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The founder’s dilemma: More money, not enough leadership talent

By Amanda Price, Morgan Lichtenstein, Erika Giles

The elevated demand for top talent has caused a significant ripple effect in the startup world, leaving founders with a new dilemma. For the first time, the path toward becoming a unicorn is not stifled by a founder’s ability to raise capital, but by the limited number of qualified leaders available to hire. While headlines point to a slowdown in funding, the record-high $621B deployed in 2021 represents a serious quagmire for founders: more money, not enough leadership talent to work at startups.

Put simply, the basic law of supply and demand has created a problematic cocktail for founders and their companies. While founders cope with a leadership talent shortage, they also must realize that the rules of engagement have changed. Candidates are calling the shots. 

According to Hunt Club, a talent recruitment company, candidates are now getting an average of 2.8 job offers — up from 1.7 in 2019, negotiating their on-target earnings up 30%, and closing in half the time it took before the pandemic began in 2019. Along with expedited timelines and competitive offers coming in from multiple bidders, candidates will turn down offers if they don’t meet criteria such as flexibility around hybrid-remote work. Likewise, the ability for companies to pay an employee a different salary based on their geographic location is starting to dissolve. 

Twisting the knot tighter, is the fact that the best talent already has a job. These desirable individuals are considered “passive talent” in the recruiting world. They are hard to reach and hard to lure over to a new company. 

“Top talent doesn’t submit resumes for a new job. The roles are now reversed, and smart fast-growing companies are trying to make the first move. For startups struggling to keep up, they must realize that if you want the best, the best are or are about to be taken,” explains Nick Cromydas, Founder and CEO of Hunt Club. 

Outbound strategies win the talent game

We all know that time is money, but this adage could not be more true in the startup game. This raises important questions for founders. How should they find and hire leadership talent?

Eighty-two percent of employers say that referrals yield the best return on investment. This is due to the fact that a good majority of employees hired by a referral are likely to stay at a company for at least 4 years. On the flip side, employees who found their role through job boards tend to stay at a company for 2 years or less. 

In order to win the talent game, founders need to change their approach to hiring leadership talent. Rather than relying on inbound applicants, companies must put together an outbound strategy targeting hard-to-reach talent who are often not on the job market. Partnering with a talent company that specializes in securing leadership for startups provides a significant advantage. Whether building the muscle in-house or partnering with a recruiting company, relationships matter.

Why relationships matter

Focusing on the power of trusted relationships, Hunt Club — a recruitment company placing leadership across fast-growing companies like, GoPuff, Upwork, Nerdy, Avant, G2, Made In, and Flyr Labs, has built a platform that grows and connects professional networks to help startups find and hire the best talent in tech.

Hunt Club’s technology instantly offers founders access to an ever-growing expert network, made up of over 15,000 connected, influential business leaders and more than 7 million candidates. Built through trusted referrals, this tech transforms the way companies and founders find and hire top talent.

When a company is interested in finding their next business leader, Hunt Club’s technology searches their internal expert network and identifies top qualified candidates quickly, filling the sourcing pipeline. The technology then facilitates a trusted personal introduction to the candidates by a colleague, connecting Hunt Club’s talent team to premier passive candidates.

By automating the sourcing process, Hunt Club’s talent advisors are able to focus on building relationships with candidates and finding the right culture fit for customers. The process is so efficient that Hunt Club closes searches in half the time for high-growth companies — taking two weeks out of the sourcing and placing process.

Likewise, companies are no longer limited to their own network or geography when trying to land the perfect leader that would otherwise be out of their network depth. With Hunt Club’s expert network, 100+ CMO’s help refer your next VP of Marketing, converting candidates quickly through trusted introductions. 

“In a world where venture backed companies are trying to 10x, and larger companies are focused on future-proofing their business models, the right hire can be the difference between ringing the bell at the Nasdaq and making a tough choice for the future. Talent is your best investment, and we help you find and hire them,” said Nick Cromydas, CEO of Hunt Club. 

Hunt Club Atlas powers trusted networks for investors and high-growth companies

After helping thousands of founders find and hire the best talent through trusted relationships, Hunt Club realized that venture and private equity funds were facing a similar crisis — providing value beyond the check they write. When courting a founder, private capital often offers access to their network as a benefit of the partnership, but when it comes to introducing portfolio companies to talent, promises often fall short.

To help the investment community solve this challenge, Hunt Club is making their talent network engine available to private capital. Called Hunt Club Atlas, the technology is custom built for Venture Capital and Private Equity firms to connect their collective professional networks in order to form their private supernetwork of top leadership talent. 

Like Hunt Club’s recruiting software, Atlas enables investors to search their network, source talent, and make strategic introductions with the click of a button. The engine maps the investment company and its portfolio brand’s connections, builds contact pipelines, applies a relationship score, and then facilitates an introduction. 

With Hunt Club Atlas, venture capitalists and private equity firms are able to deliver on promises to make trusted introductions and connect portfolio brands with business development opportunities, improving their reputation and expanding the likelihood of unicorn-level success for portfolio companies. 

“Real relationships matter. But, tracking those relationships is hard across multiple modalities as executives constantly move around,” says Mark Dempster, Founder & Chief People Officer of The Circle at Founders Circle Capital. “So we did two things.  First, we created The Circle which are private  leadership communities for each major title in a company. Then, we implemented Atlas which allows our firm to efficiently answer the question ‘Who do we know?’ and ‘Who knows them best?’ Now, when CEOs alert us to new CXO roles needed on their teams, we can identify candidates very fast  who gladly accept our outreaches to talk to them about those positions and how they might fit with their personal and professional ambitions. The tone of the conversation is completely different from standard recruiter cold calls.” 

On both sides of the table, funding is just the beginning of a startup’s journey from seed to unicorn. As founders and investors work to solve this dilemma, finding more effective ways to build an empire together requires the right mix of technology, with the right talent, creating a clear path forward.