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- The ocean of venture capital flowing into tech startups means they're growing fast and hiring.
- Talent partners at venture firms have the inside track on the best opportunities.
- We identified 25 leading partners who can reach into top venture-backed companies.
- Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.
There has never been a better time to join a tech startup.
For that reason, venture capitalists who specialize in recruiting — known as talent partners — have become essential employees at many firms, where they're dedicated to finding and closing job candidates for portfolio companies. It's just one of the ways that tech investors "add value."
In July, we updated our list of the talent partners to know if you want to work at a hot startup. We considered factors like experience, scope of work, and the caliber of companies in their network.
Here they are, listed alphabetically by the firm's name.
Paula Judge, Accel
Accel's talent partner Paula Judge is a people-person and problem-solver. She helps startup founders figure out their hiring priorities based on their goals.
"Founders can get focused on trying to hire the executive who can take them to $1 billion. And while no one should lose sight of the BHAG (big hairy audacious goal)," Judge said, "when you're building a startup, you've got to put all the pieces in place, and that means focusing on near-term milestones and objectives."
Finding the right people at every stage of a company builds a foundation for growth, she said.
Before she was a recruiter, Judge honed her people skills as a program manager and fundraiser for the San Francisco Ballet and a financial industry nonprofit. Later, she joined an executive search firm, then Palo Alto Networks, where she helped hire thousands of people after an IPO.
Startups where she's helped place hires this past year: 1password, Ada.Support, Cycognito, Webflow, and Shogun
Tammy Han, Emergence Capital
Tammy Han's full tour of duty in recruiting has led her to Emergence Capital, where she's laser-focused on helping its earliest-stage companies hire the best talent from anywhere.
Tan works closely with founders to identify critical hires, draft job descriptions, and close top candidates, and she continues to advise them through a new hire's first 90 days.
Her advice to founders: "Life's too short to compromise on people."
Han started her career in retail and hospitality but got hooked on recruiting at Riviera Partners, where she built engineering teams at Pinterest, Airbnb, and Uber. After a stopover at an enterprise software company, she led talent at First Round and then joined Sequoia's Human Capital team.
At Emergence, she also sits on the investment committee that evaluates potential deals.
Startups where she's helped places hires this past year: Airkit, Assembled, Maze, SoundCommerce, and Whistic
Whitnie Low Narcisse, First Round Capital
Whitnie Low Narcisse is team captain of First Round Capital's post-investment group, which helps the firm's more than 200 portfolio companies with talent searches and partnerships.
Narcisse links up with startups as soon as they close their seed funding round to help write job descriptions, reach out to prospects, and even build an organizational design strategy.
She stays involved as the startup matures to work on retention and inclusion — both issues that many companies reckoned with after George Floyd's killing and the protests that followed.
"I'm spending time coaching founders through ups and downs, and helping to create genuine space for their startup employees during this challenging season," Low Narcisse said.
Startups where she's helped place hires this past year: Glide, Promise, Thirty Madison, Suki, and X-Claim
Jen Holmstrom, GGV Capital
Jen Holmstrom oversees a global recruiting engine at GGV Capital, a multi-stage venture capital firm that invests across the largest internet economies in the world.
Her pièce de résistance is the Founders + Leaders program that trains managers on how to build companies, from having hard conversations to hiring an international workforce. She also helped spin up a fellowship for 17 college students to work at GGV portfolio companies.
Her job includes not just recruiting and hiring for portfolio companies, but also helping them develop and promote their current leaders and retain the best talent, Holmstrom said.
Before her current role, Holmstron was a talent partner at Highland Capital Partners. She previously put in time at Facebook, where she worked on executive talent searches.
Startups where she's helped place hires this past year: Electric, Handshake, Mason, Valence, and Workboard
Katie Hughes, General Catalyst
Katie Hughes knows startups from the inside. She was the first employee at Betts Recruiting, a boutique search firm focused on scaling young companies as they prepare to go to market.
At General Catalyst, Hughes supports founders with introductions to people in the firm's network and by providing content and programming on how to build companies. Her team also scours for founders in the early stages of development to join its entrepreneurs-in-residence program, as well as executives who want to give back by joining a board in its portfolio.
For people looking for startup jobs right now, her advice is to "target businesses that are doing well, not just roles that are available." General Catalyst has invested in lots of companies that are bringing offline tools online in healthcare, education, and e-commerce, Hughes says.
Startups where she's helped place hires this past year: Cityblock Health, Color, Grammarly, Guild Education, and Ro
Glen Evans, Greylock Partners
Glen Evans has logged more than a decade at some of the most powerful companies in Silicon Valley, including Facebook and Google. At, he was the first recruitment director, leading talent acquisition strategy and growing his team from 24 to 60 recruiters from 2016 to 2018.
His job at Greylock focuses on "core talent," rather than executives, so placing product gurus, designers, and engineers. He works most often with young companies raising their seed funding or Series A, and he says the earlier a founder engages him in a talent search, the better.
"The best part of our job is working with founders who understand how important recruiting is and lean into learning how to do it well, while treating recruiting as a strategic function," Evans said. "The most successful founders understand this, and their companies benefit greatly."
Startups where he's helped placed hires this past year: Abnormal Security, Cresta, Figma, Instabase, and Lyra Health
Lauren Illovsky, Gradient Ventures
Lauren Illovsky is a trusted advisor to entrepreneurs backed by Gradient Ventures, a venture fund from Google that's betting on the most promising companies in artificial intelligence.
Her sweet spot is helping early-stage companies just as they raise bigger funding rounds to put that money to use on talent. She also assists with people strategy and leadership development.
"There is so much that changes during that time, and talent becomes an increasingly critical part of the company," Illovsky said of a startup's earliest stages.
Illovsky started in executive search at Spencer Stuart right out of college and knew she found her calling. She later worked at Andreessen Horowitz and Accel as a talent partner before making the jump to talent partner at Gradient, where she joined at the start of the pandemic.
Startups where she's helped place hires this past year: Contractbook, Klara, Mainstreet, Mural, and Openly
Beth Scheer, Homebrew
At Homebrew, Beth Scheer works closely with startup executives as an advisor on all things talent-related, but she doesn't place hires. Instead, she creates resource guides on hiring, compensation, diversity and inclusion, and more, so they learn to do the work themselves.
"I teach them how to fish and they learn how to build great teams," Scheer said.
Scheer first met Homebrew founders Satya Patel and Hunter Walk when the three worked at Google, where she built the Google AdSense team. A decade later, Scheer was running executive recruiting at Salesforce when Patel reached out about the talent role at his VC firm. They invited her to a working session with a portfolio company, and Scheer was impressed.
"I knew that I would have a seat at the table at Homebrew and be able to influence companies at an early stage," Scheer said. "I have never looked back."
Startups where she's helped place hires this past year: Bowery Farming, Finix, Intellimize, Managed by Q, and RideReport
Erik Kriessman, Index Ventures
From the moment Index invests, Erik Kriessman saddles up to the founders to help identify "the most important thing any investor could help them with," he said, "where the expected outcome is transformational to the trajectory of the company." It's almost always people-related, he said.
Lately, he's zeroed in on finding heads of people or talent to work at early-stage companies, and chief revenue officers and presidents for growth-stage startups across the Index portfolio.
Kriessman was an early employee at a startup out of college, but he cut his teeth in recruiting at SPMB, one of the leading executive search firms working with startups. From there, he joined Khosla Ventures and helped build transformational teams at Faire, GitLab, and Opendoor.
Startups where he's helped place hires this past year: Confluent, Discord, Figma, Scale AI, and Wiz
Saydeah Howard, IVP
Founded in 1980, IVP is one of the oldest venture capital firms, and it's part of talent partner Saydeah Howard's job to relay the knowledge and best practices it's learned to founders.
"I often say we've probably had a portfolio company (or two) face some of the same issues over the years," Howard said.
Howard's superpower is her empathy. She entered the venture industry after four years leading HR for educational toymaker LeapFrog, and says when she sits with startup leaders, she knows "what they're going through" because she's "experienced some of those same pain points." Howard also leads HR at IVP, so she's going through the same motions as many talent leaders.
Before LeapFrog, Howard was in executive search at Russell Reynolds Associates.
Startups where she's helped place hires this past year: Attentive, Coinbase, Curology, Hims & Hers, and Productiv
David Beuerlein, Khosla Ventures
At Khosla Ventures, David Beuerlein helps startups win the war for talent. He leads a team of partners who previously worked at Uber, Oracle, and Google, now helping startups recruit.
Beuerlein started his career at General Dynamics, designing hypersonic aircraft for classified defense programs. He later became a strategy consultant at McKinsey & Co, where he realized the critical importance of talent in an organization, he said. Beuerline joined a prominent executive search firm, Spencer Stuart and Korn Ferry, before being recruited to Google in 2015.
He says the secret to keeping employees engaged is to "keep the excitement up."
"Those drawn to the early-stage world are driven by a passion to change the world — keep that passion alive and burnout issues will be much further down the list," Beuerlein said.
Startups where he's helped place hires this past year: GitLab, Glydways, Impossible Foods, and Invoy
Jackie Xu, Kleiner Perkins
Xu is an honorary team member at some of the fastest-growing startups, where she advises founders on everything from compensation and culture to leadership development.
After Kleiner Perkins invests in a startup, she sits down with the founders to outline their hiring goals as part of the onboarding process. Her team will spec out an executive role and come up with a list of candidates, or pitch-in midway through a talent search when there are challenges.
"Our talent team's mission is to be the first call for founders on all things people-related, and to partner with them as they scale," Xu said, adding that she's personally motivated to coach individuals and teams on how to unlock their potential and bring more diversity to companies.
Xu's career took her from banking to social media, where she was an early member of the recruiting team at Twitter. There, she helped grow Twitter's engineering group from 50 people to more than 2,000 engineers around the world, and partnered with executives on strategic acquisitions that would bring top hires into its ranks. Before Twitter, she was at Facebook.
Startups where she's helped place hires this past year: Cameo, Loom, Netlify, Rippling, and Tally
Amanda Cantor, Lerer Hippeau
For Lerer Hippeau's first talent hire, the firm hired a seasoned recruiter who grew startup teams from seed to growth at her previous firms, Andreessen Horowitz and First Round Capital.
Amanda Cantor has spent the last three years at Lerer Hippeau, where she thinks about the employee experience long after they're hired. Part of her job is identifying software and services to support founders as they build an inclusive workplace that supports remote employees and working parents. That's how companies win the war for talent and hold onto their employees.
"People should always come first at our companies and when you make poor hiring decisions, they are costly and time-consuming," she said.
Startups where she's helped place hires this past year: Axios, Bowery Farming, Foxtrot, K Health, and Prose
Nicole North, Lightspeed Venture Partners
A 20-year veteran in her field, Nicole North placed hires at tech juggernauts like eBay, Intuit, and Cisco in the dot-com era and later opened a consumer practice at one of the top recruiting firms in Silicon Valley. Now, she's helping to build transformative companies at Lightspeed.
Born in Brazil to biracial parents, North gets most fired up about bringing women and people of color into startups. She tells tech workers that they have a responsibility to pitch in too.
"Tapping your network only works when you have a network to tap," North said. "There is still a tremendous access deficit, particularly when it comes to women and people of color."
"If you find yourself in a privileged position of having connections, hearing about interesting opportunities, knowing hiring managers in tech, or talent partners like me in VC, make sure to bring others with you who don't," she said.
Startups where she's helped place hires this past year: Calm, Cameo, Daily Harvest, Faire, and Haus Labs
Pete Steinle, Lightspeed Venture Partners
The other half of Lightspeed's talent duo, Pete Steinle, joined the firm after 20 years working at startups and recruiting for them. He was the fifth employee at human resources software startup Employease, which was acquired by ADP, and was part of an early sales and business development team at Salesforce that grew revenue from $5 million to roughly $100 million.
Steinle says startups are looking for the same qualities that they have always looked for.
"At the core, candidates need to be builders. Founders want to hire individuals that possess an entrepreneurial mindset, have a roll-up-the-sleeves work ethic, and are comfortable with ambiguity and rapid rates of change," Steinle said, adding that prior startup experience helps.
Startups where he's helped place hires this past year: AppZen, BetterUp, Tonkean, and Split
Matt Hoffman, M13
Joining from the startup world, Matt Hoffman rounds out a team of highly-skilled operators at M13, an early-stage venture firm focused on investments across the consumer economy.
The influx of capital being invested in the market right now means startups have big budgets for hiring, Hoffman said, and job candidates have their choice of roles. At M13, he's helping portfolio companies create "healthy and high-performing cultures" where people want to work.
"Candidates are more informed than ever before, and they know the difference between great culture, and great marketing," Hoffman said.
Before taking his first job in venture, Hoffman was vice president of people at cloud-company DigitalOcean, where he scaled the team from fewer than 100 people to 500 in four years.
Startups where he's helped place hires this past year: Bunch, Emerge, Lightning Labs, Northstar, and Rho
Jordan Ormont, Menlo Ventures
Jordan Ormont has been "locking arms with founders for 20 years," he says, helping them fill management teams and boards. He led talent strategy at Kleiner Perkins before going to Menlo Ventures, a blue-chip venture firm that closed its 15th early-stage fund last fall.
"As a talent partner, it's not surprising that when founders come in to pitch, I evaluate them on their ability to attract and retain talent," Ormont says. He asks the Menlo Ventures partners around the table, "Are they a compelling leader? Can they communicate an inspiring vision?"
Ormont is also part of the Howard Fischer Associates diaspora, a group of talent partners who left the executive search firm to recruit talent for top venture firms like Accel and Greylock.
Startups where he's helped place hires this past year: AlloyAI, H1, Indio, and Scout
Melissa Taunton, NEA
At NEA, Melissa Taunton has seen the difference that a 10x hire can make. For that reason, she's dedicated to helping startups build best-in-class executives teams and boards.
"Having a great product is essential, but people build companies — and are a company's greatest strategic advantage," said Taunton, who joined the multistage firm in 2015.
Growing up in South Africa, Melissa Taunton says she had never heard of venture capital, but she fell into a tech career after going to college in California. She put in time at Qualcomm and Hewlett Packard before making her way to an executive search firm, where influential investor Vinod Khosla was a client. He invited her to join Khosla Ventures, her first job in venture.
Startups where she's helped places this past year: Cloudflare, Coursera, Databricks, Datarobot, and Masterclass
Ambrosia Vertesi, Operator Collective
Ambrosia Vertesi has the most people-focused job at one of the most people-focused venture firms, Operator Collective. The debut fund was backed by more than 100 senior operators, giving companies access to people building some of the most highly valued companies in tech.
Vertesi says startups are always looking for hires who show adaptability and resourcefulness.
But after last year, it became more important than ever for job candidates to show they can empathize with customers, Vertesi said, adding that companies that design strategies with empathy have a competitive advantage because they are more aligned with their users.
Before Operator Collective, Vertesi was head of people at Duo Security and Hootsuite, where she scaled the latter from 20 people to 1,000 across 10 countries.
Startups where she's helped place hires this past year: DataGrail, Guild Education, and SetSail
Atli Thorkelsson, Redpoint Ventures
Atli Thorkelsson's career started at a legacy executive search firm, where he focused on sales and business development hires at enterprise companies. That's where he caught the bug.
"I quickly grew to love the constant learning and the variety of companies and candidates that I got to work with. Moving over to the VC industry allowed me to view company building through an even broader lens," said Thorkelsson, who joined Redpoint Ventures in 2018.
Redpoint takes a different approach to talent, focused less on recruiting for roles as they open up and more on building a network of operators who can help solve a variety of problems.
"Not viewing our network through a recruiting lens allows us to be more thoughtful about whether someone could be a valuable mentor, customer, consultant, board member, or something else, and to have a better understanding of how we might apply their expertise to a problem faced by a portfolio company," Thorkelsson said.
Startups where he's helped place hires this past year: AppZen, Crossbeam, Fabric, NorthOne, and Tundra
Susan Alban, Renegade Partners
Renegade Partners was founded by two women who left powerhouse firms to build their own venture outfit. But they didn't do it alone. They hired Susan Alban as a chief people officer in her first venture posting, to help the firm build deep relationships with its founders and teams.
"We're hyper-focused on helping founders become great employers with intentionality because we believe startups that are great employers have a massive edge," Alban said.
At Renegade, she strives to be a "sounding board" for its founders, helping them design their organization structure and even their own roles as executives as they scale their businesses.
Alban previously held various product and operations roles at eBay, Uber, and Softbank-backed Zume, where she led a team that hired around 500 employees in two-and-a-half years.
Startups where she's helped place hires this past year: Airspace Intelligence, Rewire, and Spekit
Katie Bukstein Halimi, Sapphire Ventures
At Sapphire Ventures, Katie Bukstein Halimi knows the importance of hiring the right person.
"In this environment, companies want to know they're hiring a long-term employee who will not only be able to weather whatever storm comes next, but will also be able to adapt, grow, thrive, and potentially lead in whatever is to come next," said the talent guru of 15-plus years.
After the shift to remote work, Halimi's team began closely advising companies on how to keep employees engaged, and has been writing playbooks on how to communicate with them.
Before Sapphire, Halimi left a career in finance to help scale fast-growing startups. She was the first talent hire at Sailthru, an enterprise marketing company, and head of people at Brit + Co.
Startups where she's helped place hires this past year: AllyO, HighSpot, Netskope, and Overtime
Jaime Bott, Sequoia Capital
Jaime Bott has spent a decade at Sequoia, and in that time, Bott says she's worked with hundreds of startup founders and helped fill more than a thousand executive searches.
Sequoia's talent team placed more than 60 people at portfolio companies in 2020, a year unlike any other. Bott says while she does track this number, it isn't a true measurement of success.
"What we care most about is helping founders hire the right people," Bott said. "Focusing too much on the number of placements has the potential to misalign goals and distract the team from making the right hire, which will deliver value for our portfolio companies and in turn, our limited partners and the great causes they support."
Before her current role, Bott was a recruiter at BlackRock.
Startups where she's helped place hires this past year: DoorDash, Instacart, and Loom
Jen Kodner, Threshold Ventures and DFJ Growth
Working at startup Box, Jen Kodner ran recruiting before and after it went public at a valuation of $1.6 billion. Now, she's helping the next generation of scrappy startups grow their teams as a talent partner at both DFJ Growth and Threshold Ventures, the firm formerly known as DFJ.
Kodner says she's most effective when founders trust her "outside the box approach." She often encourages them to promote from within or consider "step-up" candidates for hard-to-fill roles.
"It is a candidate's market in this environment," she said.
Kodner has a robust network of talented individuals that she's built from her recruiting work at Box, Adobe, Andreessen Horowitz, Comcast Ventures, and Russell Reynolds Associates.
Startups where she's helped place hires this past year: Alchemy, Brightline, Elementary Robotics, Dutchie, and Mapbox
Katie Josephson, Thrive Capital
Katie Josephson relies on her experience as a startup employee to key her into the needs of high-growth companies. At Thrive Capital, the firm owned by Joshua Kushner, Josephson works closely with founders to bring in new hires, develop management, and set people strategy.
"Founders are dealing with a million things at once," said Josephson, who joined the firm in 2017. "Our goal is to help cut through the noise and identify the milestones that matter most so they have support when navigating nuanced and often challenging people-related decisions."
Before Thrive, she worked in business development and product marketing at two companies, and took her first job in talent at Ray Dalio's hedge fund Bridgewater Associates in 2015.
Startups where she's helped place hires this past year: Browser Company, Capsule, Check, Imprint, and Nava