We are thrilled to announce this week’s exclusive with Hazel Mulhare, Partner at Erevena! With experience placing hundreds of executives at high growth companies like Asana, Box, and Carta, Hazel’s superpowers lie within the biggest challenge most founders face: acquiring executive-level talent. Having previously been a Principal at OSI, she also is able to approach these conversations from the lens of a VC.
From compensation structures (cash vs. equity) to planning future growth hires, Hazel’s domain experience evolves around adding top-notch executives and board members to the cap table. We sat down and discussed:
The biggest hiring mistake to avoid ❌
Tips for making your first C-Suite hire 📈
Executive compensation considerations for early-stage co’s 💰
The state of Executive Search and placements in 2030 🔮
TCT: Thanks for sitting down with us, Hazel. Let’s jump in.
How did you start out with regards to your career?
Executive search isn’t something I knew about during University. When I finished at Trinity College Dublin with a degree in humanities I knew I wanted to work with people and do a job which was fast-paced and highly stimulating, so the search was a natural fit and especially search focused on initially VC fund and then VC backed businesses, which was growing so rapidly in Europe at the time (2011 post-crisis).
You’ve been a leader and contributor at several executive search firms like Kea Consultants, Dore Partnership, and most recently as a Partner at Erevena, focused on VC-backed businesses. You were also formerly Principal and Head of Talent for Oxford Sciences Innovation (OSI). What’s the biggest difference between working as a consultant vs. on behalf of a Venture Portfolio like OSI?
I loved my time at OSI, as we were both funding businesses and building them from scratch. We had a huge fund (£615m), backed by some phenomenal folks like Sequoia and Google, and had access to some of the best scientists in the world in Oxford University. It gave me a lot of empathy for founders, seeing them in the trenches as they start out and strive to use technology to solve huge problems. However, I love my current capacity in an executive search firm as you are really ‘on the hook’ to deliver an excellent outcome for a client, they are paying you a not-insignificant amount of money to find them the best possible person for their business and you develop a strong sense of alignment on outcomes. I like that outcome-driven approach, vs being in more of a purely advisory seat. I also love winning new business for Erevena and chasing down exciting companies for us to work with.
You recently published, How to Hire Leaders for your Start-up, a decision framework for how start-up founders and business leaders should think about making leadership hires. What would you say is the biggest mistake that founders make when making key executive hires?
Not being specific.
What do you need this person to really achieve? Everything in the job description (external) and scorecard (internal) needs to lead back to that mission statement for the role. If you are a founder hiring for a function you’ve never led, you may realistically be wooly on the ‘how’ but should not be unclear on the ‘what’. A great recruiter and certainly great candidates will help inform whether the ‘what’ is feasible for one person in the timeline you have in mind, but it will help clarify the key skills and deliverables they will need to exhibit in their current and previous roles.
Erevena has made executive placements at Asana, Lemonade, Railsbank, Box, and Carta, plus many more. How does your firm’s approach differ from some of the others in terms of pipeline, clientele, and process?
I saw a tweet from a founder recently who was dismayed that they’d visited 4 or 5 search firm websites and saw a sea of middle-aged white men who all said the same thing about their business. Like a lot of sectors, there is something of a homogeneity to the way search firms describe themselves, and in reality, there is a lot of overlap in best practice across the best boutiques and larger search firms who serve the VC backed market. For me, I chose Erevena because I believe my colleagues are genuinely excited and curious about the world of high growth technology. We are an LP in some VC funds, so we’ve got skin in the game. We are able to work with companies from Series A through to public listing and beyond and we work across functions and across geographies. We also do that as one firm, which is unusual. I know about what all my Partners are working on across our different offices, and we are all swapping ideas across sectors, geos, and stages.
Given how long an executive search can take, how do you know you’re hiring people with the right skills for hyper-growth companies, where the business needs may look different than when the search started by the time the candidate is placed?
We ground the initial conversations in ‘where do you want to get to’. More often than not our clients share with us what they’ve shared with investors about their aspirations and so we are thinking for the medium term. Because we also start working with companies early and as a business follows them through, we often work with them on iterations of their various functions over the course of their growth. We also course correct during a search where that is relevant, we have 20 years of experience working with fast growing companies, so some change and iteration is par for the course.
What advice would you give to rising startup executives or operators looking to land their first C-suite role at a VC-backed company?
I wouldn’t worry too much about titles, sometimes it serves you better to come in as a VP or a ‘Head of’ and really excel at it. Ultimately I think you want to balance a percentage of the role that you know you can slam dunk, balanced with space for growth. I would say in the world of corporates etc, that might be 80/20, in a start-up you probably want to look at 60% of the role and be confident you are going to outperform and 40% where you know you’ll be pushing for growth. I am also a fan of telling my friends that they have a unique hierarchy of needs in a job and things they will prioritise over others. This is also important as you balance your risk appetite with what you’re looking for.
On the flip side, how should those looking to land their first gig in VC-backed companies approach the recruitment process?
It’s always a good idea to always take calls from recruiters, even when you’re not looking so that you’re on their radar. Additionally, you want to be networking while you’re happy and thriving, so that when the time is right to make the move you’ve built up a reputation as a great operator, not just someone looking for their next gig.
Once you’re in a process, prove that you’ve done the things they need for this role (use lots of examples), but also be curious about the business and where you’d fit in, and then be proactive about how you’d approach it. Send detailed follow ups after mid and late stage interviews with your thoughts and questions for next time. Do the research, talk to as many people connected to the business as possible and try to spend some informal time with the CEO!
With regards to compensation, how do executive placements in Seed-Series B companies look vs. growth companies? Does one tend to favor cash/equity mix?
It does depend on the business and this can be quite geography-specific. The rule of thumb is that you have more risk upside (ie. equity) in an early-stage company, but it tends to rationalise at Series B and even sometimes at A, given how competitive the talent landscape is in SV, NYC and London. If you are going to a very early stage company and taking a large hit on cash, you might want to have a very frank conversation with the founder about how they view this scaling at investment rounds or other milestones. There are some good benchmark calculators like Index’s Option Plan.
A genie says “I will grant you one wish. You can join any cap table you’d like for free”. What cap table would you join and why?
Stripe. And not just because they are my Irish compatriots! I am such a huge fan of what they’ve built, how they’ve balanced culture, vision, and growth.
What are you passionate about outside of work?
I read a lot of non-fiction, and in non-covid times I go to the theatre a few times a month and also host dinners (although am told I am a mediocre cook but an excellent pourer of wine!). I’m currently reading ‘Breath’ by James Nestor and attempting to re-learn how to breathe!
The year is 2030. What’s the state of talent placement in Venture-Backed companies?
I’d like to think that the best executive recruiters will still be a valuable partner to VC backed companies as they add their advisory lens, but I have no doubt there is a V2 of Linkedin or competitor which will have shook things up by then. I am hopeful that there will be more opportunities for companies outside of the main tech hubs, and that work will be more distributed, but highly connected. I also argue with myself on whether meritocracy is possible or exists, but I hope we will have discovered new and better ways to find and assess talent that goes beyond a resume.
Follow Hazel on Twitter (@hazelmulhare) for more insights into tech executive & board search!
Additional Executive Compensation resources:
Deal News 11/28 - 12/4
Monta: $795,441. Monta is a platform for EV owners to charge seamlessly both at home and when away. SaaS, Mobile App, Payment.
Flowrite: $660,000 led by Lifeline Ventures, Seedcamp. The new way to write on the web. Supercharge your everyday writing tasks by turning words into ready-to-send emails, posts, and more.
Habitual: $433,622 led by Seedcamp. Digital therapeutics for sustainable, health-changing weight loss.
Snip: $100,000. Engine-aggregator powered by Artificial Intelligence to search smartly and quickly for best deals in the fashion market.
Rubedo Life Sciences: $12,000,000 led by Khosla Ventures. Rubedo Life Sciences’ mission is to treat age-related diseases to extend health-span targeting senescence and stem cells.
Deduce: $7,300,000 led by True Ventures. Deduce uses collective intelligence to fight back against account takeover fraud.
Space Perspective: $7,000,000 led by Base Ventures, Prime Movers Lab. Space Perspective is a space travel company that was established so that humans would explore space for the betterment of all.
AgentSync: $6,700,000 led by Craft Ventures. AgentSync is a powerful, easy-to-use Compliance as a Service solution.
Floww: $6,696,497. Bringing transparency to the financial sector via an exceptional user interface. Creating greater liquidity in the private asset market.
Fylamynt: $6,500,000 led by Gradient Ventures. Fylamynt built and scaled web-scale infrastructure, shipped infrastructure products for private and public cloud.
Bigger Games: $6,000,000 led by Index Ventures. Bigger Games is a mobile gaming company.
Apty: $5,400,000 led by Companyon Ventures. Apty is the ideal solution for onboarding, training, change management and enterprise software optimization.
Actasys: $5,000,000. Actasys is commercializing ActaJet, a unique sensor cleaning technology for automotive and transportation industries.
Hello Genius: $5,000,000. Hello Genius is an app-based learning system that connects parents and children through personalized learning experiences.
Umedeor: $4,800,000 led by AlbionVC. uMed enables healthcare providers to run patient research more efficiently through automating the clinical studies process
MedArrive: $4,500,000 led by Define Ventures, Kleiner Perkins. MedArrive is a startup that connects a workforce of EMS professionals to patients from their homes and within their existing health systems.
Folx Health: $4,400,000.Folx Health is a digital health provider designed with the medical needs and goals of the LGBTQIA+ community in mind.
Orbit: $4,000,000 led by Andreessen Horowitz. Orbit is the first platform built specifically to grow developer communities.
FloatMe: $3,700,000 led by ManchesterStory Group. FloatMe is an app that helps millennials cover cash gaps and improve their finances.
AirDeck: $3,400,000 led by Cultivation Capital, Rock River Capital Partners. SaaS document engagement platform that used voice and video narration.
Wellory: $3,000,000 led by Story Ventures. Wellory is a tech company on a mission to make personalized nutrition accessible for all.
asistensi: $3,000,000 led by Alma Mundi Ventures, Mountain Nazca. Health insurance remittance that gives migrants a better way to support the health of their families back home.
Reposite: $2,500,000 led by Amazon. Reposite is the all-in-one workspace to power the travel trade.
Contingent: $2,300,000 led by Connect Ventures. Contingent is an enterprise supplier risk and resilience platform.
Okay: $2,200,000 led by Sequoia Capital. Okay helps leaders run high-performing teams with dashboards and user-friendly workflows
ZeroWall: $2,000,000 led by Susa Ventures. ZeroWall operates as an enterprise security company.
Segmed: $2,000,000 led by Blumberg Capital. Segmed provides high quality medical data and tools to companies and researchers developing medical AI algorithms.
Jitsu: $2,000,000 led by Costanoa Ventures. Jitsu.com (YC S20) is an open-source data integration and event collection platform. We're the maintainers of EventNative.org
SuperNormal: $2,000,000. SuperNormal is an asynchronous communication tool with video and screen recording capabilities suitable for remote teams.
Tallac Therapeutics: $62,000,000. Tallac Therapeutics offers next generation immunotherapies for cancer patients.
Ankorstore: $29,908,313 led by Index Ventures. Ankorstore is an online B2B marketplace that connects independent shop owners and specialist brands with neighborhood retailers.
Pigment: $25,900,000 led by Blossom Capital. Pigment is a business forecasting platform.
ultimate.ai: $20,000,000 led by OMERS Ventures. ultimate.ai is a virtual customer service agent builder bringing multilingual customer service automation to businesses.
VERSATILE: $20,000,000 led by Insight Partners. Hard Data. For Easier Decision Making.
Primer: $18,679,119 led by Accel. The open payments infrastructure with endless connectivity and an uncompromising checkout experience.
Pave: $16,000,000 led by Andreessen Horowitz. Pave provides Millennials with access to the funding they need to achieve their personal and financial goals
Infogrid: $15,500,000 led by Northzone. Infogrid is an AI technology company that automates building management.
Shop Ware: $15,000,000 led by Insight Partners. Shop-Ware is a shop management software for auto repair shops.
GreenPark Sports: $14,000,000 led by Galaxy Interactive. GreenPark Sports develops games designed for sports and esports fans.
iVexSol: $13,000,000. iVexSol is a newly formed viral vector manufacturing company
Totum Labs: $13,000,000 led by Heroic Ventures, Space Capital. Revolutionary wireless technology for low-cost, global, indoor tracking and monitoring of billions of assets.
1inch Exchange: $12,000,000 led by Pantera Capital. Liquidity Aggregator on the Ethereum Blockchain
Supergreat: $6,500,000 led by Benchmark. A community of real people reviewing the beauty products that work for them.
WaveOne: $6,500,000 led by Khosla Ventures. Context-adaptive compression of digital media.
Function of Beauty: $150,000,000 led by L Catterton. Function of Beauty offers personalized hair care products tailored to its customers' specific hair profile and goals.
Aurora Solar: $50,000,000 led by ICONIQ Capital. Aurora Solar is a SaaS company that develops tools to help solar professionals design and sell solar remotely.
Step: $50,000,000 led by Coatue. Step is a financial services company that builds mobile-based banking for teenagers.
HODINKEE: $40,000,000 led by The Chernin Group. HODINKEE designs watches and is a media and retail platform providing a point of view on industry news and releases.
GoSite: $40,000,000 led by Left Lane Capital. GoSite provides a cloud-based software suite that helps small businesses stay connected with their customers.
Materialize: $32,000,000 led by Kleiner Perkins. Materialize offers a streaming SQL database solution that simplifies application development for developers.
Stord: $31,000,000 led by Founders Fund. Stord provides warehousing services to brands who seek visibility and control over their inventory.
Proscia: $23,000,000 led by Scale Venture Partners. Proscia is a software company that provides digital and computational pathology solutions.
Jeff: $21,081,837 led by All Iron Ventures, Alma Mundi Ventures, FJ Labs. Jeff is a the first omnichannel ecosystem for daily services
Pockit: $20,237,944 led by Concentric. Pockit is building the world’s most inclusive bank.
Mursion: $20,000,000 led by Leeds Illuminate. Mursion, a virtual reality environment or platform where professionals practice and master complex interpersonal skills.
MEL Science: $14,000,000. MEL Science develops up to date chemistry kit subscription and VR software for learning chemistry
VOI Technology: $160,000,000 led by The Raine Group. VOI Technology owns, operates, and manages electric scooters for urban commuters.
Flock Freight: $113,500,000 led by SoftBank Vision Fund. Flock Freight uses algorithmic pooling technology to allow less-than-truckload (LTL) shippers to share trailer space in one full truckload.
Amount.com: $81,000,000 led by GS Growth. Amount is a digital technology company that accelerates digital transformation for financial institutions
FLEXE: $70,000,000 led by T. Rowe Price. FLEXE offers a warehousing technology platform that helps enterprises expand their distribution network.
HungryPanda: $70,000,000 led by Kinnevik AB. HungryPanda is a Chinese food and grocery delivery company with extensive market coverage.
Sourcegraph: $50,000,000 led by Sequoia Capital. Sourcegraph is a code search startup that makes it easier for developers to find code, which is scattered across systems.
Ridecell: $45,000,000 led by FortRoss Ventures. Ridecell provides car-sharing, ride-sharing, short-term leases, and autonomous vehicle fleet services for car rental companies.
EverlyWell: $175,000,000.EverlyWell is a digital health company that offers consumer testing, virtual care, at-home collection tests, and digital results.
Virta Health: $65,000,000 led by Sequoia Capital Global Equities. Virta delivers a clinically-proven treatment to reverse type 2 diabetes and other chronic metabolic diseases.
TuSimple: $350,000,000 led by VectoIQ LLC. TuSimple is a self-driving truck company developing technology that allows them to drive from depot-to-depot without human intervention.
Bizzabo: $138,000,000 led by Insight Partners. Bizzabo is a meeting and event planning platform for operating virtual or in-person conferences.
GoSecure: $15,000,000 led by W Investments. GoSecure is an information technology company that specializes in cybersecurity, cloud security, and network security.
Sources: Crunchbase, Twitter, LinkedIn.