Today, I’m thrilled to publicly announce NextView’s Talent Exchange, a program helping both top talent and NextView-backed startups connect with each other more easily, beginning with Boston companies (which make up just over half our portfolio).
Below, I’ll quickly explain the genesis of this initiative and share a few more key details.
One of my first mentors in venture capital explained to me that the key role of a VC is to “aggregate talent.” Nothing is more important than seeking out extremely talented individuals and connecting them with other similarly talented and driven individuals. To me, the whole VC job is about bringing together great people since, together, they will inevitably and collectively do something great.
At NextView Ventures, we’re hyper-focused on the seed stage, and since starting the firm, we’ve heard repeatedly and consistently from founders that a primary challenge they face during that stage is hiring. And their feedback isn’t about hiring in general, nor is about hiring senior executives. Rather, we’ve heard time and again just how difficult it is to find exceptional operators — those all-important “doers” that are integral to making things really happen — a senior front-end engineer, a tactical online acquisition marketer, a phenomenal designer, and so on.
These great people are in our network. Even more of them are within our network’s network. And we know many top individuals exist outside a circle even that wide. But to date, only on an ad hoc basis over the past few years could we connect them to our portfolio. When we thought there may be a match, my partners and I would introduce someone who we knew was looking for a new job straight to a portfolio company. But it seemed like it wasn’t enough. We could be doing more. And we could add more value not only to our portfolio startups but to the candidates themselves, helping them land startup jobs they love.
In short, we felt our own process — and the process we’ve seen across the industry — was broken.
We started with one question: “What if, instead of relying on happenstance, we proactively tried to identify top talent both inside and outside our network who are excited about joining startups or finding their next adventure?” This led to us asking, “What if we deliberately operated our firm to have a true pulse on the hiring plans of both our portfolio companies and exceptional operators in town? And what if we could then confidentially and personally connect both sides in a way that benefitted each?”
For candidates, we believed we could create a better experience than empty, forgotten job boards on VC websites or generic search engines full of company names that lack real context or feel over-sold by a company’s description of itself.
For our startups, we knew we could help them source better and move faster. We could connect them with talented individuals that automatically come with a positive referral and light context upfront, rather than requiring them to reach out and sort through noisy application pools just to decide whether to put a candidate into their “real” process.
And, above all else, we knew this program could feel more human than other existing solutions. While many job boards or VC programs surface information, they then leave it to candidates or companies to reach out cold, perhaps by dropping a name the other side might know. We felt we should be more helpful than that, and so we’ve built a few features into this program, not least of which steps outside our tech-happy world to involve a customized, personal intro between both sides. That human touch has proved invaluable to all involved. Warm intros are how people begin most of their valuable relationships. Why should hiring be any different, especially given how crucial it is to building a startup?
Out of those questions and those beliefs, the idea for the NextView Talent Exchange was born. Since January, led by our VP of Platform Jay Acunzo, we’ve been in a beta period, quietly testing our project with half of our portfolio based in Boston. We focused on solving the problems above and were thrilled with the early success. In a few short months, we’ve surfaced dozens of qualified candidates for our portfolio startups (many of whom they wouldn’t have met otherwise). But most importantly, we’ve already witnessed the most result: real hires made. That’s the goal, and it’s happening.
Our Talent Exchange isn’t meant to replace any of the recruiting technology or processes used by startups, nor should it be viewed as an alternative to some later-stage VC firms’ in-house recruiters. Instead, we’ve encouraged our founders to view this as just one additional way we as a firm can help founders get their companies off to the best possible start. That is NextView’s overall mission, and that is the reason we exist and partner with exceptional entrepreneurs.
So, we’re taking the covers off of the program this week to raise awareness of what we’re doing within our own extended personal networks as people begin to think about their next thing. Additionally, we’re hoping this starts a broader conversation about what we as venture investors can be doing to systematically help startups succeed in their hiring.
Just like my mentor’s advice, our Talent Exchange is beginning to bring together more and more exceptional people, and I’m excited to see what they do next.