It would be getting ahead of ourselves to suggest that the London tech scene is facing anything on the scale of a Silicon Valley-style ‘talent crunch’. In fact, given the city’s huge financial sector, it could even be argued that, post-financial crisis, hiring has actually got a little easier. Meanwhile, initiatives like the Silicon Milkroundabout jobs fair have helped to make the case for startup life. Nonetheless, in London and the world over, turning a product into a company that can scale not only requires attracting the best talent possible, but also putting in place systems to do so.
Hoping to lighten that burden for its portfolio companies is Passion Capital. In a blog post, the London-based early-stage VC has announced that it’s hired ex-Facebooker Melissa Trahan to the new position of “Head of Talent”.
Trahan was most recently with Massive Health, the Silicon Valley health startup that was acquired by Jawbone. Before that, she spent four years at Facebook — from September 2008 to March 2012 — as a “Technical Sourcer”, helping to build the rapidly growing social network’s “TechOps, Infrastructure and Product Engineering” teams, according to Trahan’s LinkedIn profile. During Massive Health’s exit, she was also “embedded” with the recruiting team at Silicon Valley VC firm Greylock Partners.
Arriving in the UK in March, Trahan has been in her new post at Passion Capital for a month, while the announcement was wisely held back just in case it didn’t work out for either party.
“Melissa will be working with our portfolio companies on sourcing and recruiting for their most strategic hires and also helping them to get best practices in place for hiring and scaling their teams,” notes the blog post.
So, chalk this up as another example of London’s startup scene attracting Silicon Valley talent? Well, sort of. The VC firm admits that it was somewhat fortuitous that Trahan had been drawn to London due to her “personal situation”, although I’m hearing that Passion wasn’t the only job offer on the table by some stretch.
What it does show, however, is that more than ever, as deal-flow in London and Europe as a whole is becoming increasingly competitive now that the seed funding gap has largely been closed (although Series A and beyond is a different matter altogether), early-stage VCs are going to have to compete on the networks and suite of complementary services and resources they can provide, as much as the capital they can inject. And help with recruitment, thus taking a page from the Silicon Valley playbook, is certainly one area that can make the difference.
As for why Passion Capital has chosen to hire a recruitment specialist to help its portfolio companies only now, Partner Eileen Burbidge tells me it was something they’d wanted to do since the fund was set up in 2011, but decided to wait till they found the right person. “Time and time again, our founders have consistently told us that finding and hiring great talent and new team members is the most difficult (and yet valuable) part of what they’re trying to do,” she says. “We always challenge our founders to hire the best people they can (and not to settle) and it was important for us to walk the same walk.”
Meanwhile, Burbidge says that in some ways London has always had its own ‘talent crunch’ compared to other tech hubs around the world, with competition for the best talent coming from “banks and larger corporates”. However, the situation is improving. “Now startups are credible and seen as a viable option,” she says. “At the same time, with all credit due to London and its ability to attract great companies, the larger tech companies are now the new competition for talent — but I still think it’s net positive because they’ll also bring people into London, who will eventually realize they want to be in more aggressive and fast-paced environments.”