think that also in the next few months, we’ll see a very fierce competition on the user’s attention using videos. So this is also something that I think is really shifting within the industry. Louis Beryl: And what about changes to Apple and iOS 14? Asaf Yanai: So Apple and iOS 14 and now 14.5. So what is done in a nutshell is that they allow the users for the first time ever to choose if they want to continue with the installation of an application and because their data is being transformed or passed to third parties. So what they’re basically telling you is, “Hey, are you sure you want to download this [00:29:00] app because it’s transferring your data to a third party?” So then you’re left with few options, right? Either you don’t install the application at all, or you install the application without passing on the data. And basically you’re. Harming the ability of the advertiser to reach you properly reach you or you say, yeah, no problem. I allow the application to share my data. So these are, this is what’s going on. Louis Beryl: So with this privacy shift. Have you already seen, like what percentage of people aren’t sharing their personal data? Do you have numbers on that? Asaf Yanai: Absolutely. So from numbers that we’re seeing now, and it’s still early, it’s still early because I think it’s gonna, it’s gonna increase a little bit, but from what we’re seeing now, so anywhere between 20 and 40%, because it depends on the vertical, it shifts from the vertical of the application, but anywhere between 20 and 40% of the users are not installing. [00:30:00] Okay. So the advertisers are actually losing anywhere between 20 in 40% of their ad spend plain and simple. Just when advertising on iOS, Facebook and Google are also terrifying to be so to speak. Why? Because Facebook and Google also wants to have. The performance data, or they use the data to understand what’s going on within the user funnel. So imagine they’re going to see a click, they’re going to see an install and then that’s it. They’re not going to see anything until there will be a purchase or there will be an end conversion. Okay. So it really harms their ability to also optimize campaigns and look at performance data. So Apple really took this opportunity and then now shifting very heavily towards their Apple search ads platform because they have the data. Louis Beryl: And so where do you think this goes? Where does this end up in six months, 12 months, two [00:31:00] years? Asaf Yanai: There isn’t a simple answer. One answer to this question… Because the many scenarios this can go to. I think that Google and Facebook will align with Apple’s privacy changes and they will also enroll the privacy changes to their own users. I think this will happen. I think that you’ll see more and more companies using AI for creative analysis and tools like Alison to be able to really understand what’s going on with these big campaigns. Because otherwise you’ll be practically blind. And the first companies to adopt it will be the last ones to last within the group. And the reason is because the sooner you adopt a new technology, the more experience you get with it, and you are able to [00:32:00] drive more benefits and performance out of it. So what is my top tip? I would say to your listeners: Don’t wait for the wave to happen. Try it now, use it now, gain the experience now. So that within a year or two, you won’t be left outside of the game. I think also we’re going to see more high level collaborations tech. Technical collaboration, joint ventures with let’s say agencies and that the big tech firms, Google, Amazon Facebook and also Apple because in the end of the daythey w ere really needed to tap into this resource and they will really need to tap into this experience and knowledge that is still within those companies, the performance agencies, the tech companies that drive the performance within the industry. So I live in an example and we can finish with that, they think but now we’re [00:33:00] enrolling in a new venture, and it’s the first of its kind in the world, with Facebook in Israel. So we’re doing a joint venture in which we’re going to nurture 50 different startups together with Facebook. So Facebook is going to bring their support. Yellowhead is going to bring all of the knowledge and the expertise and our tech tools and our AI to the mix. And together we’re gonna scale those 50 clients to…we’re going to scale them up hopefully to the millions. So this is the very first of it’s kind experiment for Facebook and for us in the world. And I’m happy to say that we’re enrolling it very soon. So I think it’s an interesting trend that is also going on within the industry and I’m happy to be leading it. Louis Beryl: Let’s talk a little bit more about that for a moment. [00:34:00] Where clearly big things are happening in Israel with technology, with some of the biggest companies in the world. I mean, where do you see this going? And is there, are there things happening that are different in industrial or is it actually just one big global mashup of everyone’s doing the same thing? Asaf Yanai: I think it’s really is really special in that sense. And it’s hard to be objective, but I’ll be very honest. I think Israel is really a pioneer in the innovation and startup world. And the reason is that the typical Israeli, the average Israeli is a very go-get it kind of person. You know, very mature, very tries to stay on top of the competition. Israel is a small country and you have competition over the schools. You have competition over universities, you have competition over the good jobs and positions. [00:35:00] So there’s this constant competition. And also as business owners, as startups, as entrepreneurs, we always try to look for this edge, this key factor to success is something that will leverage your growth more than others. So I think this is why Israelis are really good that then technology. I would say also that look, Facebook has a huge office in Israel, as well as Amazon, Google, Apple, Microsoft, Intel, and many, many other companies. IBM, my sister works at IBM, for example. So, you know, for us it’s a very much of a global atmosphere, but we are able to bring our skills and expertise to the global markets. So this is why I think Israel has got like a catapult to the tech world. Thank you Asaf for telling us more about [00:36:00] Yellowhead, about some of the changes that are happening in performance marketing, and for all the advice, and for joining us on today’s Startup Stack. Thanks Louis. I enjoyed it very much. Thanks for having me. Louis Beryl: Thanks again to Assaf for joining me today. To learn more about Yellowhead and the work they do, check out the link to their Rocketplace profile in the show notes. Also, quick heads up. We’re going on summer break! I’m off to get a tan and you should too. The Startup Stack comes back on June 15th. I’ll talk to you all then. Announcer: The Startup Stack is written and edited by Hannah Levy and produced by Leah Jackson.
28 minutes | May 18, 2021
EPISODE 29: No More Deck Headaches (w/Ravi Shah of SlideXpress)
Follow The Startup Stack Apple PodcastsSpotifyGoogle PodcastsAmazon MusicStitcherSoundCloudPandora Here’s a sometimes frustrating fact about entrepreneurship: You spend about as much time explaining how you’re building a business as you do actually building it. Funding presentations. Product announcements. These things take an incredible amount of time and energy. Happily, there are companies who can take that job over from you. Ravi Shah’s SlideXpress is one of them. On this week’s episode of the show, Louis and Ravi discuss the ins and outs of the rapidly growing presentation design field, including industry standards, deck tips and more. “These days there’s a trend towards slides being more simple. When you are in a remote setting you want the other person to get the message and understand the message in an easy manner. Quickly, clearly. Not scrolling their phone on the Zoom call.” –Ravi Shah Highlights include: What is presentation design? What is the McKinsey method of presentation design?How does a company know that it’s time to hire on a presentation designer? How have investor presentations changed in the era of remote work? This Week’s Guest Ravi Shah CEO & Co-founder @ SlideXpress Tony Willis is the Executive Chairman of Renaissance Partners and is based in the company’s Marlow office in the UK. The Startup Stack’s Host Louis Beryl CEO, Co-Founder of Rocketplace Rocketplace is a curated marketplace of high quality professional service providers. A 3x founder, investor, and board member, Louis began his tech career as a partner at Andreessen Horowitz. When he’s not working or podcasting, Louis enjoys cooking for his family. His pizza, he’d like you to know, is incredible. Full Episode Transcript [00:00:00] Louis Beryl: What do a presentation designer and a ship captain have in common. [Music starts] Ravi Shah: Hmmm? Louis Beryl: They both spend their jobs on decks. Ravi Shah: [Laughing] Ah, that’s a good one. Louis Beryl: Today on the show we talked through the ins and outs of presentation design. With SlideXpress CEO, Ravi Shah. This is actually the second podcast we’ve done on this topic. And part of the reason we’re coming back to it today is that a lot of entrepreneurs still don’t know the presentation designers exist. Well, we want to help fix that because I know firsthand that hiring a great presentation design agency can be a life-changing or should I say company changing experience? Sure, they’ll save you a ton of stress and late nights fixing formatting. But most importantly, they’ll help you and your company look good in the moments when it matters most in our interview, I talked to Ravi about his time at McKinsey, his clients, which run the gamut from young startups to enormous names like Expedia and Gilead. As well as tips and trends [00:01:00] related to today’s funding explosion. We’ve got a lot of good stuff to go over, so let’s get into it. [Music ends] Uh, Robbie, you’re the founder of SlideXpress. You’re based in Mumbai. Um, you know, you’ve been doing it for 12 years now. You’ve got, you know, 90 employees, your, your team, you and your team are producing 12 to 15,000 slides per month. It’s amazing what you felt. I’d love to hear a little bit more about the beginning of SlideXpress. How did, how did you start it? Ravi Shah: So SlideXpress, um, in some sense happened by accident. The little bit of backstory behind it is I was a consultant with McKinsey and company. I left the firm. I actually started my own branding and digital agency. This was way back in 2010, 2011. And, uh, I started getting requests for helping me, uh, helping my clients with presentations, given that most of them were consultants. [00:02:00] Um, so we kind of started doing that without honestly, without giving it a, you know, a lot of thought and that piece of the business kept growing. And before you knew it, our organization was overtaken by doing presentations and we rebranded ourselves to slide express. And, uh, today we still have the branding and digital piece, but the presentation piece is the largest piece of our business. And then we also have, uh, a researcher. Louis Beryl: When you first started off, what were some of the aspects of building the business that were really challenging? Ravi Shah: Uh, I think there were two or three big challenges, right? Uh, because this is a niche business finding the right talent and the right people was a significant w was a significant challenge. So if you’re looking for, let’s say, you know, if I’m in the market, you know, I want, I want to hire a marketing manager. You have hundreds of marketing managers [00:03:00] out there. Right. But you don’t have that many folks who know how to design slides. Well, so we did hire some experienced folks, but we also had to hire freshers, hire designers and then train them. Uh, on how to make good slides and how to be good slide communicators. Uh, the other piece that was a challenge was, um, a lot of our clients are large companies, you know, private equity forms. Uh, folks are sending a sensitive data. Um, so convincing them that their data is going to be secure with us. And we are going to, you know, be able to give them the confidentiality that they require. So we invested a lot in our ID systems in our processes and our policies to give that comfort to our clients. Louis Beryl: Tell me a little bit that scaling challenge is really interesting. I could imagine a small group of folks and some of the other, you know, [00:04:00] presentation design agencies that I’ve talked with. You know, you have a small group of really talented folks. But, you know, you’re pushing towards a hundred people now. I’d love to hear a little bit more about what does that training look like? How does management, you know, how, how do you manage that size of organization and really continue to produce really high quality work? Ravi Shah: So I think that, I think that’s a great question. And honestly, uh, in some sense that question is the cornerstone of what ensures our success. And enables us to, to give a certain level of quality to our customer. So, so there are two or three parts to it. So one is, let’s say if we hire freshers, we hired right. Louis Beryl: And tell me what what’s a fresher. Ravi Shah: Sorry. All right, great. Sorry. Uh, uh, fresher somebody who’s fresh out of college, right? Can somebody who doesn’t have any experience, uh, you hire a fresher, you hire, uh, an experienced powerPoint designer. In both cases, they need [00:05:00] to learn our way of presentation design,and communications. A lot of our customers are ex-consultants from McKinsey, Bain, and BCG. Consultants are used to a certain style, a certain way. Uh, certain what we call us golden rules. Uh, it’s important that anybody that we hire actually learn what those rules are and learn that style. So all of them would actually go through three months of training. Right. So these are guys who will come into an, or who will come into an organization, uh, depending on the level, there are different kinds of trainings, but they’ll go to go through three months of training to ensure that, you know, we’ve kind of brought them up to a certain level. Uh, once those three months are over, based on their capabilities and the output and the assessments that we do, we do another three months of [00:06:00] on the job training. So they’re actually then buddied up with, you know, a live member of our team. Uh, and, and they start actually helping on actual client projects, but they’re not given full responsibilities. So it’s a six month process, uh, which actually makes sure that our guys get to a certain level before we are, we expose them to client work. Um, and, and you know what, there are times in the six months when we might find folks who, you don’t do not meet the bar and, and, and, you know, you know, we would ask them to leave in that case. Louis Beryl: And, and is all of this training today happening remote? And how has that transition been for you and your team? Ravi Shah: That transition was actually not that difficult. And I’ll tell you why, because even before the pandemic hit the way we are structured as an organization, uh, we are structured in teams. Right. And what happened is, and all the work would come in centrally and then it’s allocated to various [00:07:00] teams based on the type of work based on the client, based on the request, ecetera. Louis Beryl: Are the teams, like based on industry, or how did, how did you create these teams? Ravi Shah: No, the teams are not based on industry. The teams are actually based on, on our clients and the type of work. So there might be folks who might, uh, manage certain kinds of clients and there might be other teams that may manage certain kind of certain kinds of work. So it’s based, it’s a mix of clients as well as the type of work. Louis Beryl: Like different styles of presentations? Ravi Shah: Yeah. So different styles of presentations. We have two orthree different tiers. Louis Beryl: Oh gotcha. Ravi Shah: Um, so it’s based on that. Like give you an example. There are folks who need, uh, presentations for day-to-day use, right. Which is just kind of clean up, formatting. That kind of stuff. And there’s a separate team that does that. Louis Beryl: Gotcha. Ravi Shah: And then we have a high-end team that does, uh, investor pitch decks and the like, and that’s a [00:08:00] different skill set. So that’s a different team. ROCKETPLACE ADLouis Beryl: [Music starts] Hey, Louis, your host. And I’m here to tell you that The Startup Stack is powered by Rocketplace. And when I say powered by, I mean that the guests on this show literally come from Rocketplace. Marketers, recruiters, software, dev shops, accountants, designers. You name it. These folks are what makes this podcast great. And they’re what makes Rocketplace great as well. So if you hear a tip you love or thinking about a service, you need. Rocketplace can help. We always include a link to our guest profile in the show notes. So that’s a great place to start. Thanks back to the show. Maybe, maybe tell us a little bit more about for SlideXpress. I mean, you work with some of the largest companies in the world, but like what’s your bread and butter. What’s the, what’s the thing that, you know, really, you know, drives the core of your business. Ravi Shah: So, um, there are actually two aspects, right? This is as much a service business as it is a creative business. And let me just explain that if that’s [00:09:00] not very clear, right. Uh, sure there’s a, there’s a lot of creativity involved in designing slides, creating visual layout, uh, making presentations look effective. We all have sat through presentations where, you know, it’s, it’s, you know, it’s three or four slides into the deck and we’re all on our phone or our WhatsApp or, you know, checking out email and things like that. Right. So our goal is to really design, impactful decks that prevents that from happening. So that’s one piece. The second piece, what we call his bread and butter is the overnight turnaround time. Right? A lot of our clients come with the expectation that if they send us their deck today, they need it back tomorrow. Right. And they rely on us and these are super senior clients. We’re making decks for very important meetings. So if we drop the ball, that looks really badly [00:10:00] on that. So we make sure that we are able to give them the design, the quality, and the fast turnaround, and they know they can depend on us. And it’s this piece of business, that’s our bread and butter. Louis Beryl: Yeah. That’s fascinating because, you know, as I was thinking about your team based in India, you know, on the one hand you could view that, you know, as you’re talking, it’s like, well, you know, we can work while the client is sleeping. That’s a, that’s an, that’s a strength, you know, the weakness, the clear weakness is, how do you do collaboration? Right? What, if you have a question. Right. What if the instructions aren’t clear, how do you, how do you deal with that? Client’s expecting something in the morning, you know, how does the collaborative process work? Ravi Shah: Uh, what we do do typically is, uh, we started a little bit before India time starts. And we do stay back a little bit after India time ends. [00:11:00] Right. So we do try and keep a little bit of an overlap on both ends of the stick to exactly address that situation. Um, and there are cases when, you know, you know, if we don’t understand something, we’ll reach out to the client, do a Teams call or send them an email and they’ll get it back. The one other point that I would like to make Louis, and this is a lot of our clients are repeat clients, right? So over a period of time, uh, uh, we started to understand what they want and they know what they can expect from us. So that kind of minimizes those situations where, you know, the ball gets dropped because of us not understanding what the client wants. Louis Beryl: Let’s talk about clients for a second, right? So you’re talking about repeat clients and new clients. You’re based in India. You have a lot of clients based in you, you, you know, the US, Europe around the world, how do you, how do you find these clients? Ravi Shah: A lot of it has been through word of mouth, right? We rely [00:12:00] on our clients to talk about our service to their folks, to friends, their family, um, other folks, uh, in their business. You know, you know, we’ve had situations where let’s say we started working with one person in a large company. You know, call it IBM as an example. Right. And, uh, they are very happy with our service. So then, you know, they might say, uh, say to their colleagues in another department, right. And, and that kind of, that kind of word spreads around sometimes what happens is that folks may see slides that are designed by us and they might ask our client, Hey, those slides look really nice. How did you do it. Right. Um, so there’s a lot of word of mouth. Uh, the second is like everybody else, you know, we do digital marketing, um, advertising on, on, you know, social media, content marketing, um, all of that stuff. Louis Beryl: You work with all these amazing clients. How do you measure success as a company? [00:13:00] Ravi Shah: So there, there are two metrics here, right? Um, obviously you have the, you have the financial metrics in terms of revenue and profitability and all of that, but, but everybody does that, right. For us what’s most important is what I just said. It’s can we continue to add more clients? Can we continue to get repeat business from clients? If we do that for us, that’s a fairly significant measure of success. I’ll just give you one very granular example. If someone, if somebody were to go on my personal LinkedIn profile. We have more than a hundred endorsements on LinkedIn, right? And these endorsements are really tough to get, uh, these are actual clients who’ve written about our service and how happy they are and how we’ve helped them save countless number of hours just trying to clean up, clean up presentations. Louis Beryl: Let’s switch to a second. I would love for, you know, you and your [00:14:00] position. You work with a lot of amazing clients, but I’d love for you to give advice to other companies, other, other potential clients out there who, who might not even realize that they need your services. And so the, like the question is, you know, when you first meet a client, what would be happening at a company where maybe when you talk to them, you get a sense that like you’re exactly in the stage of being ready for us. Right? When did they need a presentation design, outsource presentation, design firm, like yourself? Ravi Shah: To answer that question very succinctly and simply. If they’re spending a lot of time trying to beautify and format presentations, that’s when they need us. That’s one use case. The second use case is when clients are making investor pitch decks or they might be making decks, which they’re going to present to customers and they really need [00:15:00] to give an impactful story. That’s the other piece that we come in handy, uh, and also for our, for our large clients, uh, there are folks, are there organizations out there that are making thousands of slides every day, right? And you have very expensive people trying to, you know, make the font aligned and, and trying to, to make the columns aligned and trying to change colors and things like that. Right. And that is not a value added time. Uh, when, uh, for them, when they could be doing other things. These are the two or three situations. When I would say that you need somebody like SlideXpress to come in and essentially take away the headache off going to make presentations look good. Louis Beryl: You know, you just made me think of something. You said earlier that SlideXpress has a way that, that you all build presentations, but then you, [00:16:00] but you also said that you, you work with clients sometimes they’re making thousands of slides a day. I imagine this might be like an investment bank or a consulting agency that also doing a lot of their own client meetings. Um, and I would imagine that they also have a way that they build slides. How do you, how do you marry those two things? The SlideXpress way and then like the client’s way. Ravi Shah: Okay. So that’s a great question. So one this already a little bit of overlap between those two weeks. Right. So there are some tenants that we use in our slide design that for at least our client pool we know that they would want us to use that. So I think that’s one. Secondly, what typically happens is when we onboard a new client, there are, uh, one or two projects, uh, the first one or two projects is when we would kind of go a little bit back [00:17:00] and forth where they understand us and we understand them, right. And once we have that cadence in place, and once we have those two or three projects under our belt, then there is that melding of the SlideXpress way and the client way, um, which then kind of becomes the standard for that client moving forward. Louis Beryl: I want to go back to advice for other companies, you know, you know, there, there are a handful of presentation design agencies out there. You know, let’s say I meet a firm and you know, I meet a slide express or a similar firm, and they’re like, we can help you with, you know, your fundraising deck. What are the, what are the questions that I should be asking as an entrepreneur, as a CEO to understand whether or not this is the right firm for me to work with. Ravi Shah: Yeah. So I think, I think the answer to that again is, is simple. Um, I think one is you definitely want to know how much experience do [00:18:00] they have in making investor pitch decks, right. So investor pitch decks are, are their own animal in that sense. So it’s, you know, they fall into kind of a different universe. Uh, there’s a certain style, there’s a certain approach. Uh, there’s a certain kind of design philosophy. Uh, which focuses on, on getting the message across in the most clean, minimal possible way. And you want to check with them how much experience does that company have making investor pitch decks, right? You want to get references, uh, you want to know names of companies or, or their clients for whom they’ve done work. And you know, the last thing is our call, the smell test, right? You want to ask them to share examples of their work. And, and you as an entrepreneur or as a, as a founder or a co-founder of a startup company, you need to look at that and say that, [00:19:00] Hey, you know, the bouquet that the bouquet of slides that these guys are showing me, is that something that I like, right? Is this the direction that I want to go? And if the answer to these two or three questions is yes, um, then I think it’s the right fit. I think the last piece. Is startups are always starved for money, right? So you want to check and compare pricing across multiple providers. SUBSCRIBER AD Hey, do you like our show? I do too. If you want to support The Startup Stack, the best way to do that is by subscribing and rating us on Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen to us. Also send dad jokes. Or if you have them actual good jokes to firstname.lastname@example.org. Feel free to send us feedback there too. I’d love to talk a little bit about trends that you’re seeing out there. You know, you’re, you know, you’re in a really interesting position because you’re working with all of these big companies, [00:20:00] startups. Helping them make their presentations every day. Right. And you know, we’ve gone through COVID in 2020. Um, we’re now kind of coming out of things in a certain, in a certain sense. Um, you know, the vaccines have started to roll out, but you know, you’re in India and things are crazy right now. Um, I, you know, what, what are, what are you seeing out there from your clients? What are the trends friends that are happening right now that, um, are different even from a year ago. I think not just in the world of presentations, but I think the one big impact of the pandemic has been there. It has actually changed, uh, and being a little bit of a tailwind when it comes to digital communications. Right. Even if, even if we come back to normal, I think remote working is here to stay. I think doing meetings, client meetings, remotely, right? [00:21:00] Using Zoom and Teams and what have you, I think is here to stay. I think the amount of travel that people are going to do to meet people face to face is going to reduce, right. People have realized that, that, you know, you know, a lot of us will work like machines and working like robots and just kind of going, going about our business. Uh, without giving it a second thought and, and this pandemic has allowed us to take a step back and allow all of us to reevaluate our priorities and what we want to do. Right? So as a result of which, what we are, are actually seeing is we’re seeing an increasing need for digital communications, right. It starts off with presentations. But also things like infographics, animations, one-pagers right. Uh, uh, even we’ve had clients, who’ve come back to us saying that, Hey, you know, could you design custom Zoom backgrounds for us. Louis Beryl: Well, I was going to ask you that, like [00:22:00] have the presentations changed because we’re doing so many things by zoom versus in-person? Custom zoom backgrounds is an interesting example but are there other things about how the presentations, like how even the like SlideXpress way of doing things has that changed because of everyone’s doing it via Zoom these days? Ravi Shah: Uh, yeah, so I think the big, the big change in that is I think slides today. Um, th th there’s a trend towards slides today being more simple, right? Uh, when you are in a, in a remote setting, you want the other person to get the message and understand the message, you know, in an easy manner. Also there’s a trend towards, uh, making the messaging more functional. So it’s clean design, it’s minimal design, it’s not kind of, uh, you know, the very complex slides with lots of elements and lot of colors and things like that. [00:23:00] And, and, uh, from a design standpoint that is where things have moved to. Louis Beryl: You and your teams do you help with that? Like content reduction? Let’s say a client sends you something and it’s got so much stuff. Is that actually part of what you do? Like, Hey, you know, we think we can help you distill this message or how does that collaboration work? Ravi Shah: So we don’t do a lot of that, Louis. Uh, we do do some of that, but, uh, a, given the volume of work that we do and b, uh, given that, uh, you know, we may reduce the content, but the client may not really be happy with what we’ve done or he, or she may not be looking for what we’ve done. Louis Beryl: [Laughs] Yeah. Ravi Shah: Um, we try and stay away from that. Our focus and our expertise is on visual design. So I would say 95% of our work is just designed formatting, cleanup and And I would say 5% of our work is where, um, we do content work, incidentally, the place that we actually do the most [00:24:00] content work is helping co-founders and founders of startups with their pitch decks. Where we’ll help them write the story, will help them think of the structure, the messaging, uh, the content and, and, and even the flow of, uh, of the presentation. And then the design piece comes, comes later. Louis Beryl: I’d love to understand, you know, as we’ve kind of worked through 2020 and 2021, you know, where would you say we are right now in terms of level of busy-ness. Um, and just like overall business activity, would you say that, you know, it’s busier right now than it has been in the last 18 months? Or how, how, you know, how would you describe activity? Ravi Shah: Uh, so for us, yes. Uh, uh, we are growing, we’re adding more people to our team and, and we are continued to, uh, and we continue to onboard clients. So, uh, from that perspective, we are fairly busy. Um, and, and honestly, we, we do see the trend continuing [00:25:00] because of the one thing that I just told you, which was, you know, the increase in digital communications and, you know, for us, the best client is the happy client who continues to give us more work. Louis Beryl: I’d love to get some advice from you from, from yourself. So like if you could go back 12 years ago to when you first started slide express and give yourself some advice, What would be the advice you gave yourself as a budding entrepreneur? Ravi Shah: I think the first thing is when we start as entrepreneurs, you know, it’s the, the journey starts with you as an individual person, right? So it’s just, you, uh, we tend to think in a little bit of a constrained manner in terms of what we can do or what we can achieve or how big we can grow. Um, and, and what the possibilities are. Um, within our business. Right. So I think it’s very important to have, um, early [00:26:00] large long-term vision of which, you know, at that point of time may think completely ludicrous. Right. But having that long-term vision of, of trying to scale to what you actually think may be impossible. I think that’s super important. I think the other thing that’s really important as a startup, um, and what has helped us is being focused, uh, being laser-focused on execution, right? Making sure that whether it’s our internal operations, whether it’s projects that we’re doing for clients, whether it’s recruitment could be anything. Right. Making sure that we are able to execute quickly and execute that well. Uh, the third piece I think is, you know, we’re in the client service business and our goal and our ethos and our philosophy. Um, has been to make the lives of our clients easier. If we, [00:27:00] if you, as an entrepreneur, make the lives of your customer could be a B2C customer, could be a B2B customer. You could be selling a product, et cetera. If you can make their life easier, um, success is going to come to you naturally, right? Um, I think these are the three things that I would have liked to have kept in mind a little bit more at the start of my journey. Louis Beryl: Thank you for the time today. It was awesome having you on The Startup Stack. I love hearing the story about SlideXpress. Uh, really appreciate the time. Thank you. Ravi Shah: Oh, thank you, Louis. Uh, uh, the pleasure is mine and I hope that some of the pointers that I’ve given. Um, help your clients and, and folks in your community. Louis Beryl: [Music starts] thanks again to Ravi for joining me today. To learn more about SlideXpress and the work they do check out the link to their Rocketplace profile in the show notes. [Music ends] Announcer: The Startup stack, written and edited by Hannah Levy, produced by Leah Jackson. [00:28:00]
39 minutes | May 11, 2021
EPISODE 28: Is There A Bubble? (w/ Tony Willis, Sebastian Kayll & Matt C’de Baca of Renaissance Leadership)
Follow The Startup Stack Apple PodcastsSpotifyGoogle PodcastsAmazon MusicStitcherSoundCloudPandora Like every industry, tech has had its ups and downs. A bubble that burst in 2001. Regrowth. Consolidation. Facebook-ization. Uber-ization. And now a venture market like we’ve never seen, with record-high valuations and funding rounds that were once inconceivable. So what exactly is going on? Tony Willis, Sebastian Kayll & Matt C’de Baca have some theories. Their boutique executive recruiting firm, Renaissance Leadership, has been helping grow some of the industry’s biggest players since 2003. If anybody has any clue what’s going on — and what’s next — it’s them. Listen to the interview to find out what we learned. “I think you can’t follow funding rounds as a mechanism for success. Meaning just because somebody took a large Series B, C or D round, the money doesn’t necessarily matter. You really have to dig in and understand: What is the value proposition of the product and who are the leaders?” –Matt C’de Baca Highlights include: What are the challenges of hiring executives in the middle of a funding bubble? What context should we be bringing to this historical moment in tech? Are we at the top of the bubble? Is that a bad thing? What should startups be looking for in an executive recruiting partner?How has the pandemic created demand for new and innovative Head of People positions? This Week’s Guest Tony Willis Executive Chairman @ Renaissance Leadership Tony Willis is the Executive Chairman of Renaissance Partners and is based in the company’s Marlow office in the UK. Sebastian Kayll Managing Partner & Co-founder @ Renaissance Leadership Sebastian “Seb” Kayll is a Managing Partner & Co-founder at Renaissance Leadership and is based in the company’s Marlow office in the UK. He founded Renoir Partners in 2001, which would go on to become Renaissance. Matt C’de Baca Managing Partner, North America @ Renaissance Leadership Matt C’de Baca is the Managing Partner, North America at Renaissance Leadership. He joined the company in 2015 and is based on Menlo Park. The Startup Stack’s Host Louis Beryl CEO, Co-Founder of Rocketplace Rocketplace is a curated marketplace of high quality professional service providers. A 3x founder, investor, and board member, Louis began his tech career as a partner at Andreessen Horowitz. When he’s not working or podcasting, Louis enjoys cooking for his family. His pizza, he’d like you to know, is incredible. Full Episode Transcript [00:00:00] Louis Beryl: We’ve been talking a lot on this podcast about the funding surge that started around halfway through 2020 with valuations, continuing to balloon. I think everyone is trying to understand, is it a good thing, a bad thing, or a sign of things to come today? I get a global lens and the situation with Tony Willis, Matt C’de Baca and Seb Kayll of Renaissance Leadership, a boutique executive recruiting firm with offices in the US and Europe. These guys have been at it for almost two decades. Seen tech, empires rise and fall and rubbed elbows with some of the biggest names in tech; Serge Brin and Larry Page, Marc Benioff, & Niklas ZennstrÃ¶m along the way. But before we get into the interview, one thing to now, we had some technical difficulties with this recording. Lots of lines, lots of time zones, lots of countries starting with this sweets joke. Seb told one, and it was hilarious let me tell you. I’d retell it, but I wouldn’t do it justice. You’ll just have to trust me. And with that onto the interview. [00:01:00] I’d love to jump into the. The founding of Renaissance. So, Tony, I know you, um, you founded this company two decades ago or so, and I would love to hear a little bit more about, you know, when you started Renaissance, you know, what was the opportunity you were seeing and why, and why did you start it? Tony Willis: Okay. Yeah. So, well, prior to that, I, um, had spent. Uh, 10 years working for a startup in London called Harvey Nash, which was a kind of forerunner in the senior technology recruitment market. And we built that into a great company. We IPO in on the London stock exchange in 1997. Um, and at its peak, we were, you know, a thousand people, uh, global. Uh, and I was running the European, uh, executive search practice, uh, across eight countries in Europe. So that was going great guns, but then we couldn’t hit the buffers, uh, as you know, .com boom, the .com [00:02:00] 1.0. Louis Beryl: Yeah. Tony Willis: But that bubble burst in 2001 and nine 11 as a telco crash. And so, um, I came out at that point and was going to cost me around for what to do next. Um, and I’d always enjoyed working in, particularly during the .com boom, first time around working with founders. Uh, early stage companies. And so I bumped into a guy that I knew in London called Ben Anderson, um, who, uh, uh, had been at another company called Robert Walters. And he’d set up this business called Renoir Partners, which I guess was the kind of 4 runner for, uh, Renaissance, um, as much as they were targeting those a boutique firms. So I would think early stage tech companies in Europe and doing leadership team hires. So I joined, um, Ben. In 2002, maybe that’s where I met Seb. Seb was there, um, as well. Um, and that was good. Well, you know, and we acquired, uh, Christian and Timbers, uh, in London and they’re quite out business in, uh, [00:03:00] in San Francisco. So we became Renoir, Christian and Timbers, you know? So we worked with Jeff Christian. But then unfortunately we acquired another company, which is an RPO firm, you know, recruiting process outsourcing. And at that point, you know what, that doesn’t really sit well with executive search it’s too far down the value chain, um, kind of your mess for less recruiting. Um, so I was kind of hankering after doing my own thing. To actually Seb and I then peeled out of Renoir, Christian and Timbers, and set up a Renaissance since 2003. And it was a kind of a link there, you know, Renoir being a Renaissance artist and Renaissance. So that was the kind of, that was a kind of link. When and I, yeah, we, we peeled away with such a work closer to home. Um, basically the London’s version or the UK version of Silicon Valley, which is the, the M4 corridor. Um, we’re about 30 miles West of London with all the, uh, the big US accorded firms that have their European hedge cures. Um, yeah. And, and that’s how we started. And we started out in a small service office, um, in a town called [00:04:00] Maidenhead, um, just west of London. Um, with the two of us and a part-time finance director, uh, and they’re going to PA and we got going it. Louis Beryl: Yeah. And Seb you were there at the very beginning, you know, what was it that you, you know, the value proposition that you and Tony were talking about, you know, in those early days about, you know, how are you really differentiating yourself? Seb Kyall: The work we do is interesting. Okay. So, you know, if you want to technology, there’s plenty of things you can do. You can, you can do divisional heads for IBM or EMC or these big tech companies. And it’s square pegs, square holes it was pretty dull. But when you work with emerging tech, when you work with the companies that really define and make a difference, It’s just a different ball game. I went to Stanford in 2001, 2002, and I met Serge and Larry skateboarding around, but just raise their series aid. Those, they were founded [00:05:00] Google. I mean, it was just a different ball game. And that is what makes it interesting because every single day, when we work with these companies, there are category defining companies that are doing things that are different and that makes it intriguing. And that’s kept me for the last 20 years. That’s why I’ve loved. Yeah, it makes complete difference. Tony Willis: We had Mark Benioff from Salesforce, came into the office when he was setting up Salesforce. We had Niklas ZennstrÃ¶m and when you’re setting up Skype. So I think work in early stage tech is you real access to subsets to these incredible entrepreneurs right at the start of their, their journeys. Louis Beryl: Was it, was the opportunity that you saw 20 years ago that there was just something enormous happening in tech. And the, you know, that was, that probably took tremendous foresight and was really smart. You know, I wonder now 20 years later, um, there’s tons of executive recruiting firms. And so how, how do you really think about differentiating Renaissance and what you do today versus versus others? Tony Willis: Well, I think [00:06:00] it comes down to w we focused very much still on the tech and digital segments. Um, we’re working in a, to kind of epicenters of, of tech globally. So I think in San Francisco, Silicon Valley and in London, which is the, you know, the kind of sense of what goes on in tech in Europe, um, And we’re working primarily pretty much exclusively with venture capital and private equity projects about businesses. So it really is firms at that early stage in their evolution, um, working with the entrepreneurs with the founders and with the core investors. And I think there are a few other firms that play in a similar space. Um, but very few I think they’re do it well. And I think that is still a market that is, um, you know, it’s going to dominate your buyer. Uh, a few firms like us who got into this, you know, at the, kind of the beginning of their going to web 2.0, um, cycle a roundabout that kind of mid, mid, mid two thousands. SUBSCRIBE AD – START Louis Beryl: [MUSIC BEGINS] [00:07:00] Hey, do you like our show? I do too. If you want to support The Startup Stack, the best way to do that is by subscribing and rating us on Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen to us. Also send dad jokes, or if you have them actual good jokes to podcast.rocketplace.com, feel free to send us feedback there too. SUBSCRIBE AD – END Louis Beryl: Matt, I’d love to, you know, you’re, you’re running the, uh, us for Renaissance and you know, I’d love to understand, um, you know, your story about how you found seb and Tony. And how, you know, what, what were you doing before and how have you changed the value prop for what Renaissance does today? Matt C’de Baca: Uh, yeah, sure. So, uh, 12 years ago, uh, I was, uh, finishing university. Wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to be. Uh, when I grew up, uh, at a career counselor who was incredibly thoughtful and probably should have been in recruitment herself over semester, you know, spent a lot of time just getting into my head and heart had a brother-in-law who was in recruitment and based on some [00:08:00] personality traits she’d said, Hey, I think this would be an interesting field for, you know, a bright young 20 something. Uh, who you know, is still seeking clarity on, you know, where in industry he wants to go. And so I had a girlfriend at the time who had just joined a, uh, small boutique organization called Daversa Partners. And I know last week or last episode, you had Bill Beer who’s just a tremendous recruiter in his own. Right. I interviewed with a partner from the firm, met Paul Daversa and never looked back as far as recruitment as a profession at the time there was a lot I didn’t know. And for me, I think. Uh, a real value that I have since been able to contribute in my role here at Renaissance Leadership, but just to my clients and constituents candidates in the market, I needed to spend some time internally. So, uh, there was about a six or seven year period, uh, after I had joined, Daversa where I went to work for some larger organizations, Hewlett Packard, Rackspace, SunPower. And that was really about [00:09:00] understanding how do you take a product from idea to a monetization strategy, to a customer, um, and really understanding that technology meets go to market. I give you that longer narrative to say there was a gentleman that I had met at Hewlett Packard who was running the enterprise services business for AMEA. And I was, uh, one of two executive recruiters running the enterprise services business for North America and a wonderful individual who’s still in leadership consulting named William Bearable. William, uh, knew Sebastian through, uh, their, uh, sons, uh, go to a university or, or go to school together. A decade earlier over a pint of Guinness, I was waxing poetic about how there had to be a better way, uh, or a more informed way. To service technology. And so fast forward, you know, William had connected with Seb and subsequently connected with Tony and we were expanding in our North America business. Uh, and so he said, Hey, you know, fired me up or caught up, uh, called me on the phone and said, I’d love for you to [00:10:00] reconnect, uh, or connect with some colleagues of mine, uh, that I know through industry. Um, and this was five years ago, uh, picked up called Tony or spoke to Tony, spoke to Seb. Uh, loved what they were doing subsequently spoke to, you know, our former colleague and, uh, founder of the firm, uh, Ben Anderson, um, and never looked back. Louis Beryl: Yeah. And maybe for Seb or Tony, you know, was Renaissance always imagined as a global business. Tony Willis: Well, I think, you know, clearly if you’ve got a play in this space and really be effective working with the biggest clients globally, then you need to have a footprint in North America. And it’s very hard actually for European based firms to get that foothold. But often it’s the other way around us firms come here. And so actually, you know, the good fortunate I was over in San Francisco meeting some people and hooked up with but Nancy, we mentioned a few times there, who I had known them. We worked with a Renoir back in the day, and he was working with a, um, a [00:11:00] boutique firm called Lonergan over in the Valley, not long ago. And yeah, he wasn’t really enjoying that and was costing around and foot for what to do next. From this perspective, I said, Ben, yeah, why don’t we get the band back together, come and set up a release, lots in the US for us. And so that’s what happened. That was 10 years ago. And so on that kind of chance for dinner. Uh, with Ben, we decided to, to get going, um, in, in, in the Valley, I mean, Ben was living in Menlo Park and so he knew the, uh, the market pretty well and had good contacts and off we went and, you know, he set up the office in Middlefield Road and, uh, that’s where we are today. Louis Beryl: And then how do you, how do you think about integrating between the two offices between the U S and London? Tony Willis: Yeah. I mean, there, isn’t a huge amount of kind of day to day integration. I mean, we we’re, we have a weekly calls and we share the same kind of systems and we use Clockwork together and, and that kind of stuff. Um, we use the same accounting platforms, but I guess there are kind of three distinct markets that there are North American firms hiring in North [00:12:00] America. And honestly, that’s Matt and his team they’re growing in Europe and that’s us. And then there are firms that you want to look at the global talent pool and that’s what we do work together. But I would say that primarily is European firms wanting to attract talent from the US I think some us firms want to bring talent in from Europe costly, you know, US citizens returning home, but you know, a lot of European firms want that from of Silicon Valley sizzle. In our business, particularly in the technology function, you know, CTO and, um, at that level. So that’s quite a big thing for us. And if you’re having a US footprint having an office and people on the ground, it makes a big difference there. Matt C’de Baca: Look, I would add to that with this past year and COVID, uh, being a great, uh, driver of the future of work, just in terms of, you know, people working from home, leaving offices, changing the nature of, you know, what hiring teams were open to consider. I think the benefits of being a global firm have never been more powerful than this last year. I [00:13:00] think there’s more collaboration that happens organizationally than ever before. I think that, uh, you know, one of the things that COVID has driven is created a flatter environment in terms of where people can be. And so Sebastian and, uh, our colleagues in Europe have opportunities to drive wonderful work, uh, in New York and Boston, uh, and along the Atlantic coast. And I think being able to speak thoughtfully, uh, about, uh, or intelligently just about. You know, the global marketplace, uh, really adds a different dimension. Um, seven, I have a pitch, uh, in two weeks time and it’s a, uh, from, um, an investment firm out of the UK. That’s looking to attract an investor from, uh, North America and, you know, an ability to be able to speak thoughtfully and have colleagues on the ground there, but also represent the marketplace here, I think is just a powerful differentiator. < [00:14:00] ROCKETPLACE AD > [00:15:00] Louis Beryl: I’d love to talk a little bit about your clients. Maybe you could tell me a little bit more about what does a typical client look like for you today? Tony Willis: I mean, we are going to split it into two sectors. We are a consumer and enterprise and several enterprise, and I kind of run the consumer side of things. So a consumer client would be, I mean, [00:16:00] typically, you know, e-commerce marketplace businesses. A great example recently would be, um, a company called Kazoo. Which is based loosely on Carvana in the US and founded 18 months ago by Alex Chesterman. They’re Europe’s kind of foremost, uh, digital entrepreneurs and, and a good client and friend and client of ours. Um, and, uh, yeah, so we’ve helped him build out his leadership team. Louis Beryl: Let’s stop there for a second. Actually. That’s more than I was expecting you to say. So 20 people is…is Renaissance more than just executive recruiting? Tony Willis: We did the whole c-suite. Um, I think it’s about 10 people in the c-suite now, and then a number of the roles posting to the C-suite as well. Where they brought out a team of 2000 people now. So it’s quite a big company. Um, and as I said, we’re about to list on the New York stock exchange in a couple of weeks. And it could be one of the largest IPO in European business. Um, over the last 10 years, it was two years. So that’s quite an extreme, it’s not [00:17:00] that, but it’s a good example of what clients work with on the consumer side. Yeah, here in Europe…I mean, Seb & Matt, you’re working more on the enterprise side of the press. You can give a bit more of a flavor of that Seb, companies coming to Europe from US. Seb Kyall: Yeah, I’ve done loads of those, but I mean, some of the big ones, like Qualtrics, for example, which came to Europe and we did a go to market team, and then they actually got acquired by SAP for 8 billion and then they’ve, they re-closed again. Or we did Carbon Black, which is a Sequoia backed security business that floats on NASDAQ and got acquired by Louis Beryl: They’re huge names. Kazoo, Qualtrics, Carbon Black. When a company is coming to you, what are the questions that, you know, if you were going to give advice. You know, to these companies when picking their next executive search firm, what are, what are the questions that they should be asking, um, when evaluating different, different search firms to work with? [00:18:00] Seb Kyall: Companies are guilty of describing what they want their executives to look like rather than what they want their executives to achieve. And so if you take away what people might’ve done historically, but look at what you want us to over the next 12, 18, 24 months. That’s the important point. Where are you trying to get to not, who’s going to take you there. Cause once you know where your journey is, then you can reverse engineer who can take you on that journey. And yes, if you want a good search pub, you want somebody to actually turn around and tell you you’re wrong. Your distributors are wrong. Your go to market strategy is wrong. You should do it this way. There are other ways to do it. And, and, and when you’ve done it many, many times over 20 years, you’ve seen it different scenarios, right? So you’ve seen that, that journey many, many times. And that’s beyond finding an executive. That’s helping a company come to another to another region. And that’s what we do for them. Tony Willis: Search has become democratized. When I started in search, you had a little black book and you’re [00:19:00] paying for access to that black book. Forget that these days with link 10, anyone can identify anybody else. And that’s not the secret sauce in search anymore. It’s about getting access to the right people, having good judgment as to, you know, out of those 20 people you talked to who really are the best four or five suited to that role. And then being able to enroll them. Um, in that proposition, when you find the people you want to hire, I think that that’s what the best recruiters are giving to their clients. Um, access judgment and enrollment, um, not just identifications Charlie in the market, which is what it used to be. Matt. Louis Beryl: I had a question for you because you know, in Silicon Valley, one of the things that we constantly are talking about is how hot the market is, how hard it is to pull great people out of other jobs. People are getting paid a tremendous amount of money, whether they’re at large companies: Google, Apple, Amazon, Facebook, et cetera, or even hot startups with millions of [00:20:00] dollars of equity that, you know, might be tied up? So they have an IPO yet, et cetera? How do you navigate that and, you know, recruit great people out given where salaries and equity are? Matt C’de Baca: Yeah. It’s a great question. I mean, I, I think this is, uh, I was fortunate that when I joined this organization five years ago, uh, just as a partner and then, you know, nine months ago was the managing partner for North America. I mean, the institutional knowledge around the firm, uh, seven Tony, uh, and our colleagues. I was fortunate enough, uh, that there was strength in the brand, uh, and in the track record of delivery, that when we call into the marketplace, people recognize that, uh, a, they recognize the track record, but B they recognize, uh, how thoughtful we try to be. About the opportunities. And so that I’m not approaching Louis, uh, for some fly by night Startup. Um, but that I’m also not approaching Louis about some fly by night executive [00:21:00] role Tony’s comment on, uh, the democratization of search. Is completely accurate. People may not be calling us for our little black book in the traditional sense. I think we know the five to 10 to 15 to 20 calls to make on any given search, uh, that people will trust us and refer us to the right people or individuals in the marketplace where we can go have a thoughtful conversation. And then I think it’s just about believing in the companies that you work for. Right? I mean, And even sometimes in the case of a carbon black or a Qualtrecs or a kazoo, you know, it’s not challenging to help people see that these are compelling opportunities. Maybe one differentiation point I’d say in North America, just because we are a much bigger marketplace, you know, I know this is something learned over years. You know, I’ll look at, you know, if you look at what’s happened in marketing technology over the last five or 10 years, there are thousands of companies where it’s now about almost feature function, differentiation in marketing tech, [00:22:00] I’m really challenging. And fortunately, uh, we’ve got the brand to do it, but, you know, looking for opportunities where entrepreneurs are pushing the edge of technology, or really trying to change the future of how a customer or how a marketplace or how society at large might be interacting with technology. Um, and one client, I would call out as a New Zealand based company called soul machines. That’s pushing the next iteration of customer experience through artificial intelligence, literally designing digital brains, uh, digital brain stems, neural pathways, and promoting technology in the, in terms of the future of how we will engage and interact and drive. The next wave of, of engagement. And so I think this is reflective of similar opportunities that Tony and Sebastian see as well. Um, and so when you’re calling into the marketplace with companies profound, uh, in terms of disruption to. Industries or society at large, I [00:23:00] think it’s people want to listen. And then it’s about tuning into just their curiosities and making sure that the relationship is a strong fit. Tony Willis: It’s always been tought and I say to my guys, if it were easy, everyone would be doing it. So that’s what we’re paid for. So it is tough. I think the kitchen is to try and work with the best investors and the best companies you can try and look as far up the pyramid in terms of the, uh, the winners. And that’s both in terms of, you know, the, the, the company ideas, but the entrepreneurs and the investors, and you can’t go too far wrong because people must’ve attracted to the top investors and the top ones. Louis Beryl: Yeah. And that makes sense. You know, I I’d love to transition to, to trends, you know what…You know in 2021 we’ve seen tremendous change. 2020, the pandemic, the move to remote work. That’s probably had an enormous impact on, on your business and how recruiting is in, in general, but then I’d love to actually to dive into what are you seeing right now in May of 2021 that’s [00:24:00] suprising and different than even, you know what we were seeing a year ago? Tony Willis: If you think internally what’s happening in our firm and how’s the pandemic and what’s happening in the last year affected us. I think that we’re certainly people. Uh, I wouldn’t say reluctance to come back to the office, but then it was enthused about coming back to the office as I thought they might be. And I think that virtually everyone now would have some kind of split between working from home and working in the office. I think going back into the office five days a week, I just don’t see that needle. I think that’s being mirrored, um, amongst our poults. Um, as well. And I think also the other thing that I would say internally is that the impact of the pandemic when different people, employees need to look out for that as well, because employees have been affected, uh, in different ways. And it’s not always obvious from a weekly zoom calls with your employees, um, which president has been affected in which way. And we’ve had a number of situations where people kind of coming back in with different. Yeah, mental States and [00:25:00] needing different things from the company, different things from the job, um, that have been brought on by the pandemic. And I think that that’s. It must be playing out at every workplace across the, uh, across our sector. Seb Kyall: Look, I think that’s fair. I think the other thing that’s been interesting for me is that historically early stage technology companies has been just being focused on top line, customer acquisition, building revenues, getting product, market fit, getting a thing, moving, and that’s what it was. And now all of a sudden, so many of them are focused on chief people, officers, VP of people. People and talent, just because all of a sudden they’re companies that work remotely, the whole thing’s changed. They’ve had to actually address the whole people in environments now rather than just the growth scenario. And that’s changed massively. Louis Beryl: So, are you seeing a lot more searches for Heads of People? Seb Kyall: Without question! I mean, we have, we have, uh, so we’ve got [00:26:00] a guy called Malcolm we’ve worked with. He’s the ex chief people officer of Klana, he’s been the chief people offer at a couple of other search companies. Yeah, he doesn’t have enough time in the day at the moment because every single company is looking at that people role and talent scenario. I’m trying to work out how they deal with it, because historically it was pushed to one side. Now it’s front and center. Louis Beryl: Yeah, I think that’s right. You know, it’s, it’s, it’s, uh, really interesting that you mentioned that, you know, certainly what I’m seeing as I’m advising companies, uh, right now is on, you know, on these people, things, as they’re growing, it’s more challenging with kind of the remote and hybrid work environment. Um, and I’ve certainly been advising people like now more than ever, you should bring on a head of people. And so I’m, um, I, I find it interesting, but also not surprising that that’s one of the more popular. Uh, searches right now. Seb Kyall: Well, if you, if you think what, what, what a company’s about, right? Rather people that some has to be graded and individual parts, and all of a [00:27:00] sudden when you take those and you spread them and they’re all working remotely, you have to find some way to knit the whole thing together. And this is why companies, it’s a big challenge for all companies, whether they’re large or small, how you deal with that in a pandemic. Tony Willis: I think also pick up people in culture. I mean, lots of these companies now are calling it. You’re going to put people in culture officer because the culture doesn’t just happen spontaneously now, like it used to in workplaces, wherever I’m in the office, five days a week, this is a different thing. Think sometimes it now has to be, I won’t say manufactured, but. Thought about, more carefully about how that culture now evolves and what it is in companies. And so that’s the kind of interesting stuff that’s coming out. Matt C’de Baca: From the impact of the pandemic, it’s something I’ve seen. That’s probably a little more nuanced, uh, in this balance between work life and home life. People are, uh, the talent rather. Uh, the executives that we are soliciting, I think are, uh, [00:28:00] more self-aware. Of the realities and challenges, um, and have had enough experience inside of mid, late or early, mid and late stage companies. And so I think there’s a much more educated talent market, uh, executive market. And so as they are listening to these opportunities, they’re less inclined to, just to chase after the. The, uh, you know, next to great business for promises of fortune and glory, um, and make no mistake. I mean, I think there are still people that, you know, value those aspects. Uh, we all want to do well financially for ourselves or for our families, but, and I, I think that there’s a greater, um, uh, awareness or appreciation for, um, you know, what is the quality of life going to look like along with the, the contribution that I’m going to deliver to the company? Um, and so call that a more educated talentplace. Louis Beryl: One of the things that certainly I’m seeing, and I’m sure you are as well is, you know, the speed [00:29:00] and size of fundraising rounds that are happening right now across the technology sector, seven Tony, you’ve been in this business for decades, you know, you’ve seen 2001, you’ve seen 2008, you know, and, and, and now here we are today, you know what, what’s your perspective on the speed and size of these fundraising rounds and what’s happening right now in technology? Tony Willis: It’s just been crazy. I mean, I remember back in London, back in the day, if you raise 3 million pounds in a series, a you’d be running up and down registry with a bottle of champagne naked. I mean, it’s these days 3 million, well, very few series A fundinf rounds aren’t seeing that now. I mean… Louis Beryl: Oh a hundred percent. Exactly. Tony Willis: And so that kind of, yeah, just wall of money, that’s out there as a result of, you know, macro economic situation around the world, low interest rates, high asset values, quantitative easing. Well that money’s got to go somewhere more of it’s been [00:30:00] going into insurtech investment. And so it’s, um, It makes it a great market to be in. Um, and obviously a lot of that, that money raised, uh, in, in series I and B rounds, uh, goes towards building out teams and hiring talent. So that’s great for our industry. And it’s one of the reasons why we’re so busy right now, so that that’s, that’s fantastic. But yeah, I dunno. I don’t know w whether it’s sustainable, but if it sustainable, won’t come back again. But here we are, and it’s just got. Bigger and bigger. It’s incredible. Seb Kyall: Where we were when we started, when [unintelligible] started, every single entrepreneur was desperate for venture capitalists, to put money into their companies. And now fast forward 20 years, every venture capitalists is desperate for those companies. It’s got a hundred days to degrees and at some point. At some point, it has to slow down. But when you look at, when you look at the metrics, there’s no financial modeling, you can put on these publicly traded companies [00:31:00] as to the total prepare for market capitalization of them versus the revenue. At the moment, there is a bubble. My, you say that we thought there was a bubble in 2008. We thought it was a bubble in 2001. And. People seem to forget what happens and they continue on with it. And by the way, the markets continue to support it. You know, I looked at the companies, I’ve got a client, particularly right now. I won’t name them. They’ve got 600 million in revenue and they’re valued at 30 billion. What is the metric work on that? Louis Beryl: How do you work that through? You guys have been around for other, you know, quote unquote bubbles or market tops, you know, do you th you know, Do you think we’re in a bubble right now? What’s different about right now? Tony Willis: Thinking about all the sectors in the economy. Where would you rather be right now? Which wouldn’t be retail. Not physical retail. I don’t think one is just coming back, but it’s had a rough couple of years. Uh, property has been up and down. I mean, you look at the various sectors, but tech and [00:32:00] digital, particularly with what’s happen with the pandemic and the shift online, um, is without question the right sector to be in. And when you then layer on all the macro economic situation around, you know, of course the easing. Um, and governments buying back, uh, buying bonds and assets, um, low interest rates and the ultra low interest rate environment we’ve had now for virtually 10 years, since the 2008 crash. Um, all of those things point in one direction, asset prices going up. But, I mean, the reason why there’s a bubble, um, and what is it a bubble or is it just going to carry on? Who knows when they’ll stop? It is because it’s just so much money around the world and you’ve got the China and India, um, in, in, in the forest more and more wealth being created tickling in Asia. And that money’s going to go somewhere and you can’t stick it in the bank. You know, investing in great companies who get great returns, um, in, in the, probably the hottest sector in the world right now, putting their money in. So it’s just that, that wall of money that’s [00:33:00] out there to, to go into something and we’re in the right place at the right time for that. Matt C’de Baca: Yeah, look, I, my last point, uh, about, uh, the talent or, or executives never being more thoughtful or, or intelligent about the evaluation process of these companies. And I think the reality is, is that pre COVID, um, and given some of the lackluster IPO’s, uh, you know, I’m thinking of, we work here as you started to dissect, like, what is this really. Um, and investors and shareholders begin to say, well, wait a minute. Um, do we need more accountability in these investments and where these funding rounds going? I think we’ve now swung around the other way, which is to say within our, you know, core offering in North America, B2B enterprise software companies, I think you can’t follow funding rounds as a mechanism for success. Meaning just because somebody took a large series, B, C, D round it, the money doesn’t necessarily matter. You really got to dig in and understand, well, Uh, what is the value proposition of the product who are the leaders? And that’s where I think, again, we really shine is being able to help executives [00:34:00] perform a more thoughtful due diligence of Hey, with this money comes great value. Um, and here’s why this organization is going to go on to IPO or be acquired or be a profitable business. Tony Willis: I wouldn’t call it this the top of the market yet. I think when interest rates start going back above 2% amongst the, with the G seven countries and when the fed and the bank of England and EU stopped, because of easing, that’s when you’re going to call this top of the market. Louis Beryl: You know, th this is great. I have one final question for Tony and Seb, which is if you could go back to when you first started Renaissance and get, you know, give yourself some advice from what you know today, what would, what would be the advice you’d give to yourself? Tony Willis: I think it’s two things. What, well, from my perspective, I would think bigger and take more warrants rather than fees. Louis Beryl: I think Bill might’ve said the same thing right? Take equity in the companies. So what about you, Seb? Seb Kyall: Wow. [00:35:00] Okay. I’d mirrored that, but I will say the more conversations you have, the more you learn. And so I would push further and further into the people they used to interview and take more from it because, you know, I’m sure you’ve had this from ever approach. You have a speak to, if I knew, then why not? That’d be great. So the more information you can assimilate, the more scenarios you can, you can receive and look at the better it is. And Matt for you, you know, I know you’re not one of the founders. But as you look back at your recruiting career, what’s the thing that you’ve learned over the last 12, 13 years? You know, that, you know, really makes you, uh, a better advisor to companies now than you were a decade ago? Matt C’de Baca: Two things! One, not all dollars are earned at the same. I think earlier in my career, uh, and particularly as you’re, uh, moving up the ranks of client services, um, you’re eager to make a name for [00:36:00] yourself. And so anybody who will listen, uh, seems like a valuable prospect. And then, uh, when you get that, um, Client that isn’t well aligned for your value proposition or you didn’t conduct a proper diligence, uh, in terms of your ability to deliver value, um, how many client services, professionals or recruitment professionals. I’ve had to bang their head against the wall, uh, with a difficult client relationship, uh, that they could have seen coming if they were more thoughtful up front. So I think, you know, over the last five years, uh, where I’ve, and, and really kind of come into my own, um, is just really being thoughtful about, can I create value here and having the discipline to walk away from things and say, no, this isn’t a great opportunity. And then the second one would just be as an extension of that. Careers, uh, vocations. I mean, they’re built over time. Um, and you can’t go from, you know, day one month, one year one, [00:37:00] and expect it to be, you know, associate to chief executive officer. Um, and so, you know, again, I’ve probably banged my head against the wall at a time or two or, or a, uh, just a client and, or a colleague off a time or two, wanting it to happen all at once or happen overnight. Um, and you really gotta be patient. That isn’t to say, you do have to take risks and you do have to force opportunities sometimes, but by force of will and wanting it to happen sooner than it’s going to, um, that’s not a recipe for success. And so you have to, you have to go through the, uh, experience. Um, and with that experience comes wisdom and expertise. Um, and then, you know, a little bit of good luck to sprinkle over the top of that. Uh, you know, you can rise the ranks and become a managing partner of a global, uh, you know, executive search firm. Louis Beryl: Well this has been great. Thank you, Seb, Tony and Matt. It was great chatting and learning more about [00:38:00] RenaissanceLleadership. Thank you so much for the time and for joining me on The Startup Stack. Tony Willis: Thank you. Thank you very much. Matt C’de Baca: Cheers guys. Seb Kyall: It was a pleasure. Louis Beryl: Thanks again to Matt, Seb and Tony for joining me on today’s episode of The Startup Stack. To learn about Renaissance Leadership and the work they do, check out the link to their Rocketplace profile in the show notes. Announcer: The Startup Stack is written and edited by Hannah Levy produced by Leah Jackson.
49 minutes | May 4, 2021
EPISODE 27: Rounds on Rounds on Rounds (w/Bill Beer of Daversa Partners)
Follow The Startup Stack Apple PodcastsSpotifyGoogle PodcastsAmazon MusicStitcherSoundCloudPandora The VC market has lost its mind. Funding rounds are huge. Unicorns are many. There’s a lot of money, and a lot of people willing to spend it. It feels like we’re living through a singular moment. But is that true? There’ve been tech booms before — is this one really any different? Here to talk about it is Bill Beer, a veteran of Silicon Valley and an insider to its funding sprees going back to the early 2000s. As a partner at Daversa Partners, Bill has spent the past two decades working with newly-minted superstars & top VCs to build out their executive ranks. Bill & Louis talk about today’s funding boom and what’s driving it (hint: FOMO), as well as the ins & outs of executive recruiting and how to find a firm that matches your needs. “We got our start when the market tanked. We were hustling when everyone else was licking their wounds. And I think that push in 2003, 2004 & 2005 set us up really well…And when 2008 came and this market emerged, we were the emerging company.” –Bill Beer Highlights include: What makes today’s funding boom different from others in Silicon Valley? Are we in the middle of a tech bubble and is that a bad thing?What should startups be looking for in an executive recruiting partner?How do you know whether it’s time to take your executive search function in-house? This Week’s Guest Bill Beer Partner @ Daversa Partners Bill Beer is a partner at Daversa and leads the company’s San Francisco office. Since joining the company in 2003, he has helped build executive teams for leading companies including Google, PayPal, Postmates, Sonder, Twitter, Credit Karma, NextDoor, Reddit, AirBnB, Pinterest & Square. The Startup Stack’s Host Louis Beryl CEO, Co-Founder of Rocketplace Rocketplace is a curated marketplace of high quality professional service providers. A 3x founder, investor, and board member, Louis began his tech career as a partner at Andreessen Horowitz. When he’s not working or podcasting, Louis enjoys cooking for his family. His pizza, he’d like you to know, is incredible. Full Episode Transcript Bill Beer: [00:00:00] So a recruiter asks a job candidate. Why did you leave your last job? And the applicant replies, it was something my boss said. [Music starts] And the recruiter asked, what did he say? And the candidate says you’re fired! Louis Beryl: [00:00:15] [Laughing] Yeah. I was like, get a new job. That’s what he said. I hate when that happens. If you’re paying even a little bit of attention to the world of venture capital right now, you’ll know things are wild. I’m talking about sky high valuations, record sized fundraising rounds back to back to back fund raises. I mean, how many unicorns can one market bear? This moment feels different. Unprecedented. But is it? Here to talk me through it is Bill Beer, a long time veteran of the tech world and an old friend. As a partner at the executive recruiting from Daversa Partners, Bill’s spent the last two decades helping to build out executive teams for some of techs most talked about up-and-comers. Spoiler alert, most of them, aren’t really up and comers anymore. Bill gives me the inside scoop on what’s new, what’s not, and what’s next. So enough of me, let’s get to the interview. [Music ends] Bill Beer: [00:01:12] I have another joke, which is not even a joke. It’s so real. Um, and this is even about recruiting, but it’s just the joke of this, of the industry that we’re in right now. Dapper Labs. Louis Beryl: [00:01:22] Hmmm. I know those guys. CryptoKitties. Bill Beer: [00:01:25] Raised money three weeks ago at a two and a half billion dollar valuation news broke on Friday that they raised money again at a seven and a half billion dollar valuation. Two weeks later! Louis Beryl: [00:01:36] Oh no mine Lord. Oh my Lord. Bill Beer: [00:01:37] It’s the world we’re living in. Louis Beryl: [00:01:39] Yeah, I know. I know. It’s it’s like, uh, you know, every Monday morning when I wake up, ah, Clubhouse has done a new, a new fundraising round. Bill Beer: [00:01:47] Exactly right. Exactly right. Louis Beryl: [00:01:50] I know the world we’re living in, it’s amazing these days and you’re at the center of it. Right. And so, um, you and I met, uh, almost 10 years ago when I was at Andreessen Horowitz, we’ve known each other a long time. Um, you do a lot of executive recruiting and you’ve been in this industry actually approaching 30 years. You’ve been with the versa nearly 20. Okay. You joined when it was just 10 people. Um, now Daversa Partners has offices all over the globe, you know, seven global offices, 160, um, folks at the firm. Tell me about those early days when, you know, when you were, you know, what inspired you to, to join Daversa at the beginning? And what were some of the challenges you faced as a firm then? Bill Beer: [00:02:35] Well, I, I joined Daversa in the fall of 2003 and that was still very much in the thick of the post kind of bubble burst. Oh, one meltdown where, um, I mean, there wasn’t a lot of fun to be had. Uh, and we were just starting to re-emerge from kind of the malaise and re-emerge, but certainly not enjoy like the, the benefits of the growing market. So it was a tough time. And I had been with my old firm for 10 years and left in 2001 partly because so much of the industry just went into hiding. At that point, right? It was a really rough time. And certainly not to be in the, in the hiring business. Right. It was, there was not any work to be had. So I had left my old firm. I would had been consulting with a fairly big name executive search firm at the time called Christian & Timbers. Uh, I was just trying to figure out what I wanted to do and was in this kind of in-between time personally, as well for a bunch of reasons. But Christian & Timbers offered me a job and it was definitely a good firm. They had been one of the big firms in that, you know, early internet boom. They were kind of in the thick of it and they offered me a job and I was about to take the job. And one of the other guys there who I’d become friendly with pulled me aside, he was like, before you say yes to this job, you should come call this guy Paul Daversa. I met him. I, I made a huge mistake and I turned down an offer to join him. But having gotten to know you, I think you’d be much happier there. And I had been working recruiting for startups in, I moved to the Bay from New York in 1997, had been working with all of the, kind of in the thick of the high growth boom then, um, which has certainly made the current market kind of funny too. Um, with certain parallels and certain things that are very different. Um, but my friend said you should go call this guy, Paul. He does a lot more work with stuff that’s in your, up your alley. Like he’s in with some of the VCs and the startups. So I cold called Paul and I had this offer in hand and I’m like, Hey, you don’t know me, but this guy, Jamie Sanger, who actually turns out is one of my current partners today. Louis Beryl: [00:04:38] Oh man! Bill Beer: [00:04:38] Jamie said, I should call you. I’m about to take this other job, but maybe you and I should meet. And I went and had like two days of interviews, got an offer, immediately knew it was the right thing for me, for those reasons that Jamie had pointed out. And then funny enough, four months later, Jamie joined and we’ve been together here for 17 years. But if he hadn’t done that, I never would have ended up at Daversa. So it is a, I’m constantly fascinated by the randomness of how those kinds of events happen in life, partially because it’s my job. Right. And you see the, especially when somebody has like one of the huge wins or just how people get jobs it’s so often the, the randomness of which path or email you answer or call you take or friend you have or whatever it is. But my, I lived that very much myself. Louis Beryl: [00:05:22] Tell me about those early days. Yeah. What, what were, you know, what were you good at? You were at, you were, um, transitioning from contingent recruiting to exec recruiting and, and, you know, maybe, maybe before you, well, you know, while you’re telling us about those early days, also tell us a little bit more about, you know what Daversa does and what makes them special? Bill Beer: [00:05:41] Why don’t I, I, I start with that. Um, so Daversa is an executive search firm focused on primarily disruptive venture backed companies. And we help build the executive teams for, for those companies that is not a. Totally accurate statement in that a lot of companies get funded in different ways these days, and there’s even your occasional bootstrap startup. And certainly the venture community has diversified, um, in terms of who’s making the bets. But if there is a company where tech is either the centerpiece of their business, or they are tech enabled disruptor, and that’s changed a lot, by the way, over the last 15 years is who our clients are. But if you’re looking to build an executive team, whether it’s hire a CEO to run a young company, uh, or anybody who might report to a CEO, any of the functional leaders that make up an executive team, where are the one of the firms you would call, uh, and hire us to do what we call retained executive search, which means we kind of think of ourselves as a high-end consulting service, where we help you solve that one really important hiring challenge and oftentimes lead to many other hires for those same companies. I came from the world of contingency recruiting, which often is a leveling thing, right? We focus on VP and above hires. Now I was kind of director and below for the first 10 years of my career. Also in tech and retained executive search is a very high touch. Invest a ton of time in these few processes and solve really big, important problems. Contingency searches is different where you cover a lot of ground. You only get paid if you complete the project. Whereas I essentially get paid upfront to do my work, or we get paid for our time versus contingency. You get paid for the outcome. And what that allows us is to dedicate time and resources to those really important senior executive hires, such that we’re not in contingency. You throw a lot against the wall because you don’t know where you’re going to get paid. Um, in retained, it’s the exact opposite, you know, where you’re getting paid. So you focus all of your energy on a smaller number of things. Yeah. So when I first got to Daversa that the market was coming out of, it’s kind of a doldrums and still in 2003, we’re still in the doldrums. Right? We haven’t, I would say that there were you know, by 2005, 2006 we started to really feel like things were coming back around. And interestingly enough, the bull run that we’re on as a firm is sort of aligned with where the, the tech industry isn’t. It was kind of fall of 2008 was really the, the breakout, oddly enough, in the middle of the last global macro economic crisis of its kind or financial crisis. Um, and that’s when we really broke out now. What’s great about that timeline. If you think about it 2003 Daversa didn’t, we had known, we weren’t even called Daversa then. We had a terrible, we were called Resource Systems Group. I mean, just the sh**tiest, the sh**tiest name. Louis Beryl: [00:08:34] Who would hire them?. Bill Beer: [00:08:34] Our website looked like it was built in 1978. Not even, not even 2003. Louis Beryl: [00:08:40] Oh my God. I would never hire this firm. It sounds terrible. Bill Beer: [00:08:44] It’s amazing. Yes, it was terrible. Um, but we were scrappy. We were hungry and what we were doing, and this is just the benefit of the when and the how is, we were, Daversa got it stride after the bubble burst. So Daversa my old firm, which I’d been at for 10 years and it was a great firm and had built a really good firm, actually founded in spun out hotjobs.com. These were good entrepreneurs and the, in the world of recruiting and search. But when a lot of people got really beat up in 2001, so by 2003, a lot of those people were still licking their wounds. Daversa didn’t really have any brand at all in 2000. They had nothing to lose in 2001. So it was like, Oh boy, we might’ve like made our big bet to start a firm when the world wasn’t ready for it. But we were hustling when everyone else was kind of. Licking their wounds. And I think that push 2004, 2005 to try to build a really substantial company and our effort, our aggressiveness getting on planes, meeting everybody, going down, Sand Hill Road up and down, up and down, up and down meeting everybody. We could set ourselves up really well so that when the market picked up in 2005, 2006 our brand was starting to get established. And when, when 2008 came we were, you know, you could still go higher Heidrick and Struggles, Spencer Stewart, you know, those firms. But when this market emerged, we were the emerging company. And so that lucky timing of coming into our stride when, when the world picked up, um, in a different way. So we were poised for that at the time. So much executive recruiting is, you know, recruiting is the marketplace of sorts. Right? You got to get the. You know, the clients that are looking to hire the executives, but you also have to be building out that network. Louis Beryl: [00:10:34] So, you know, tell me, tell me, how did you, how did you think through that? I mean, ultimately, what do you think, you know, makes a good executive recruiter. Bill Beer: [00:10:43] Well, there’s, there’s no one simple answer for it. Cause there’s a lot of different styles of people I’ve seen be very good at this job, you know, in some ways it’s kind of classic sales traits, right? Even at the highest end of executive search, if you are a hustler and work ethic, And, um, by repeating the process, if you work on a few good searches, you get to meet a ton of great candidates. It’s a bit of a chicken or an egg theory. It helps to have a great client, which gives you access to great candidates. Even if you’re a firm with no brand name, if you are doing the, you know, the CRO search for Stripe right now, and you are an underdog company that knew nobody knew of you’re going to get audience with every good executive and industry by nature of that. ROCKETPLACE AD [00:11:27] Louis Beryl: [00:11:27] [Music start] [Sound of phone ringing] Hello? [Sounds of rocket ship] Ben Hutchinson: [00:11:33] Louis? Louis Beryl: [00:11:35] Hey, Ben. Sorry. It’s a little loud. Ben Hutchinson: [00:11:44] Where are you at? Louis Beryl: [00:11:45] I’m test driving rocket ships. Ben Hutchinson: [00:11:47] You’re WHAT? [In an upset voice] Louis Beryl: [00:11:49] Rocket ships for the Rocketplace ad? Excuse me — what does this button do? [Sounds of robot walking over] [Robot voice responding]. Oh don’t touch it. [Sound of hand being slapped]. Okay. Ben Hutchinson: [00:12:02] Louis we talked about this. Louis Beryl: [00:12:03] It’s branding Ben trust me. Hey, does the ship have windshield wipers? [Sounds of robot walking over] [Robot voice responding] [Sound of hand being slapped]. Ben Hutchinson: [00:12:11] I told you, I think we should just explain what Rocketplace. It is how we use intelligence software to pair businesses with world-class burns in everything from finance and accounting to marketing and branding, recruiting, software development, domain name, buying, product design, and more. Louis Beryl: [00:12:27] I guess we did talk about that. Ben Hutchinson: [00:12:28] Yeah! Louis Beryl: [00:12:28] So no rocket ships then? [In a sad voice] Ben Hutchinson: [00:12:31] Um no! Louis Beryl: [00:12:32] You sure? Ben Hutchinson: [00:12:35] Come home, bud. Louis Beryl: [00:12:37] Okay. Excuse me. [Sound of seat belt unbuckling] Actually, I have to go. [Sounds of robot walking over] How do I leave? [Robot voice responding] Oh I can’t leave? [Robot voice “Shields on”] Wait why is the floor rumbling? [Sounds of rocket ship rumbling getting louder and taking off]. Ben Hutchinson: [00:12:56] Rocketplace. Find your firms. Grow your business. Louis Beryl: [00:13:00] Ben? Ben? I don’t know if I’m going to make it to the office today. And did you, did you have a couple, you know, you talked about this breakout of like 2005 to 2008. Were there a couple of key companies that you worked with that like, you know, it really helped move us forward? Bill Beer: [00:13:22] It’s definitely starting in 2008. Yes. Um, and more so, because it’s so much part of the narrative that I talk about now of that era. Um, when I think about like the 2004, 2005, or 2006 timeline, it’s funny, it’s like, That that to me represents the heavy lifting to be in position to like, go get it in 2008. But for us, you know, for me, like one of my breakout clients, which if you put yourself back in Oh, eight timeline was Zynga and I got in with Zynga as they were about to go for it. Right. And, and Mark Pincus was very good to me. Um, I had a friend who was a co-founder there, Andrew Trader, if we’ve ever known AT who’s just a great guy. And today continues to be a great partner to Daversa. Now at Bullpen Capital. But, um, Zynga was that breakout because up until then, you know, Our aspirations we were kept doing good work and you build your brand and you get a reputation. And I’d been doing a lot of work with Kleiner Perkins at the time. So while no one company stands out, Kleiner had kind of given me in that era, like was a breakout relationship. And of course, you know, top firm at that time, which gives you access to a lot of companies. Um, but for me, it was Zynga. And at the same time that we were working with Zynga, there was kind of an era of companies Groupon, Zynga, Twitter, Guilt Group in New York, One Kings Lane. And like a lot of the companies that were making the market, some of which ended up as gigantic companies, some of which ended up having rocket ship growth, but then like, you know, the market is hard. It’s hard to sustain, but that era of companies is where we went from. Good scrappy firms starting to build a brand name to. Oh, look at these. We didn’t call them unicorns back then. But if we had a name for that group of breakout companies at the time we were one of the firms starting to get all of those looks. Um, and of course, you know, my focus is heavily on the consumer side of the fence. Um, but you know, the same was happening in that kind of the B2B landscape. And we were starting to build those companies as well, even though I mentioned a lot of consumer brands there. So that’s what stands out to me. When I think about where we are today, it was that moment having hustled really like significantly to be in position to get that group of clients, which then just. You know, it, it just snowballed in a good way downhill and they accumulated and there were more of them and so on and so on. Louis Beryl: [00:15:41] And, you know, as you think about yourself, you know, developing as a better consultant to startups and, you know, developing your craft, you know, Do you have some like painful mistakes you’ve made along the way and lessons you’ve learned? Bill Beer: [00:15:56] Well, I think look, the first thing I would say when I think about our craft and I didn’t fully answer your question before about like what makes a great head hunter, um, we deal in a world that’s, that’s somewhat similar to venture, which is often why the venture capital firms are a great source of leads they introduced. Do they invest and then introduce us to the founder because the founder. Inevitably when you raised a new round off and that will lead to a lot of hiring. Yeah. So one of the things that’s critical for what we do, especially at the level where my clients are, tend to be the founder CEOs of, of startups. And I’ve met a thousand of them, hundreds, thousands. I mean, I’ve probably worked on almost a thousand executive searches in all my time at diversa and I’ve met so many more entrepreneurs since then. So the first thing I would say is like how to partner with a founder. Is incredibly important. Now, one of the things that I think Daversa has done well is that we operate with the intensity and the urgency, um, that both pays respect to the, the founder, the stress of being a founder CEO, especially in that almost seems to have grown with the market. Uh, over the last handful of years, the stakes just seem to be getting higher and the intensity, um, gets, gets deeper for these entrepreneurs, but they’re still young, many times very inexperienced. So I think the first thing that I think about in the evolution of myself, but also just watching this industry as being able to partner with that group of people to build trust, to become. Like a trusted advisor to have, um, you can’t just do this job well, if what you are is a sourcer and an introducer of candidates, you have to be an advisor on what it takes to make key executive hires, to build a team to think more broadly. And so learning to work. You know those cycles, which only can be gained over time. Right? So this is one of those jobs, like many but repetition and, and, and getting more, you know, shots at it, teach you the things. Cause it’s all like, well, I’ve never seen this before. I’ve never seen this before. And I have a. Whole career. I’ve never seen that one before, but partnering with the entrepreneurs, I would say is the difference between being a good executive search provider and a great one. Um, and part of that comes from truly understanding the pressure, appreciating the lack of experience. Many times I work with a founder they’ve never hired a senior executive from anywhere. And even if they have a good track record of doing it, I’ve done it a lot more times than they have. And, um, it was that. Appreciation understanding kind of fluency in entrepreneur that I think was probably the most, the steepest learning curve, either diverse as anybody we hired even eight years ago, seven years ago, our database is enormous. We know everybody, we have access to all the people that is not trivial, meaningful relationships. Are, are still much more significant than a database, but the people are out there. And if you’re working with a good company, you’re going to get access to those people, but it’s how do you affect the outcomes? And then the second part is how do you like effect? We’re talking very senior executives here. There was a article, a little blurb from the information that I think came out yesterday about talent leaving Facebook and Google and going to. Younger companies, right? And this case was Instacart, DoorDash, a few others. But you know, we had recruited three or four of the people of this five or six they were talking about in the article. But when you’re recruiting senior execs from companies where, you know, one of the things we can talk about is things like the amount of money people are making out of Facebook or Google, or, you know, the, the wealth that gets created and what people are leaving behind. If they leave another good company. It takes a lot of years of practice to be able to influence or partner in the decision-making that a very senior exec has. Um, if they’re faced with stay at, you know, big five company making $10 million a year or choose the job that could make you a hundred million dollars a year or a hundred million dollars or more. And the fact that those are the numbers is one of the craziest changes I’ve seen in this industry. You know, I feel like. A sports agent more than before. Louis Beryl: [00:20:03] I want to come back to that. Yeah. Oh, you talk executives into leaving such lucrative positions, but maybe before that, you know, you were just talking about affecting the outcome of the search, you know, how it’s more than just making into sourcing and making introductions. And so maybe let’s take a moment for that young entrepreneur out there. Yep. What does a good hiring process look like of a senior executive from your experience? Bill Beer: [00:20:29] It sounds obvious. But identifying the need is like creating the spec. So when we kick off a project, all of the work we do is inbound generated. So we don’t make sales calls. A venture firm or an entrepreneur or somebody will call us and say, “Hey, we need to hire somebody.” So inherently, that means they’ve identified that they have a need. We’re not, we’re not out scouring the market telling people, “Oh no, no, you have to change your org chart.” You need to do this. They’re determining that there’s a need, but determining what that need is, is the first thing and getting alignment on who you need for this company in this job is the next. What are the core criteria that will make somebody great at this job? Focus in on what’s relevant to what you’re trying to solve for. So for a young company, seed or Series A, you’re trying to solve for the next 12 to 24 months. And there is an urgency about the next 4, 8 or 10 quarters that will define the success or failure of a hire. If you are a public company, right…take some of the ones that have recently gone public. You might be thinking about 8 to 16 quarters, really thinking of a longer-term plan. So where you are in your life cycle will determine what are you really trying to solve for here. Um, So really dealing with alignment on, what is the spec? What is the criteria? And do we all agree on this? Whoever the stakeholders are, right? And that’s probably the most important thing. Executive search and executive hiring is not a democracy. But who are the vote getters? And what are the things that are important to that group and understanding how you can get everybody aligned. You can change your thinking. You can learn through an executive hiring process, but you have to have alignment. And then it’s about focus and execution. If it’s not a CEO search, then the founder / CEO has to make sure…It’s a big time suck to do an executive search. You meet a lot of people… And how long does a good executive search take? A good executive search is about 90 to 100 days. Now that might sound long to some people and sometimes speed is celebrated, which can be… Speed is only great if you’ve got the right person, right? A little time is okay. You want to meet a series of candidates. We want to learn about the market. You want to test. You know, there’s such a thing as the over-hire, meaning you’ve got to hire the amazing five-star candidate, but that’s only great if that five star candidate is excited about your stage and really focused on this and not gonna check out three months later. So just because something looks great, you want to vet it, you want to do deep referencing. Back-channeling is kind of the dirty secret of Silicon Valley. Everybody provides references, but nothing gets done in this industry without confidentially and secretly calling people and asking about candidates. And that’s just how this goes. But the proper level of diligence is usually not achieved in 30 days, even though that might be great from an efficiency standpoint, or because you’re almost always behind the eight ball when you started a project. Meaning, by the time a company recognizes the need to hire an executive from the outside, usually they’re too far behind. Your old friends at Andreessen did a great job of, in theory, trying to make sure you were always ahead of that. And it it’s very hard in practice. But we’re always operating from behind and speed is tempting, but being thorough is what it’s really all about. And it’s hard to do a thorough search in 30 or 40 days. Louis Beryl: [00:24:17] From the candidate’s perspective, that individual executive who is the one who’s going to get hired. What does it feel like for them? How many meetings with a company is best practice? Bill Beer: [00:24:28] That can vary. There’s definitely a too much approach. Where you have everybody under the sun participating in an interview process is not healthy. It gets to be repetitive and you do want to map out. So when we talk about what is a good search, you want to map out what a great process would look like. And I would say that…well, here are the things that we decide: What is really important to the candidates? Let’s say, here are these six steps to get this job: meet the CEO, meet a few of the team members, meet a board member. Okay, we’re ready! We think this is our person. That’s great. But the key thing is to go to the candidate that you want to hire and say, have you learned everything you need to make a decision or is your due diligence complete? What else do you need to complete your process? So there’s sort of two phases when you’re doing it right. Ideally an efficient process is anywhere between five and eight meetings, although in that five or eight participants in a process, you might have five meetings between CEO and candidate. Right? And there’s a lot to be said for that for a variety of different reasons that I could go into. But the number of participants is maybe somewhere in that five to eight range. Bt if the candidate comes back at the end of a process, look, I’m really excited, but here’s the things that I want to learn. Well, you may introduce other team members. They want to dive deeper on product roadmap. They want to really get into some numbers with the CFO and that person’s team. They want to understand the cap table better. And maybe you bring in a board member and the CFO to tackle that conversation. And that’s the stuff that is highly curated based on different roles, different individuals. Different asks and you’ll jump through different hoops depending upon whether somebody is a fine candidate that you’re excited to hire, or like a game-changer that you truly think could add zeros to the end. And if your return is good then… yeah. You’ll jump through a lot of hoops for that candidate. Yes, you will. And it’s very…especially in the competitive nature of the market we’re in, people will go through a lot of hoops. The other problem though that we’re seeing is the market right now, especially in the spring of 2021, is at a frenzy. Unlike any time I’ve seen. The only thing that mirrors it is 1999 / 2000. Just from the kind of pure frenzy and pace and wildness. It’s a very different market, but there are traits that are similar. And what we have is that those companies are so desperate. They’re so aware of competition that they’re speeding up their processes, which isn’t super healthy, right? Two interviews and offer! Even if the candidates not ready. And then throwing crazy numbers that people to try to offset. And why do you think that’s going on right now? Why are things in such a frenzy? Well, there’s I think of a handful of things. I mean, we certainly could look at, our valuation bubbly nature that we’re in. But there’s just a pace in this market of get-it-while-the-getting-is-good. And we are certainly in that market right now where there’s a lot of capital available. A lot of companies are moving forward aggressively. There is a time to pounce that is very real. And so we went from last March or April, nobody knowing how to spend their money or what the future looked, like to everybody no in “let’s go all in right now mode.” Which applies also to the funding markets, which are over funding these companies in many ways. But that’s competition. There’s a lot of really good companies. Everybody is aware of that. I don’t think anybody sits there and says, we’re the only good company out there, or this candidate is crazy if they don’t come to our company. The general awareness of the competitive landscape is…I can’t complain about everybody being on board. Sometimes people look at it themselves in a vacuum as a founder or an investor in a certain company. And they’re like, “We’re are the best! Everybody should want to beg to work here.” That is not real in this market. Everybody seems to be acutely aware of the competitive nature of the moment. Whether it’s startups, venture studios, going all the way to the bottom. Venture studios and incubators are fashionable. Again, tons of great seed and Series A companies are getting more funding than ever before. A great stack of mid-stage companies. The late stage companies, the young public, the behemoths…I mean, we’ve got more 50 to 100 billion dollar companies than we’ve ever seen. We’re going to have 20 trillion dollar companies at some point, pick your poison. It’s everywhere. So everybody knows what the competition is. And then I do think there’s events… the SPACS are rushing people. I’d say SPACs have sped up processes that people are trying to measure against, especially in our world of a lot of well-funded startups who are looking at their opportunities in the landscape. And so I think some of the events of the current market are speeding people up even further because, “Oh, we’re going to be a public company in four months and we better get our CFO in place because if we don’t that would really not go well.” “If we try to be a public company without a public company CFO…” or, you know, fill in the blank. And actually that’s a good question. Do you have certain areas — CFO as an example, or head of sales — that you and Daversa specialize in? Or are you guys just across the board? So executive search is a highly specialized field. And many of our competitors are either boutique firms that specialize in an area or group of areas — product and engineering, finance, and ops, revenue, orientation. So we compete with a lot of companies who are very focused on their skill vertical. And then there are a lot of companies where everybody is organized by specialty — product, finance, revenue — whatever it might be. We are not organized that way. So I focus on building executive teams for consumer brands. A lot of my clients I’ve done anywhere between five and 10 executive searches for over a bunch of years. Part of our value prop is if we do this well, we could have a long partnership together. And that’s something that we feel really strongly about. I’d say more than half of my projects at any given time are follow-on searches from existing clients. That’s not unique to us, but we are one of the kind of old school firms in that way that we’ve resisted specialization in a narrow way. Although we do as many engineering searches as the engineering specialist firm, we do as many finance searches as the finance specialist firm too. We just have more people who are good at each one of those functions is how I’d frame it. SUBSCRIBE AD [00:30:53] Louis Beryl: [00:30:53] Hey, do you like our show? I do too. If you want to support The Startup Stack, the best way to do that is by subscribing and rating us on Apple podcasts or wherever you listen. Also send dad jokes, or if you have them, actual good jokes to the email@example.com. Feel free to send us feedback there too. It does make me think though, of a different question, which might be: Okay if I’m going to build a relationship with a retained search firm because I’m going to build out my entire executive team. Shouldn’t I just bring this in house? Shouldn’t I have a recruiter on staff that I work with? It’s a great question. So one, that is happening. But the two aren’t mutually exclusive of each other. A lot of venture firms brought in the executive talent function, but it wasn’t to do all the searches. It was to help shepherd a process that is more typical now where a company hits a certain escape velocity. For example, one of our team members just went over to one of our clients to be their first ever head of executive talent. This was at Plaid, great company. They’d just unwound an acquisition, an M&A opportunity they had. And now they’re a standalone company. Just got big funding. Pretty late stage, multiple billions in valuation. And that’s the first time they’re considering that function. So first off, not too many small companies would consider this as a full-time role. The head of exec talent internally, that is. Most of our clients have a head of recruiting, right? That tends to be for the bulk of employees you need to hire across the board. And executive search is still very specialized. So you hit a certain amount of scale, and you’re going to bring this in internally, but those are our clients too, right? There will be certain roles… You know, I could think of many clients — Chime has been an awesome client of mine recently — and Chime has a great internal executive talent function, but they turned to Daversa when the urgency is so high, right? And we could spend more people hours on the search than any team could internally. The reach is different, where everybody we’re calling is truly gainfully employed. And it’s going to take a specialist in this craft to really pry that person, you know, the right candidate loose. Or the other scenario is: Hey, we’ve got 30 needs at the director level and above, you know, we need Daversa’s help on two or three of them, right? That’s the most likely outcome. But that head of exec talent / executive search role internally is becoming a universally true thing, just like it did in venture, starting with,a handful of firms — Sequoia and Kleiner early on — and then it branched out. And now everybody has that function. I would expect most companies at a certain size to have a true head of exec talent function internally. That will still not eliminate the need for search firms on really critical or hard to fill roles. Let’s talk about that for a second. Because you mentioned before…these folks are enormous companies. They’re making so much money. It’s almost hard to believe. How do you ever recruit these folks out of these giant companies? Bill Beer: [00:34:13] It’s part of the nuts and bolts of our industry. I mean, this is how we’ve, how it’s gone forever. You could trace this back, the seeds of entrepreneurial-ism to a group of successful companies, that beget entrepreneurs that found companies that beget other entrepreneurs. I mean, that is the way it goes. I just think that’s the Darwinism of our industry is that people will continue to bet on whatever the next thing is and want to be a part of that. And I don’t know if that is exactly the same in other industries, right? Financial services for a long time was, you know, you could start a new company, hang, a new shingle, but the world was dominated by a series of large companies. I think this industry is built on this premise of entrepreneurial-ism. And that will never change. Right? I don’t…I truly believe that will never change. So I think it’s part of the DNA of a lot of people in this industry. Not all! Many people love the fact that we have these great large companies that pay very well. That’s an amazing thing. That was investment banking when I was coming out of college in ’93. If you wanted to make your millions of dollars a year, you had industries where you would do that. And that’s now tech and I think that’s awesome. So there’s this entrepreneurial spirit is one. The other part of it is that if you’ve been a part of Google, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft, fill in the blank, right? Whatever it is. Or you were at a company like an Airbnb or a Coinbase. Coinbase minted a lot of new millionaires, right? And you can help build Coinbase over the next bunch of years. But those people went to work with for Coinbase because they wanted to build something amazing and new. Not all those people want to work for Coinbase, the a 100 billion going to trillion dollar public company, right? Part of the thrill was the ride to get there. And it’s a different skillset to be great when a company hits 3,000, 5,000, 50,000 employees. So a lot of the people that build these things up are actually meant to do another thing. They don’t want to be a part of a mammoth company. And the other part is that if you make X million dollars a year at one of these great companies, or you had a wealth creation event by picking a startup that had a great outcome, you can afford to take more risk. And I think there’s more people who would rather try to go figure out. How to have a home run grand slam mammoth event, as opposed to the annuity of a very high paying big company job. Yeah. And that is peak in April 2021. We’re at peak FOMO. We are at peak…who was it? I was reading somebody’s tweets the other day that “10 billion is the new 1 billion, 100 billion is the new 10 billion” in terms of what outcomes people are striving for. But the wealth creation that comes with that is a very different thing in this market. So I think when you’re founding a company today, the unicorn isn’t even a thing anymore. Like it’s like the name they’re like… Louis Beryl: [00:37:06] They’re like seed rounds. Seed rounds. Seed unicorns, honestly. You know, a thing I always like to ask is, what’s the new trend? And we’ve obviously been living through COVID for all this time, people are getting vaccinated, we’re pulling out of it. But it’s now April 2021. Is this peak FOMO? Is this the new trend versus where we were in 2020? Bill Beer: [00:37:30] I certainly think there’s a big aspect of that. But if you think about it…the peak FOMO…the other way to frame that would be 10 billion is the new 1 billion, right? And 100 billion is in play for a lot of people now. And so, yeah. FOMO gets created because of those realities, but the size and scale of the companies…there were some great articles that went around this weekend about Tiger Management and Cotu and what the hedge / hedge of venture funds are. We have to come up with a name for the hedge funds that are doing this growth venture. Now. But like how that’s changing the size of the round, the valuations, the pace of it, like the game is changing and that’s look, there’s a whole economic argument. The inflation’s coming, the bond prices are up. Like the low interest is gone. So does this change anything? Maybe. But I think what’s here is this insatiable public appetite to be trading these tech stocks. Let me just go look at this NFT market as the next thing of like, who knows what’s going to happen, but I just think more and more people don’t want to miss out. They are making bigger investments in seed rounds because they don’t want to miss out. The same applies to the executives. They don’t want to miss out, except you can join a company once it’s in that billion to ten — you don’t have to join when it’s a seed stage to win. You could wait until it becomes a very attractive later-stage private company. And if you pick right. There is a massive opportunity there, but it’s FOMO. It’s the new economy that we’re living in. The number of great companies and still so many new categories. So I think there is a hunger for it, combined with the fact that… I mean, look, you’re seeing people leave Stripe right now. Stripe is an example. It hasn’t even had their outcome yet. Of course, they’re secondary markets where you can liquidate. But you hit your five years at Stripe. They’re not even waiting for Stripe to become Facebook or, you know, whatever else Stripe might become. People are leaving before that event happens. And Stripe is a company with great retention. You know, there’s a lot of revolving doors in Silicon Valley, even for some of our best companies. A lot of turnover is a natural part of this injury. Stripe didn’t have that, but even now people are leaving. Like “I got that. I got my equity. I got my money. Now I’m going to go do it again.” And they haven’t even finished the game yet! They haven’t finished being seen the outcome. It’s just, it’s a fascinating time. The flip side of it also is so many people have made so much money that the urgency to make a decision is either you’re sitting on these great annual packages at the big companies, or you’ve just been a part of a fantastic exit. Our clients all have urgency. Go, go, go. Now. Now. Now. We talked about the pace at which they’re moving. The candidates have the exact opposite urgency, and they’re trying to wait for the perfect chance to alleviate their FOMO because I’m picking the winner, but I don’t have to do it tomorrow. I’m just going to wait until my 50 to 100 million dollar opportunity presents itself. So it’s a fascinating combination there too, of desire but no urgency for the executives because it seems like it’s never ending. Louis Beryl: [00:40:45] Totally makes sense. You know, another big topic that always is coming up in recruiting is diversity. As you think about building teams, you must deal with this all the time. Diversity and inclusion. And so how are you advising teams around building diverse teams, especially in this market where it’s so competitive? Bill Beer: [00:41:03] Yes. So I’d say a couple of things. One, it’s a topic on almost every one of our searches right now, and we work with private companies. So they’re bound a little differently by how a public company has governance on certain topics or private companies. I’ll be privy to some very frank conversations between myself and a CEO, a board of directors, whatever it might be, about diversity goals. We are doing a lot of executive searches where the candidate pool is a hundred percent diverse by requirement. So that’s, you know, that is very new. I would say gender diversity has been the big topic for probably five years now. And now we have the URM BIPOC community becoming an even bigger priority. So this is a very real part… What we try to talk about is the following. There’s a couple of different scenarios. They’ve tried to build their business in a certain way, which is very inclusive diversity as a core principle. And they’ve been committed to that. And it’s about continuing that commitment. But maybe their, their team is more gender diverse than it is color diverse. And they’re trying to really take that very seriously. There’s a lot of other companies that pick their heads up in tech and realize that they’re incredibly one dimensional in terms of their employee base. And they’re like: Oh my, we have to fix this immediately. Right? And they’re genuine about it. And they didn’t intentionally end up single tracked of, you know, all white men. Or I’ve had clients where it was all Asian men on the executive team. And they’re like, we can’t hire that person again. Right. And so there’s a different dynamic, but I mean, there’s a longer conversation. Is it bias? Is it just, you hire each individual person and you pick your head up and you’re like, “Oh, I see. Is that unconscious bias or is that just how this happened?” But they want to fix that. There’s a whole other group of companies that are like, “Oh shit we have bad culture. We’re getting a bad rep. We desperately need to make a hire.” Just, you know, let’s get that one person in here. That’ll fix it for us! Which is crazy to think about that being the logic. But that is a reality. So the challenge is this, let’s say you’re a startup company, right? And you’re committed to diversity, but you need to do make a certain hire. And you get only a couple of shots at building your company at each phase and doing it right. And the wrong hire can set you back tremendously. If you have this awesome white male executive that you can hire for a job where you are certain that’s the perfect candidate, but you also are really committed to diversity, but you’re a young company that’s very fragile. Right. I see the deliberation of “well, shoot, what is right for us?” Like you want to build the company the right way, which is diverse over time. In all your different aspects as a diverse company. I think many do, and I truly believe this, that divesity makes for a healthier company and different viewpoints will create more balance. But what if you’re in that moment where you think: we’ll, let’s just make this hire now. The white male and we’ll get that next one the next time. Cause we really want to do it. That’s a very real thing to consider because you do have this moment in time where if we don’t do this right, right now, we might not have a next time. But then you pick your head up and you realize “oh, we’ve had a whole bunch of we’ll get it next times.’ And we have no diversity on our team. It’s uh, you know, the public companies are, may have the ability to be much more patient and rigorous with this. And that is an advantage. Louis Beryl: [00:44:25] Why? Why are they able to be more patient? Bill Beer: [00:44:27] Because if it’s a certain size public company, it’s not that making that one hire is less critical, but their company is functioning without that hire. You know, if you’ve done, if you’ve built your team correctly, you’ve got layers. You might have a lieutenant. That’s the interim in a capacity. Startups don’t have that. I mean, there’s a whole other dialogue about… Louis Beryl: [00:44:45] So you’re kind of just saying there’s not enough depth on the team and public companies have… Bill Beer: [00:44:50] Right! Startups don’t have a bench. There’s no concept of succession planning at a young company, which why we’re so busy. Right? You can’t afford to have your like three layers of what-ifs and “if we promote this person.” I mean, that’s the last thing that small companies get, right? Career development & succession planning, because you don’t have the head count and everybody’s like: focus on that next quarter. You’re not developing skills. There’s an inflection point. When your company turns into a certain size company where you start thinking longer term, that’s why I go back to my point earlier. You hire for right now at the startups, but if you’re hiring for right now, then how do you factor diversity into that? If right now is actually a real thing, it’s a very complex topic, but it is almost a hundred percent pervasive on every search we’re doing right now. Last question for you, if you Louis Beryl: [00:45:39] You’ve been in the recruiting industry for coming up 30 years… Bill Beer: [00:45:43] When you say that it makes me feel so old. God. Louis Beryl: [00:45:48] But you’ve got tremendous perspective. You’ve learned a lot of lessons. If you could give yourself a piece of advice, if you could go back in time to maybe 2003, when you first joined…oh, I forget what it was called… Bill Beer: [00:46:01] The Resource Systems Group. Louis Beryl: [00:46:06] Exactly! If you could go back in time to when you joined the resource systems group, what would be the advice you gave to yoursefl? Bill Beer: [00:46:13] Such a great question. I mean, one is: I would take equity in every company I’ve ever worked with. And then we wouldn’t be talking! And there are firms in our industry that have done that, but our model, we have a different approach. But of course now, you know, I have lot of moments of the FOMO of what could have, should have been. But if I had a crystal ball, if I had known then that where this industry was going. You know, I think I would have been…There’s such a massive opportunity in the technology industry, whatever your role is, right? Engineer, marketer, head hunter, serving these companies. We are still in the early innings of what this is what this is all about. Like tech is not an industry and every industry is tech now. And yeah, but I didn’t, I wouldn’t say I knew that in 2003 Andreessen hadn’t coined the “software’s eating the world” thing yet. If I had only known and I gave it my all… We’ve given it our all this whole time. But if you had this visibility of being at the early days of what was happening and the approach you could have taken to building this. Because I feel like we’ve helped build it from a — certainly from a people standpoint — our fingerprints are so all over some of the most impactful companies this industry has had. And I still feel like God, it could have been so much more. So you know, I’d say if you’re getting into this industry now, treat 2021 as if it’s 2003. Because you know, that is sort of what it is, right? And the opportunity in this industry, again — whether you’re in product and finance, if you’re an administrative assistant in this industry — it doesn’t matter. Like you were in the early days of this continued industrial revolution that we’re a part of. And so find your spot in it and chase it incredibly hard if that’s what your motivation is, because the opportunity is just ridiculous. So… Louis Beryl: [00:48:07] I think that’s awesome, Bill. You’re giving me FOMO right now! Thank you for joining us today.. It was a really great having you on The Startup Stack. Thank you. Bill Beer: [00:48:18] Thanks Louis. I loved it. Louis Beryl: [00:48:20] For more on our conversation toda visitt www.rOcketplace.com/podcast. We upload a new episode every week. So if you haven’t yet, make sure to subscribe to The Startup Stack in Apple podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen. Thanks again for joining us. See you next week. Leah Jackson: [00:48:39] The Startup Stack is written and edited by Hannah Levy and produced by Leah Jackson.
38 minutes | Apr 27, 2021
EPISODE 26: The Art of Fundraising (w/ Zacht Studios founder Zach Grosser)
Follow The Startup Stack Apple PodcastsSpotifyGoogle PodcastsAmazon MusicStitcherSoundCloudPandora When you’re a startup, asking for money is complicated. So complicated that in recent years a cottage industry has formed with the specific purpose of helping companies go out for rounds. Here to tell us about it is Zach Grosser, the founder & managing director of Zacht Studios, a presentation design agency that’s worked with clients like Nextdoor, Square, Adobe and Dropbox, among others. Zach and his team help companies prepare for the most important (and oftentimes, most secretive) presentation they’ll ever give. Today we shine some daylight on the process, answering questions like: How big should the font on your fundraising deck be? What do investors want to hear in 2021? How has the pandemic changed the way companies fundraise? Join us in finding the answers to these (and more) in this week’s episode. “I think that with the smaller companies — or if it’s individual VCs and angels — the struggle is always the time constraint. It’s always like, I need this thing done yesterday that we really don’t have time for.” –Zach Grosser Highlights include: What is a presentation design studio? Are most presentation designers in-house? How do you hire a presentation designer? How has COVID changed the way startups go out for fundraising rounds? What is it like running a global business during BREXIT? This Week’s Guest Zach Grosser Founder & Managing Director @ Zacht Studios Zach Grosser is the Founder and Managing Director of Zacht Studios. Based in Amsterdam, he wanted to blend his coveted knowledge of VC priorities and design to build best-in-class services in the medium of presentations, now known as Zacht Studios. The Startup Stack’s Host Louis Beryl CEO, Co-Founder of Rocketplace Rocketplace is a curated marketplace of high quality professional service providers. A 3x founder, investor, and board member, Louis began his tech career as a partner at Andreessen Horowitz. When he’s not working or podcasting, Louis enjoys cooking for his family. His pizza, he’d like you to know, is incredible. Full Episode Transcript [00:00:00] Why did the PowerPoint presenter cross the road? Louis Beryl: I don’t know. Zach Grosser: To get to the other slide. Louis Beryl: [Laughing] As soon as I said, I don’t know. It’s like, I know this one. I know this one. Zach Grosser: I have another one for you. What’s black and white and red all over? [Pause] My balance sheet. Louis Beryl: [Laughing] Zach Grosser didn’t set out to be the person startup turn to, to help them raise money. He worked at the Apple Store training people on Keynote. That Landed him at Square where he became their first in-house presentation designer. And from there, his reputation grew and grew. Zack’s industry, presentation design has become one of the most important parts of the fundraising process in recent years. SpaceX, NextDoor, Square, Figma and even myself, we’ve all hired Zach. It’s been a weird year for fundraising in a bunch of ways. Zach’s had a front row ticket to all the industries changes. All of this and much more in today’s interview. Let’s get into it. [00:01:00] Yeah. I’m really excited about today’s conversation. So, you know, maybe, maybe just to start, tell us, uh, tell us a little bit about Zacht Studios. Zach Grosser: Sure. Yeah. So Zacht Studios we’re a presentation’s design agency. Um, we focus on companies storytelling and, uh, investor fundraising. So if, uh, you know, most of our clients are anywhere from like pre-seed through series B approximately. We do work with some later stage companies, as well as for the fundraising. Usually companies a little smaller size needs, some help to do that fundraising. Uh, and we come in, we are usually the first people outside of their company, their advisor group, the people that are already like intimately familiar with the product and story are the first people that come in. We have our outside perspective for the first time we, uh, help them tell their story better. Um, obviously most founders know how to tell their story really well, but for the specific audience, we work with VCs all the time and angel investors. So [00:02:00] we help them, you know, sort of cater their story a little bit better to the fundraising audience. And then we do presentation design. So we’ll start with visual design, either matching their brand guidelines or with a lot of these pre-seed companies sort of starting from scratch, helping them build their brand with them. And, uh, and usually on a short timeline. So, you know, everybody is like, oh, oh, an investor wants to talk to me this week? Okay. And so that’s like a lot of the places where we start. Louis Beryl: Yeah. [Laughing] Uh, when, when do you need this? Uh, I need this Friday or next month. You have had tremendous success, you know, at least in terms of, you know, the companies you’ve worked with have raised billions of dollars. Um, And I’d love to hear a little bit more about how did you start Zacht Studios? Zach Grosser: Yeah, so, um, uh, I have a background in presentation design from, I worked at the Apple Store in, about 10 years ago. And part of my role was teaching [00:03:00] Keynote. And never did I think that learning and then teaching Keynote from Apple was going to be part of my career path at all. And then I, you know, I feel really privileged I got, uh, my senior manager left Apple and went to Square. And then like a couple months later I got the like Facebook DM of like, Hey, why don’t you, you know, come check it out. And I took a role at Square, uh, on the food team. So I was between every employee and lunch, we would swipe credit cards and, you know, using beta versions of Squares software, and then I’d write bug reports and fix the kegerator and pour champagne when someone’s assigned teams leaving or got promoted. That was like the proximity to the design team that I had. And then the presentation designer left. And I was like, I just have one semester of design from university. I know how to teach Keynote which is part of the job. You’re like, you know, if all these internal customers that need help with their presentations. And so, uh, [00:04:00] Yeah, I served presentation designing at Square. I spent five years there. I feel really lucky for that both in that Square, you know, took the chance of like taking the kid on the food team and like giving him a chance to be a designer. Um, and also the network that I built while I was there. You know, a lot of those clients that you mentioned came from people I knew at square. Just like every tech company, people work for a year or two and then they go work at some other startup. And so the, the luck of being in Silicon Valley and then all of your network goes and works at these other companies. And then they’re like, Hey, I don’t know that many people that do presentation design. I just know Zach that does it, or maybe two people. And so that’s how we get a lot of our inbound business. Louis Beryl: Well, and so tell me, you know, um, that certainly kind of makes sense about how you transitioned into presentation, design and your background. But I imagine when you’re crafting pitch decks for example, which is a really big part of what you do. Yeah, you have to have an understanding for the VC [00:05:00] ecosystem, the differences between a seed stage and a series a and a series B company, and what venture capitalists might be looking for. How did, how did you get up to speed on all that and really become an expert? Zach Grosser: Yeah, well, it did start at Square. Uh, I helped square through four of its fundraising rounds and then, uh, the IPO road show as well. A lot of the time I would get looped into a project at Square and didn’t know it was for fundraising. I was much younger. I didn’t know what these things were. It was like, hey, we need help with this presentation. Can you, oh, can you do this slide for us? It was a lot of those requests coming from, you know, the finance team or the investor relations team. So for awhile, I was just kind of making these investor slides without knowing what I was working on. And. As I was spending more time at my job and learning about like, Oh, it really is all about the storytelling. You know, it’s not just a visual treatment of one slide to the next. And really just how you craft these stories. A big component of that is like, who are you telling this story to? And so I [00:06:00] started learning like, Oh, we’re talking to investors. Okay, well, what are they looking for? And asking a lot of those questions too. Luckily I had this captive audience of an investor relations team, Sarah Friar who’s now the CEO of NextDoor. She was the CFO at Square. Um, so I had these people that were experts in the field. I was like asking like, well, why would you want to talk to an investor like that? So that was one big part of it. The other is, you know, sometimes our clients are actually VCs themselves. They’re either raising a fund and they need to put together a deck to raise a fund or they’re hiring us to help their portfolio companies. And so that’s also really nice when you have your clients pretty much telling you what they’re looking for when they see these decks come across their desk and they’re seeing hundreds and hundreds a year. So they’re exposed to a lot of bad decks too. And so you get, you know, a couple opinionated VCs to come, come through and tell you like what they hate seeing and what they’re looking for. It [00:07:00] really helps us over time, like build this deep experience of just kind of what our customers audience wants. ROCKETPLACE AD Louis Beryl: [Music begins] Hey, this is Louis here with my Rocketplace co-founder Ben. Ben Hutchinson: Hello. Louis Beryl: And we are talking to you today from inside our very own brand new rocket ship. [Sounds of rocket ship engine starting] Isn’t that right Ben? Ben Hutchinson: Well, it’s kind of rented. Louis Beryl: Nooooooo. Ben Hutchinson: It wasn’t in the marketing budget Louis. And beyond that owning a rocket ship doesn’t really explain what Rocketplace is. That we’re a curated marketplace of top quality professional service providers. Louis Beryl: I can’t believe this [in a fustrated tone]. Ben Hutchinson: Or that we use intelligence software to pair businesses with world-class firms from everything from finance and accounting to marketing and branding, recruiting, software development, domain name buying, product design, and more. [Pause] [00:08:00] Also it’s a podcast. They can’t see us. Louis Beryl: So now what? Ben Hutchinson: Now we enjoy the rocket ship. Louis Beryl: How long do we have? Ben Hutchinson: There’s a kids birthday party at three. Louis Beryl: Can I fly it? Ben Hutchinson: Aaahhh no. Louis Beryl: Can I drive it? Ben Hutchinson: No. Louis Beryl: Can I press any of the buttons? Ben Hutchinson: Louis [in a stern voice]! Louis Beryl: Just this one. Ben Hutchinson: No! [Sounds of buttons being pressed and computer noises and beeps] Hey, Hey, look, don’t do that. [Sounds of a rocket ship engine starting] We’re moving? Why are we moving? [Sounds of a rocket ship taking off] How do you stop this? LOUUUUIIIISSSS!! [Voice getting quieter as it flies away in the rocket ship) Announcer: Rocketplace. World-class firms just a click away. [Music ends] Louis Beryl: OKay. You’re at Square. You’ve worked from, you know, all these fundraisers all the way up through IPO [00:09:00] and I’m thinking to myself, well, how did you go and start your own studio? I mean, was it just kind of out of necessity? You’re like, well, we’ve IPO’d at this point. Nothing else to do. I got to go start my own thing or, or, you know, what, what was the thinking behind that? Zach Grosser: Yeah, that’s a great question. So the, the step kind of in between is I moved to Amsterdam and that’s the reason I left Square. And I also started working at Figma. And if you don’t know, Figma is a design tool company based in San Franciso. Louis Beryl: Sure. [Laughing] Of course. Zach Grosser: [Laughing] But yeah. Yeah, yeah. Just in case. Um, and so part of that was, you know, to move to Amsterdam. Part of that was trying to figure out how to get a visa here and, you know, there’s the Dutch American friendship treaty, which is like a nice, easy way for people that work in many fields, including the tech field to move to Amsterdam or the Netherlands. And, um, so I had to form a company to do that. And my [00:10:00] company sponsored my visa. And then Figma can, you know, was our only client for a while. And it was just me being the only employee. So, you know, it was a relationship like I worked at Figma and after about 14 months, I left Figma to freelance full-time and this was, I had a bunch of inbound requests to do these investor pitch decks from my network. And, uh, you know, it just felt like the right time to just try to do this. And I really expected to do it for like a couple months and then, you know, have to find a job again. So I freelanced for maybe 10 months and was just doing sort of the same work that I’m doing now, but on a much smaller scale by myself. And I met Dona, our content director in Dutch class, and she was working a part-time job, which is very, very common to have part-time work in another ones. And so she was looking for some hours of work and I was just overwhelmed. I took on way too many clients at the same time and needed help. And so that was really how Zacht Studios started [00:11:00] was, uh, by accident. I would say, um, I never really left with the idea of I’m going to start an agency, but as soon as one person comes on board and you scale up work, and then all of a sudden everyone’s busy again, then I start bringing on more people. So now we’re, we’re a team of four right now. Louis Beryl: Can you tell me a little bit more about the field of presentation design? You know, you’re talking about all these inbound requests you’re getting, you know, I guess what I’m hearing and it’s probably, it’s true is that, you know, firms need to do this type of work all the time, whether it’s fundraising, maybe it’s, uh, maybe you’re a public company. You have, uh, an ongoing investor presentations. I know you work with, you know, Adobe is a big client, they’re a public company. I’m probably, I’m assuming they were public. The whole, you know, you’re there. Of course they were public the whole time. Um, You know, is this, is this the type of field that is kind of dominated by outside agencies or, or companies building big in-house presentation, design teams? Um, [00:12:00] you know, w tell me more about it and where you see it going. Zach Grosser: Yeah, there’s definitely a couple of companies that have internal presentation, design teams. Most notably is Apple. They sort of have a team dedicated to making and producing their giant keynotes, but for the most part, yeah. I mean, um, companies have, uh, usually every employee has presentation software on their computer. Right. And this is sometimes you luck out and you’ve got someone, you know, over here in finance and strategy, that’s just really good at putting your deck together. Uh, other times you turn to your internal resources of maybe your marketing designers or a communication designer. And it’s sort of like another thing that they do. Um, as far as actual presentation designers, I know of about a hundred of them. There’s a Slack group I was added to like two years ago. That’s there’s just about a hundred of us. Um, a lot of them do work at large companies. You know, there’s someone that’s, you know, producing for some of the bigger known [00:13:00] conferences that you hear about that run every year at these large public tech companies. Uh, but outside of that, like I don’t see every company having its own presentation, design team in house. Louis Beryl: I would love to dive into some of the challenges and, you know, one challenge I’m trying to think of is okay. It’s like you work for Adobe, Square, NextDoor, Figma. I mean, gosh, it’s almost like, it feels like it’d be easy to produce a presentation for them. They have so much content. Their products are beautiful. They already, they have a team of designers that already work for them. Well, one is that even true? And then two, what if you meet at, you know, you say you work for like VC firms. You know, you must meet firms that like, they send you over the last year’s presentation. It’s this awful PowerPoint. Ha. Is that more of a challenge than with the, with the, the companies like an Adobe or Figma, or, I don’t know. You tell me. Zach Grosser: I think the smaller the company, or if it’s individual VCs and angels, that it’s [00:14:00] always a time constraint. It’s always like, I need this done yesterday that we really don’t have time for it. And those are that’s usually what makes the work the hardest. Uh, when you have companies like Adobe, they, they generally have a little bit more long-term planning happening, just I’m sure. You know, the large companies do, they’ve got their quarterly planning and their OKR or whatever they’re doing. So they have like a little bit further look into the future and that might be a little slower about releasing things so they can, they can plan ahead a little bit. But a VC or a startup, someone seed round, you know, they have an investor that reaches out to them. Sometimes it’s like, I want in on this, send me your deck. And I think that’s probably like the bigger of the challenges that we face. Louis Beryl: Tell me about some of the challenges and just in starting your own studio, it sounds like you had a lot of good connections from your previous work experience and you were getting tons of.Inbound interest. So it’s, and it doesn’t sound like clients were an issue, but [00:15:00] what have been the challenges and in running your own studio? Zach Grosser: Uh, yeah, so, uh, especially early on, was just taking on too much work at the same time, just saying yes to every project that came along. I think the other big challenge is just living in a different country. Um, a lot of our clients are based in the United States, primarily in the Bay Area. Still. I thought that starting my own business and working by myself, I’d be really good at some of the, just running your business things. But doing accounting, when you have to take into consideration, you know, different currencies, uh, different tax rates, depending on where people are based. That’s a huge challenge I really didn’t expect. And then the time zone differences too, we’re plus nine hours from San Francisco. And a lot of my clients are like, I want to get on a call right now. And so that’s, that’s also been a challenge. It’s just like, time-zones slash accounting and communication things that happen of being in a different country than your clients. ROCKETPLACE AD Louis Beryl: [Intro [00:16:00] music] Hey, do you like our show? I do too. If you want to support The Startup Stack, the best way to do that is by subscribing and rating us on Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen to us. Also send dad jokes, or if you have them actual good jokes to podcast.rocketplace.com. Feel free to send us feedback there too. I’d love to transition to, you know, you’re giving advice to other companies out there, presentation, design, uh, pitch deck design is, is something that, uh, we do get requested on Rocketplace um, you know, I’m sure that you’d be like, yes, send them all to me. But I do think, yeah, as a company is thinking about maybe going out for their next fundraise, um, when, you know, what are the types of things like when would you recommend a company working with a firm like yourself? Um, what are the things that they should be asking when meeting, um, agencies like yours? Uh, in order to evaluate like, is this [00:17:00] really the right fit for, for me and my company? Zach Grosser: Yeah, that’s a good question. I think I’m trying to understand a little bit of the industries that they’ve worked with before. We’ve, we’ve worked with some industries, sort of across the spectrum and healthcare, pharm techs, sort of everything you can think of, which has been really nice. I think when we get an inbound request, it’s sort of like, do you understand our business? Um, because a lot of the times with early stage companies they’re still trying to learn how to tell their story. Again, something that we work with and being able to really understand the work that is being pitched is really important because your presentation designer has to sort of understand the story to make it all come together. And so during that initial inbound conversation, it’s like, this is what we do does that make sense to you? Is probably like a really great starting place. Louis Beryl: Are there things that you wish that companies knew maybe before [00:18:00] they, uh, contact you or, or work with you? Like, they’re just like we do this, but not this. Or there’s common misconceptions? Zach Grosser: I mean, I would come back to the timing thing. A lot of people just think I can put together a PowerPoint deck in a week. Why can’t you do that? You specialize in this, you should be able to do that, but it’s sort of like putting together a really good pitch should take time. Louis Beryl: And what type of time do you recommend? How, how, how far in advance should they be? Should companies be working on this? Zach Grosser: I always say the more, the better, but I would, I would say like, for me personally, I like more than two weeks. Anything above that is really nice, but anything less than two weeks, you really always end up going over two weeks anyway. You’re like, hey, our first conversation with our VC is in a week and a half. It’s like, great. We can get you something done by then, but always it’s like they finish it. And then they want to add a couple more slides after they’ve had that initial call. So there’s kind of that iteration of like making it better, tweaking the story. Louis Beryl: Yeah, of course, that makes, that makes [00:19:00] sense. Zach Grosser: And, and I think that one thing that we get a lot is a lot of VCs always feel like they want to give something when they don’t give money. So when they’re like, oh, sorry, we’re not gonna, you know, in fast, they want to share their thoughts of the deck. So they always are like, well, you know, I’m sorry, we’re not gonna move forward, but you should add a slide on this. And so that’s part of the process too, is the deck really, like you said, as iterative after, after it’s done. It’s not really done. Louis Beryl: Can you, can you give us an example of a client you had that, you know, might’ve been particular challenging, but ultimately, you know what that challenge was, how you worked through it and how you’re really proud of, of that outcome? Zach Grosser: Yeah. I mean, this might sound like an obvious, one of like, who can you think of that’s a challenging personality, but I worked with Elon Musk on a SpaceX presentation. And I can’t really… Louis Beryl: I’m so, despite whatever challenges of his personality, I got to tell you I’m so jealous. [00:20:00] Right. That sounds awesome. Zach Grosser: Um, yeah, it’s, uh, he’s, he’s a very interesting person. And, um, I, uh, he’s, he’s very demanding as you can. I imagine from just his public persona, he has very high expectations for the people he works with. So, uh, it was always like the best work you can pull off. As quickly as possible available all the time, it was just like very high paced. What you would expect him to be like is he is like that he’s very intense and really has high standards. So, um, it was a very challenging project, but the result was awesome. Louis Beryl: And, and so, and this could be more general. Um, how do you measure success when you’re working with clients? I mean, is it just dollars raised or, or how do you think about success? Zach Grosser: So the most important part of a presentation, um, aside from like the story, but as like a concrete deliverable is that the person presenting it feels confident. It’s really what you’re doing is [00:21:00] building something that someone can be confident talking in front of a little bit different now that most of these pitches are happening over Zoom, but you know, the person has to feel confident. So for us, it’s like the founder or CEO or founding team member that is giving these pitches is really happy with the deck. They’re like, great. This is exactly what I’m looking for. So, and that’s one of those elements that makes it kind of fun is you’re not just building a deck off, here’s the story and here’s the visual design it’s done. It’s also like, is this, this person’s style of storytelling. And so we have to like, explore that a little bit too as we’re exploring the company. Louis Beryl: You know, I didn’t. I didn’t even realize that. So are you, I mean, of course it makes sense now that you say it and I’m wondering, are you also working with the founders? It’s like, okay, here’s the presentation. Now think about, you know, work on this for a day and I want you to come back to me and pitch it to me. And are you, are you [00:22:00] then giving feedback to, is it a whole, is it kind of the full service process or is it just deck design? Zach Grosser: I would say like probably 90% of the time we’re doing the story and deck design. We do help coach a little bit. And along the way, even if they haven’t asked us to, you know, like, Hey, let’s do a pitch practice together. Okay. You know, we’ll be implying a little bit of like, Oh, I really imagine you talking about this when you have this slide up. And some of those like tips that we can give, we just sneak them in and sort of like, this is just good practice. Um, Yeah. Yeah, I think it it’s, it’s definitely like one of those things where if someone came to us and they’re like, I just need help saying this confidently we’re there. But as you know, most CEOs or founders kind of feel like they have it down and are very kind skills. Louis Beryl: We love to hear ourselves talk. Zach Grosser: Yeah. Louis Beryl: Yeah. That’s why we all have podcasts. Zach Grosser: [Laughs] it’s true. Louis Beryl: [Laughs] Okay. I, you know, I’d love to kind of move on to the trends you’re seeing, you know, [00:23:00] we’ve obviously seen an enormous shift to remote. Uh, you, your company has been remote the whole time. Um, but like, you know, what, what shifts have you seen in presentation design? You know, since you’ve started this and then, and then even in just like the last. You know what 2021 has 20, 21 different than 2020? I mean, what, what are you seeing out there? What’s changing. Zach Grosser: Yeah, a ton of stuff, actually. So just general good practice advice, pandemic or not, uh, w was to have maybe two presentations, one that’s a little bit more content dense. That is the leave behind or the send ahead. And one, that’s a little bit more visual focused. That’s the one you stand in front of and present. Now a lot of these conversations are no longer happening in person. And so as we moved to Zoom, I feel like that advice is still pretty good. You don’t want someone reading your slide instead of listening to you, [00:24:00] but we have seen that because the, your audience, the VCs and investors are sitting there looking at their screen instead of maybe at a, you know, a projector screen on the other side of the room, the design has shifted a little bit. We can go a little bit smaller in font size. We can stick a couple more things in there. Um, we’ve started experimenting with taking the same deck and using it well, and that’s, that’s sort of like a consequence of timeline. Like I said, it’s ideal to have two presentations, but that does take more time. So there’s always that compromise presentation. That’s, it’s a little bit more content dense than it should be, but it’s also not too content dense. So we started in integrating that idea and doing like a one pager at the beginning of the deck that isn’t presented to, but when the person receives the PDF it’s in there and has that summary, that really dense information slide. [00:25:00] Um, from 2020 to 2021, well, first off the pandemic, uh, I’m sure you’ve heard this a lot with a lot of people that you’ve talked to at end of March through may sort of all the work dried up. We had all these great projects and then literally for all of April and may, we just had NextDoor, which is one of our clients who are super, super lucky to have them. We do, um, non fundraise projects with them, you know, sort of support them as they have offices all over the world. They need some design help in the Netherlands, you know, we’re based here. So. Louis Beryl: And let’s hit the pause button just for one second. I mean, were you thinking to yourself? Oh my gosh. You know, we focus on the fundraising process and no one’s fundraising anymore. You know, what are we going to do for a business? Did you, did you consider furloughing people or how did, how did you deal with deal with that? Zach Grosser: A lot of panic, I had just brought on team members. So January last year [00:26:00] was the first person on my team by the pandemic. I had two people already. I know. And I was seeing my friends on Twitter, uh, people in the United States and employment unemployment rate was skyrocketing. I was like, I can’t be one of those people that like ruin someone’s life at the beginning of the pandemic. So I was like, okay ,do whatever you can not to have to lay off people. And like I was saying, NextDoor is, I’m just super lucky that we still work with them because they really were the only people that stood by us that whole time. And it’s, it was awesome. Louis Beryl: But then if, I mean, clearly things changed. So yes. How long did it take for things to really start changing for you? Zach Grosser: I would say by June things started picking back up and by the fall. I brought, I, you know, by then I’d brought on another person. It was so busy for us in the fall. And I think that there’s a symptom of a couple things. One people are at home now, and they’re either they have some distance for their job from their job. And they realize [00:27:00] that it’s not what they want to be doing. They want to start their own company, or there’s all these new opportunities for companies. I mean, you’ve seen all of these companies pop up that serve. Remote work that exists for a healthcare system. That’s overburdened. So there’s all these new companies also. And so it was a little bit of both of those things are probably what I would say is the huge uptick. And then I also think a lot of investors were looking for more places to put money. Um, once they realized that, okay, things are, things are not as bad as we thought in April. Now I want my money to grow in this unprecedented, we don’t know what’s going to happen with the stock market. There’s an upcoming election. There’s all these reasons that investors might want to look to invest in a company. Louis Beryl: And I, and I’d love to understand like tactically, like has fundraising changed? I mean, you know, you talked a little bit about smaller font sizes, um, are [00:28:00] there, but, um, but I’m wondering like, are, when people are pitching today, are there more people because it’s all in Zoom, uh, in the room or are there topics that like, Oh, you have to cover like that. You’re advising founders. It’s like VCs are obsessed with these topics right now. You got to cover them. Zach Grosser: Yeah. I mean the, probably mostly last year, less, so much this year is that’s. Another difference is as we had the COVID slide, like how has the… Louis Beryl: EVery company had a COVID slide? Zach Grosser: Every company had a COVID slide in it. It was always like, how is the market opportunity changed with COVID or how does your potential customer base, how, how are they affected or, um, what are the benefits that you can bring to. Your customers now that COVID exists. So that was like every company had a COVID slide and a lot of companies that were raising again. So the year before they were raising in there, wasn’t a pandemic. And so it was how [00:29:00] are we pivoting because of COVID. Cause our business model is affected, you know, from. Everywhere from not at all. It actually benefited from it too. We have to change our business because our whole thing was in-person meetings. You know, so a lot of that, uh, had to be addressed and a lot of these decks were sort of covering for our business, kind of fell apart. So let’s, let’s look at our new business, all of these awesome opportunities to happen now. Louis Beryl: And is, is the COVID slide still standard or have we kind of moved away from the COVID slide? Zach Grosser: We’ve completely moved on from the COVID slide. Unless… Louis Beryl: Well, when did we get rid of it? I’m just wondering. Zach Grosser: Yeah, that’s a really, I feel like the turn of the year, it was about 2021. Um, really interesting though. All of January, all of our request were sales decks instead of fundraising decks. We moved kind of, I didn’t see a lot of inbound fundraising in January and then, which I think is cyclical. I think, you know, a lot of companies [00:30:00] do planning around that time, budget planning, all sorts of reasons that January is slow for businesses or different. Um, so now when they came back in February, all the investor decks, there’s no COVID slide unless it’s a health tech company. And most of those are we’re a new company and we’re here to address a specific problem caused by the pandemic. Louis Beryl: Right. And what about obviously how both COVID and other international events, Brexit have have affected companies in different jurisdictions differently, internationally? You know, what trends are you seeing there that, that are, that are different across borders. Yeah. So Brexit’s a huge road actually. Um, I mentioned a lot of our clients from the Bay Area that hasn’t changed too much, but over the past, maybe year and a half, we started to get more clients in Europe. And the first couple months of Zacht Studios being a team. So beginning of last year, a lot of that was still in the [00:31:00] UK and Brexit happened. Uh, it has been happening, I would say, but it was official at the end of March last year. And then it would go into effect at the end of last year, which it did. So a lot of companies, the big tech companies moved to their offices, you know, Facebook, Google a bunch of companies where like, we’re closing our London office, we’re going to move to Dublin. We’re going to move to Amsterdam. The startups that we work with. All left London. I, I know there are still startups in London, but so many less, a lot more in Berlin, uh, Amsterdam, obviously, but not too many of the Amsterdam ones we’re working with are the ones that left the UK, but it ton went to Berlin. So we started working with a lot of German companies, um, that were from London that were working there for Brexit and, and it’s been harder to work with. Any British company now that Brexit’s been official because the Dutch government like sent me a letter that I had to [00:32:00] translate. That’s like, Hey, we believe you’ve worked with the UK before. Here’s a list of things you need to think about before you do it again. And it’s not like, you know, it’s not like here’s bullet point 1, bullet point 2. It’s like links to documents and all in Dutch, which is, you know, another struggle of just being and living in another country. But. Yeah, it definitely has. We have a lot of pause working with UK startups right now, but there’s a lot less of them than we were working with before. I’m wondering if like, you know, what’s the new trend, the thing that you’re seeing right now, um, that VCs are asking about your, your clients are coming to you, maybe as you’re iterating through the fundraising process. And, you know, I don’t know that people are, uh, constantly. Um, needing to talk about what’s the, what’s the things that you’re seeing right now. Zach Grosser: Yeah. I’m sure you’re aware. There’s a, a huge amount of consolidation happening in the tech world. Facebook, Google, Apple, [00:33:00] Microsoft, they’re just buying up companies and that really hasn’t changed. But a big thing that VCs are asking our customers are like, what is to stop Amazon from throwing a billion dollars at this and destroying your business in a quarter. Like. what’s defensible about your business, um, that, that makes you so that if. Google’s competing. You’ll be fine. Um, so that’s a huge one and that’s something that VCs, I think have paid attention to for a long time. Uh, even from like the early two thousands there’s there was a lot of this like conglomeration of, of businesses. But, um, but yeah, definitely right now it’s like what? What’s to stop these companies from doing it because. As you know, it’s just happening all the time right now of Microsoft being like, Oh, we can do that. Louis Beryl: Speaking of acquisitions. Right. Um, do you have a to clients come to you and say, Oh, we need it. We need [00:34:00] a acquisition deck. Like, is that a thing? Zach Grosser: I feel like, my suspicions are, I’ve worked on a couple, but they never. Acquisitions are usually so secretive, even more so than fundraising. That a lot of times they disguise them and I’ll find out, you know, six months later I’ll be like, Oh, it’s a fun, it’s a fundraising deck. Exactly. Louis Beryl: Secret , secret, they can’t even tell they can’t even tell you. Right. Yeah. That’s probably true. That’s actually, they’re super secretive. Um, okay. Last question. If you yourself could go back and. Give yourself some advice, you know, before you started talk studios, what, what would be the advice you gave yourself? Zach Grosser: Yeah, this is a great question. One, I would be more thoughtful about branding my own company. I was doing paperwork. Louis Beryl: Speaking of branding, we have to talk about what, what is Zachat Studios? Is it just named after you? Or what does, what does Zacht Studios mean? Zach Grosser: Yeah, I’d never personally really liked businesses [00:35:00] named after the owner. And, uh, I just happened to have done it because when I was forming a company, The, you know, on paper sponsor my visa and then I could work for Figma. I was like, okay, I just need to fill this in. And they’re like, it just can’t be a company that already exists and another lens, so it can be anything. And the Dutch word for soft is zacht and it’s [spells out word] Z A C H T. My name is Zach [spells out word] Z A C H. And I was like, Oh, that’s kind of like a bilingual pun. I checked with a couple of Dutch friends, like, is this. Is this weird? Is it funny? Soft studios kind of like sounds okay. So it was really just for paperwork and I was like, ah, it’s clever. Ha ha. And now it’s the identity of my agency and other people work at that company. And so I would probably be more thoughtful about that. Um, I’m not… Louis Beryl: I like it. Zach Grosser: Oh, thank you .Yeah. See, I’m not at the stage where it’s like, we need to change it. So. I [00:36:00] think it’s fine. Um, and then I would, I, you know, I mentioned like accounting, I think I’d also be more thoughtful if the accounting firm that I hire, uh, one that specializes in multinational business, I send invoices to several different countries and doing the paperwork on that is complicated. And yeah, I think I’d be more intentional also like just working with an accountant that that’s what they do already. Louis Beryl: I mean shameless Rocketplace plug. We help firms find, uh, accountants and accounting firms that do all sorts of things like that deal with international bookkeeping and taxes all the time. So to all the listeners out there, if you’re looking for an accounting firm, uh, check out Rocketplace but awesome. Zach, um, you know, thank you so much for joining us and yeah, this was great. Um, it was really interesting hearing about the fundraising process and your studio and how it’s all come together. Thank you so much for joining us today. Zach Grosser: Thanks so much for inviting me on the show and it was a great ad [00:37:00] placement that you snuck in there. Louis Beryl: [Laughs] Yeah, exactly. [Intro music starts] For more on our conversation today, visit www.rocketplace.com/podcast. We upload a new episode every week. So if you haven’t yet make sure to subscribe to The Startup Stack in Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen to them. Thanks again for joining us. See you next week. Announcer: The Startup Stack. Written and edited by Hannah Levy, produced by Leah Jackson.
30 minutes | Apr 20, 2021
EPISODE 25: French Connection (w/Voilá founder Victoire Duprez)
Follow The Startup Stack Apple PodcastsSpotifyGoogle PodcastsAmazon MusicStitcherSoundCloudPandora Voilá (Voi·la): A french word meaning: there it is, there you are“‘Voila!’ she said, producing a pair of strappy white sandals.” Voilá. It’s the perfect name for a recruiting company. And for Victoire Duprez, it’s a one word story about who she is and where she’s been. Victoire, who is french, rose through the ranks at the global recruiting firm Michael Page, working for powerhouse french brands like Chanel, and ultimately landing in Los Angeles, where this January, she decided to do something kind of crazy: start a recruiting outfit of her own. On today’s pod Louis & Victoire talk about how it’s going, the specifics of the Los Angeles tech scene, and the ways the pandemic has changed the way companies hire. “To be honest when I moved to LA I realized really quickly that you don’t have to have a really big company here. You have a lot of small startups that are starting and they are great businesses.” -Victoire Duprez Highlights include: Victoire’s story of coming to America and the difference in recruiting here.How is the D&I conversation different in Europe vs. the U.S?What is a recruiting warranty and should you ask for one?How should companies select a recruiter that is a match for their needs?What should companies be paying a recruiter — & how to know whether it’s too much or too little? This Week’s Guest Victoire Duprez Founder & Managing Partner @ Voilà Victoire Duprez is a recruiter and the founder of Voilà, a Talent Matching Agency. Though she was born and raised in France and has travelled all around the world, Victoire’s recruiting agency is based in sunny Los Angeles. The Startup Stack’s Host Louis Beryl CEO, Co-Founder of Rocketplace Rocketplace is a curated marketplace of high quality professional service providers. A 3x founder, investor, and board member, Louis began his tech career as a partner at Andreessen Horowitz. When he’s not working or podcasting, Louis enjoys cooking for his family. His pizza, he’d like you to know, is incredible. Full Episode Transcript Victoire Duprez: [00:00:00] Okay. So why did the invisible man turned down the job offer? Louis Beryl: [00:00:05] I don’t know. Victoire Duprez: [00:00:07] He couldn’t seem to see himself doing it. Louis Beryl: [00:00:12] Good one. Voila. It’s a French word. Meaning: “there it is.” It’s also the name of Victoire Dupre’s LA based recruiting company. As in: “Voila, there it is, your new head of logistics.” Except as the name suggests Victoria is French and it sounds much better when she says it. Voila, voila. Anyways, on today’s pod Victoire and I talk about the story behind Voila, the differences between recruiting cultures in the U S and abroad, and where work trends are heading as the world slowly reopens. It’s a great conversation. So let’s get into it. So tell us a little bit about Voila. Victoire Duprez: [00:00:51] I’ve been a recruiter for six years now. I was with a big recruiting firm called Michael Page before COVID came and I think I thought I’d learned I learned everything I could from Michael Page and it was time to launch my own little recruitment agency with my own style, my own rules and my own vision. So Voila was born in September 2020. We are focusing on sales, marketing, finance and accounting positions. And we are focused in Los Angeles — mostly like California and with a focus on Los Angeles — working with small to medium businesses, mostly startups, and trying to focus on the CPG, tech, media and entertainment industries. Louis Beryl: [00:01:38] So you and your partner started Voila six months ago. Victoire Duprez: [00:01:43] Exactly. I started and I brought onboard an employee two months ago. Louis Beryl: [00:01:47] But you’ve been in the industry for six years. Tell me about what really inspired you to start this. It must’ve been scary to leave your big firm and start your own company. Victoire Duprez: [00:01:57] I think so. To be honest, I was with them for six years. I started with them in Paris because I’m French, obviously. So for four years I was working with them and then they asked to move countries. So they (pause) onboarded me in the Los Angeles office two years ago I already had so many scary challenges with them starting all over from zero and then with COVID I found myself working from home along with my computer without a team around me And I was also building the finance and accounting team in Los Angeles with another recruiter I was already kind of not alone but Not on a team So it wasn’t that scary And it didn’t change a lot for me after six months of working from home too to create my own company It was a bit scary to like find my style find my marketing strategy find my specialization but all the came very easily to be honest Louis Beryl: [00:02:55] you didn’t expect you would have to but then instantly you figured out that oh I got to do all these things Victoire Duprez: [00:03:00] Yes Especially setting up everything For example finding a good marketing strategy I thought it would be very easy to find a name and build the website and find my style because I think it’s very important for a younger recruiting firm There was a lot of competition and I was helped by an agency actually that’s did a great job and I didn’t expect that it was that much work to find a name and find my style Or finding a really good database because at Michael Page I had my internal database and now I was like wow there are so many databases on the market And it was really hard to choose the right one because it’s really important for a recruiter And also all the challenge is sourcing candidates when you don’t have all the tools that you used to have So you need to be very creative So the tech part is also like very important But yeah overall it’s quite easy to onboard at the beginning at this and I didn’t have that many challenges The database was hard because I had to compare everything that was happening on the markets because I’m very picky Louis Beryl: [00:04:12] The biggest challenge was the software decision Victoire Duprez: [00:04:15] Yes that’d be a decision for sure because it’s really important to do a search and to be able to find candidates quickly And to recall everything you know about candidates Client opportunities it’s very important ROCKETPLACE AD [00:04:29] Louis Beryl: [00:04:29] Hello. Ben Hutchinson: [00:04:34] Louis? Louis Beryl: [00:04:36] Hey Ben Sorry It’s a little loud. Ben Hutchinson: [00:04:45] Where are you? Louis Beryl: [00:04:47] I’m test driving rocketships. Ben Hutchinson: [00:04:48] You’re WHAT? Louis Beryl: [00:04:50] Rocketships for the Rocketplace ad. Excuse me — what does this button do? [Sounds of robot walking over] [Robot voice responding]. Oh don’t touch it. [Sound of hand being slapped]. Okay. Ben Hutchinson: [00:05:03] Louis we’ve talked about this. Louis Beryl: [00:05:04] It’s branding Ben trust me. Hey does the ship have windshield wipers? [Sounds of robot walking over] [Robot voice responding] [Sound of hand being slapped]. Ben Hutchinson: [00:05:12] I told you I think we should just explain what Rocketplace is. How we use intelligent software to pair businesses with world-class businesses in everything from finance and accounting to marketing and branding, recruiting, software development, domain name buying, product design, and more. Louis Beryl: [00:05:28] I guess we did talk about that. Ben Hutchinson: [00:05:32] Yeah! Louis Beryl: [00:05:32] So no rocket ships then? Ben Hutchinson: [00:05:35] No. Louis Beryl: [00:05:35] You sure? Ben Hutchinson: [00:05:36] Come home bud. Louis Beryl: [00:05:38] Okay. Excuse me. [Sound of seat belt unbuckling] Actually I have to go.[Sounds of robot walking over] How do I leave? [Robot voice responding] Oh I can’t leave? [Robot voice “Shields on”] Wait why is the floor rumbling? [Sounds of rocket ship rumbling getting louder and taking off] Ben Hutchinson: [00:05:58] Rocketplace. Find your firms. Grow your business. Louis Beryl: [00:06:01] Ben? Ben? I don’t know if I’m going to make it to the office today. You’ve told me before that one of the things that inspired you to start Voila was that you really wanted to make recruiting fun Tell me more about what that means Victoire Duprez: [00:06:22] Yeah So when I started with Michael Page so to be honest I came into the recruitment industry by hotel chains when I was younger I was traveling the world I lived abroad a lot of my life I lived for two years in Australia And I came back to my hometown in France for a wedding and I bumped into someone that was working at Michael Page and he introduced me to his boss And I got very seduced by the industry by the challenge and the role It’s not very well known to be a recruiter And I think it’s one of the most challenging position you can have And so since the beginning I really found my style and tried to differentiate myself by being fun So being fun means to onboard people and to deal with clients in a very easy way and also to make it very easy smooth and make it pleasant for clients And that was always my style in France and when I came in here as well Louis Beryl: [00:07:26] And why don’t you tell me a little bit more about you know you just said that recruiting isn’t easy I don’t think it’s easy I don’t think anyone thinks it’s easy actually Like how do you do it I mean one of the things that I find incredibly challenging is when you’re meeting candidates you know you’re sourcing individuals How do you really tell whether or not they’re any good I mean how do you think through that How do you make sure that when you’re putting candidates in front of Your clients that they’re excellent enough to be up to the bar that they would expect Victoire Duprez: [00:08:01] So the sourcing part is quite challenging To be honest I use mostly LinkedIn and you have to interview I think I interview 20 30 candidates per week to get to know like everyone To get to build within my network And then I think the biggest challenge is to create a relationship with them not just calling them when you have a position or when they are interesting to you but just have the relationship Know how they are what their life is like if they are happy at their current company and know exactly what they want So we are really just networking all the time So we can eventually explain why this is going to be a good position for them and bringing them to the clients And then you’re gonna really like it depends on the level you are recruiting If you are recruiting like a junior person you’re going to have to onboard them And we Support them into the whole process why this company is good for him and find the selling points And if it’s a senior level it’s going to be a bit more complicated you know We have to know where they are and take news from the candidates all the time And as soon as you have a position and you think you have found someone you need to be proactive and you usually know who’s going to be a good fit for the position Louis Beryl: [00:09:19] Can you give me some examples of a role that you’re recruiting for I don’t know that really went sideway Right And how did that happen Victoire Duprez: [00:09:31] Yeah for example when I was in France I was working with Chanel So that is like a retail company like everyone they wanted to hire the new person responsible for their brand I mean their icon thing And they had like really specific requirements because Chanel is a very demanding company So they are looking for people leaders and accountants People who talk multiple languages or have a very good like presentation and also they had to have retail experience for like more than 10 years in another luxury company Like Louis Vitton a big competitor And I was trying to show them that you can sign talent that are not exactly what you’re looking for but they’re going to do a great job And I ended up finding that I was like you’re competing with a lot of other recruiters And I was really a part of that one because I bring on board someone that was not from the retail industry Someone that was from the media industry I changed to a completely different industry but showed them that when someone is very like smart and really matches the position and the culture of the company you can teach them how to Do retail how to do luxury So then they took the risk and this person now is still there It’s been five years that’s essential And I think it’s a really good way to show that even if people have a lot of requirements…and especially in the US when I moved here people were going to be much more open minded about backgrounds But Here as well they put out a lot of requirements and it’s my job to show them that it’s not always good to have that many requirements and that you can find talent that matches the company even if they are not doing the exact same thing already in the same industry or the same position And then I think it is a big challenge to show it to clients because they really have strong ideas about it Louis Beryl: [00:11:31] But now I’m thinking so you’re working with Chanel and France Now you’ve moved to LA Okay You’re working with LA companies And you’re working on startups So how how did you make that transition and why have you decided to focus on LA Victoire Duprez: [00:11:46] To be honest when I moved in LA I realized really quickly that you don’t have really big big companies here You have to have a lot of small startups small businesses that are starting and they are great businesses When you think about it CPG tec and CPG mostly because I really like CPG That’s consumer products beauty cosmetic food and beverage And yeah you have those companies here but you mostly have startups that are very dynamic and I just adapted to the market I guess And to be honest it’s much more my style to work with small companies where you are able to deal with the president or the CEO directly because usually you don’t have human resources or hiring manager and you can understand the overall culture to know all the teams to meet them they are much more accessible I think of when I was working with Chanel and they were dealing with accounting hiring but here for example I’m working a services startup that is makinggeek Manufacturing gee And they are 11 people and I’m dealing with the presidents So I think it’s much more interesting for me to to see the overall business because I’m really passionate about business and discovering the culture and it really means a lot to me to work with someone and to know exactly who I’m going to work with what are going to be the challenges Where is the company going in terms of goals and developments Like for example now I know a company the company is going to do really great and they’re going to recruit in the future and I’m going to be able to know all the team members where when I was working with big companies in France I was like recruiting some for sure But it was so big that I didn’t have control of everything you know and I was also visiting with the recruiter and I was also competing with the hiring manager of the company Where here I feel much more important for clients I just feel more valuable Louis Beryl: [00:13:40] I’d like to ask you your advice for potential clients out there Companies that are looking to hire or thinking about hiring and maybe they’re considering hiring a recruiter to work with an outside recruiter What are the things that they should be asking themselves when they’re trying to evaluate whether or not they should hire a recruiter at all And then say they meet multiple recruiters How do they decide which recruiter is right Victoire Duprez: [00:14:05] Yeah that’s a really hard part So as you know most of the recruiters they don’t work on retainer There work contingencies So usually you are in competition with other recruiters So it’s very hard and challenging from my point of view for the company to choose the right recruiter because you need to choose someone that is going to be very interested by your business but also a good fit And I think um it’s important for them to talk to more than one recruiter to see a bit like who is very specialized and everything But the challenge for me for this company is to find the person that is like technically really good That has the knowledge of position they’re going to hire for but also a good fit being very reactive being very supportive to them because it’s a long process And let’s say that recruitment is one of the most key most important thing for a company It’s really very important And sometimes People they just go with the cheapest recruiter Because again there are very very big fees for recruitment but I think they should they should really go for the one they have the fit with because It’s a real investment and usually you have a warranty period And I think the recruitment is the most important thing for a company In sales in music I think a good product is important Having the right people is very important as well And that’s an interesting thing about warranties Louis Beryl: [00:15:36] So tell me about how you think through that Victoire Duprez: [00:15:38] So the grant is for me it acts like a badge We have two or three months warranty depending on the clients need to be honest I think uh I think the fee is so important that we should be able to give back the money if it’s not working because usually the medium fee in the US is like $20K Between $20 and 30K for like a manager for example And for me it’s a huge amount of money and we should be able to give it back if it’s not working You know if you did a great job and it’s not your fault They’re going to hire you again So you can you’re going to get the fee back right But the option that the company can have the money back I think is really important because what I want is that the client is paying for the fee for sure But also I want the client to be really happy in the long-term And this money back offer is very secure for them Because they don’t take really any waste And when you know you’re doing a great job usually you don’t have those kinds of problems To be honest I never had to deal with pay backs in my career or like maybe once or twice but to be honest I don’t remember a lot in France I did twice I think in the us But basically never because you’re just being so careful about your recruitment and you don’t want to you don’t want to go through that And it’s usually the hard part and all the clients are very afraid of this Louis Beryl: [00:16:59] I think that’s awesome around the guarantee And I could totally see how that gives potential clients A lot of peace of mind I’m just wondering though like you must see stories or hear about other recruiters that aren’t great I mean what are the red flags What are the questions that I should be asking as I meet recruiters to help you know to understand like wait this doesn’t sound right You don’t sound like you know what you’re doing Oh there’s red flags here What should I be watching out for Victoire Duprez: [00:17:28] For me the first red flag is a recruiter telling you okay I’m going to send you a maximum of like 10 resumes For me there is no maximum You need to send a resumes until the client is happy Like if the client wants to meet 30 candidates you’re going to tell him it’s a bit too much You’re going to lose time And I’m going to be much more specific than that And I’m going to send you the right candidates But if some recruiter gives a maximum resume or maximum interview for me it’s a bit cheap I think you should be able to support the clients Especially for startups from beginning to end and see the recruitment is done And even after you know so this is a bit of a red flag Another red flag for me is a short grants barrier That means usually that um like for me to be honest I’m very comfortable with giving usually three months Because I really seen that in three months you are really able to see if it’s going to work But I give a lot of flexibility around that If it’s three months and a half I’m not going to say look you should have donethis 15 days before now we want to partner on the longterm in this flexibility So on the contract is three months but I’m giving more if I have to I never I never really had the chance to do it because I never had anyone ask for their money back but I’m sure that I will do it because again it’s a big fee and it’s really important So the shopper garuntee and the maximum resume is from yellow to red flag And also the reactivity if the recruiter is not responsive if the recruiter is not available for you I don’t think it’s a really good sign For example I have a client that is in Europe if the only way we can do it I’m going to wake up early to be on calls responding And for me this is the deducation and this is very important And I think that’s different from a lot of other recruiters You know even if you are dealing with like 10 positions at the same time you should be able to give time for your clients And to really Like adapt with their schedule because they have so much to do And usually you are dealing with like CEO or CFO or sales director You need to find time for them For sure Louis Beryl: [00:19:39] You talked about timing earlier I bet a lot of clients asked the question of how long do you think it’s going to take to hire for this role Is there like a rule of thumb that you think most searches should take or is every search different Victoire Duprez: [00:19:51] Every search is different but I think the thing you need to answer from that is that it really depends on you It’s a collaboration If I’m sending you great resumes and great candidates and I don’t have any response in a week for example we’re going to lose them So for me a good recruiter is a good team between the recruiter and the company that’s really important Also usually there is not really timing that you need to give I think it depends on the market It depends on Who do you find But usually I’m very reactive to introduce candidate and organize interviews and to close the deal for sure But it’s it’s for me it’s a lot about teamwork and reactivity Like I’m going to send you candidates and you’re going to answer me straight away Yes Let’s meet them very soon And then we go from there it needs to be very flowy you know but usually a recruitment in the US is between three and four weeks I would say In the timing of the sourcing of it again it depends on the clients and the position but that’s that’s pretty much what I do Between three and four weeks SUBSCRIBE AD [00:21:03] Louis Beryl: [00:21:03] Hey do you like our show? I do too. If you want to support The Startup Stack the best way to do that is by subscribing and rating us on Apple Podcast or wherever you listen to us. Also sent Dad jokes or if you have them actual good jokes to podcast.rocketplace.com feel free to send us feedback there too. Is there any things that you wish clients knew before they start working with a recruiter or they start working with you? Victoire Duprez: [00:21:29] I wish they knew how hard it is to find good candidates When they have good candidates sometimes they’re not very responsive I wish they knew sometimes that…like for example last week I had a client that was a really good fit Like one of my candidates I knew was the perfect hire but he wants to see more candidates And usually most of the time it can be a mistake because the candidate can feel frustrated because he thought he was a really good fit but they still need to see more So yeah I wish they knew how hard it is to find a good fit uh someone that is fitting the culture the position the commute everything It’s really challenging And Some some people they don’t really they don’t really value that And it’s a bit frustrating for us sometimes because we know exactly what we’re doing but we have those situation all the time and they don’t know So obviously it’s hard for them but yeah that’s that’s very important Louis Beryl: [00:22:31] You were just talking about commutes So I think that’s a great transition to us talking about trends and what’s going on in the world now Obviously 2020 was a huge change Right Um everyone has been remote What are you seeing now at the beginning of 2021 How has recruiting changed even from 2020 Are people still very focused on remote work or is that starting to seem different What are your clients talking about What are your candidates talking about Victoire Duprez: [00:23:01] From the candidate perspective everyone wants to work from home I think some people miss the office but what we can say is that everyone enjoyed this flexibility of being able to work from home and like organize their schedule as they wanted All the candidates want to keep this flexibility. And most of the candidates are very open to work half from home and half from the office. The ideal for everyone is two or three days per week at home, like organize my schedule and like focusing on some stuff. And then one, one, one to two days per week at the office to obviously keep the culture up and meet the team, which is, I think of importance. So yeah, this schedule from a client perspective, you can sell a lot of clients on it. Also they really like this work from home vibe and they are recruiting like fully remote and they are even open to more talents, which is really great because it opens a lot of new candidate perspectives. You know, for example, I’m working now for a young startup in Texas and they’re very open. The person can be obviously in the US but in New York, in California, um, in, in Texas. I really open and I think it’s great and very open-minded to be like this, because they’re going to open the possibility of much more candidates. Louis Beryl: [00:24:35] How has that affected you? The way you source or, you know, I imagine since you’re LA-based, you are building a very strong network in LA and are now you sourcing candidates from all over the country, maybe all over the world? Victoire Duprez: [00:24:48] Yes. Exactly. So for me, it’s much more possibility. I’m kind of traditional, I keep I focus on LA because I can also see that most of the company, they are very open, but they’re also telling me yeah, it would be better if it’s California-based for the time. For also the fact that you can drive some time to the office to meet the team. I think it’s important. So even if people are very open and some companies are more open than others. But for a company that’s used to having an office use and where everyone is in LA, I think it’s better to have someone in LA to keep like the teamwork and to be able to meet people in person because even if there’s a lot of new technology like zoom or e-meetings, or like all of these, I think like nothing will replace an in-person meeting with people in-person. And, um, I’m keeping focusing on LA, but obviously for some position where I, when I sit at a company that is very open to that and where that’s in their culture, I’m very open. So I’m much more open right now to talk to candidates recently, like in New York or in Texas before I was like, “Oh no, this person is living in New York! I’m not even going to deal with that!” But now I’m more open because I know that in the future I could have opportunities remote. So I love talking to people and people are much more open also to move. So that’s pretty much opened my perspective. And I really like it. I think it’s much better because you can see more talents and more possibilities, and you can also be more proactive with the plans or say, you know, “this person is in New York, but to be honest, she’s great.’ And I think that today you have the tools to onboard someone from New York, you know. Louis Beryl: [00:26:31] Obviously a big topic is around diversity. For companies out there, what’s some advice where, you know, diversity is very important to them? Do you have any tips for what could help them recruit people from more diverse backgrounds? Victoire Duprez: [00:26:50] Yes. Go to a recruiter because we know everyone. It’s also like they don’t really ask for diversity because it’s like, it’s still discrimination, even if it’s positive discrimination. So they, they cannot really do that. But any tips just to open their mind. And to like, um, to go to a recruiter that is open minded because not everyone is. And they will be able to like bring persons from different backgrounds. Clients will say to me: You know, we have a lot of like…the culture right now is this way because we have a lot of people from the same background and we would like diversity. And I think we know, we know everyone and we have a network, a very, very developed one. So we are able to bring this diversity. And that’s a good point in what you choose in your recruiter. I think because we, again, we know people and we are specialized and, uh, and it’s a good, it’s a good way to bring new people, you know. When the hiring manager is not like internal to the company they can be more open-minded, I think. So it’s always a good tip. Louis Beryl: [00:27:59] I know that Voila has only been around six months, but if you could go back six months or twelve months and give yourself a piece of advice before you started Voila, what would be the advice that you would give to yourself? Victoire Duprez: [00:28:14] Don’t overthink it at the beginning., I was really focusing on, as I told you, like putting in place a database. But I should have realized that I could just trust myself and just start to do it and start to work very quickly. Because I think that at the beginning, I was really focusing on…is my marketing strategy perfect before I start to speak for Voila, you know? I think I lost a bit of a time, uh, on like putting things in place. But I think it’s when you really work. And when you really start to do it, that you see what you need to adjust. And just start it and improve it. Don’t make it perfect to start it. Just start speaking with candidates. Try, um, to explain your background, explain what you did before, instead of like waiting until everything is perfect to start. I think I lost one or two months because of it. And I think this is true for all the businesses. Just start work, try, fail. And then come back. Instead of trying to make the perfect product and then trying to sell it. I think feedback is a gift. And I had a lot of feedback after that and I had to change things still. So I think the feedback of the costumer is going to help to improve whether you make an agency or a product or anything else. Louis Beryl: [00:29:40] Well, thank you victoire. This has been great. I really loved learning more about Voila, all your tips for recruiting and hearing more about Voila. It was awesome. So thank you so much for joining us today For more on our conversation today visit www.Rocketplace.com/Podcast. We upload a new episode every week. So if you haven’t yet make sure to subscribe to The Startup Stack in Apple podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen. Thanks again for joining us. See you next week. The Startup Stack written and edited by Hannah Levy produced by Leah Jackson.