Recruit Rockstars Podcast

Recruit Rockstars is the only podcast on the people part of PE & VC portfolio companies.
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Mar 11, 2020

You might not think that St. Louis is a hotbed for Private Equity.

You’d be wrong.

I tracked down Stacy Shlenk. She heads up talent acquisition & onboarding for HBM Holdings, which acquires, builds, and operates middle-market businesses.

HBM acquires majority positions in product-centric companies in Aerospace & Defense, Environmental, Medical Devices & Instruments, and Packaging.

Its middle-market specialty manufacturing businesses generate $50M to $400M in annual revenue and together employ 2,000 people.

Stacy leads due diligence & talent development for HBM and its portfolio companies.

In this 20-minute conversation, she reveals the common mistakes that business leaders make in hiring & building teams. And how you can do it the right way… even if you’re not in Manufacturing.


Mar 8, 2020

When it comes to P.E., there’s likely no better than Thoma Bravo.

The firm has a 40-year history, $30 billion in investor commitments, and invests in software & technology companies

Based in Chicago & San Francisco, Thoma Bravo has acquired over 200 companies. Such as Barracuda, J.D. Power, McAfee, TravelClick, and Ellie Mae.

I wanted to get the scoop on how they’ve been so successful & how they hire at the portfolio company level.

So I tracked down Hannah Johnson, Head of Human Resources.

Hannah leads the fund’s recruitment & retention efforts,, aligns human capital with the strategic goals of the business, and guards the unique Thoma Bravo culture.

Prior to Thoma Bravo, she led the HR efforts for Perkins+Will and Pierre-Yves Rochon, both architecture and design firms.

In this 20-minute conversation, Hannah shares the guiding principles of talent that have crafted Thoma Bravo’s enviable track record.

Mar 4, 2020

Josh Salyer is VP People Operations of Wasson Enterprise, one of the nation’s highest-profile family offices.

Wasson is the brainchild of Kim & Greg Wasson (in 35 years, he went to Intern to CEO of Walgreens.)

They invest in companies who do well by doing good.

Once they’ve invested, Josh advises the portfolio company CEO’s on how to build their teams.

And he knows precisely how to do it. Prior, Josh spent 4 years hiring teams at Amazon. So, he’s seen Talent at the biggest company in the world & the smallest companies in the world.

In this 20-minute conversation, Josh compares the two. And how to find the best people regardless of your company’s size.

Feb 28, 2020

I rarely see Glassdoor ratings this high.

And it’s vital, because Glassdoor is now the very first place that your prospective candidates look.

Katy Shields is VP People at VSCO, the fast-growing creative tools company.

She joined a business with 50 people, and has scaled it to over 170.

Based in Oakland California, VSCO builds creative tools, spaces and connections driven by self-expression. (You should download their amazing mobile app today.)

They’ve raised $90M from Accel, Glynn Capital, Obvious Ventures, and Goldcreast Investment.

Katy & the leadership team have created a deep sense of alignment amongst their people. Each feels a deep sense of accountability. It helps that she’s recruited a team of people she calls “collaborative, humble, and kind.” It helps that she learned the fundamentals as HR Business Partner at Google.

I wanted to know how Katy did it.

In this 20-minute conversation, she shares how you can do the same.




Feb 27, 2020

I just met a VC.

During our conversation, he said “The lifeblood of any great company is great people. Being able to recruit & retain them is the most important thing.”

Notice that he didn’t say it’s important.

He called it the MOST important.

And he should know. He’s Rick Heitzmann, Partner at Firstmark in New York.

With $2 billion under management, Firstmark has invested in companies that you know… StubHub, Riot Games, Shopify, Pinterest. Over 100 portfolio companies in total, both consumer & enterprise technology.

In fact, Rick has been recognized a bunch of times as one of top 100 VC’s globally.

In our 20-minute conversation, he shares his wisdom about how to recruit & retain Rockstars for your fast-growing company.

Feb 24, 2020

How does a legendary Silicon Valley VC fund land the best talent?

I wanted to find out.

So I just met with Atli Thorkelsson. He’s Director of Executive Talent at Redpoint Ventures, with $4.8 Billion under management. Since 1999, they’ve invested in over 500 portfolio companies, leading to 150 IPO’s & acquisitions. Such as Netflix, Stripe, Twilio, and Zendesk.

Atli’s seen the huge impact on early-stage companies when the Founder spends sufficient time on hiring.

He manages Redpoint’s executive talent network. So, Alti works with founders to craft their leadership hiring strategy & introduces them to executive-level candidates.

Prior, he was an executive recruiter with SPMB, one of the world’s largest Technology & Energy search firms.

In this 20-minute conversation, Atli reveals how he’s winning the war for talent. (And how you can do the same.)

Feb 20, 2020

Roy Bahat has seen the future.

The future of work.

Because he’s head of Bloomberg Beta, the $200M Venture Capital fund based in SF and NYC.

Backed by Bloomberg, Beta invests in startups that are changing the future of work. Making it more productive & humane.

And it’s working. With 25 roaring portfolio companies such as Slack, MasterClass, and Codecademy.

Formerly, Roy was President IGN Entertainment, the leading games maker.

In this 20-minute conversation, he reveals how your employees (really) want to work. And how work in the future will look.


Feb 18, 2020

You may not realize it.

But you’re competing for the best talent with the best companies in the world.

Yet, it IS possible.

Because you can offer things that Google & Facebook & Apple can’t.

Lisa Mikkelsen is Head of Global Human Capital at Flourish Ventures.

As a spinout from Omidyar Network, Flourish makes VC investments in early-stage financial services companies.

In fact, they’ve funded 50 companies that are focused on financial inclusion & financial health globally. Whether insuretech or challenger banks, these startups want to democratize financial services.

In this 20-min conversation, Lisa reveals how even tiny, lean, no-name companies land the best talent.

Even in the face of the giants.

And how you can do the same.

Feb 13, 2020

I’ve been looking forward to this for a long time.

Just interviewed Shannon Anderson. She is Director of Talent with the legendary VC firm Madrona Venture Group.

Based in Seattle, Madrona specializes in seed, startup, and Series A deals.

They’ve made over 300 investments in 110 companies since its inception.

In this role, Shannon is the center of Madrona’s talent network, identifying rising stars for their portfolio companies & the Pacific NW startup ecosystem. She also serves as the strategic HR advisor to portfolio CEO’s.

Prior, she served a similar role as Founding Talent Partner at Ignition Partners.

And she spent 9 years at Microsoft, where she built the recruiting function that scaled the company from 8,000 to 40,000 people.

Shannon knows as much as anyone I’ve met on hiring for early-stage companies. During this 20-minute conversation, I learned a ton.

You will too.

Feb 10, 2020

David Waxman didn’t start a company.

He started three.

And not just any companies.

After graduating with a masters degree from MIT’s Media Lab in 1995, David Co-Founded Firefly (acquired by Microsoft), PeoplePC (acquired by Earthlink), and Spot Runner (changed the way online advertising is created, planned, bought, sold.)


And then, David decided to switch sides and become a Venture Capitalist.

Now he’s Managing Partner of LA-based TenOneTen Ventures, making early-stage investments in data-driven companies.

(Coolest VC name ever … based on LA’s I-10 and I-110 highways)

Want to learn about venture capital in LA? Check out TenOneTen’s podcast here:

Want to learn how David scales teams in his VC portfolio? Invest 20 minutes in this episode.

Feb 9, 2020

Kelsey Lawrie is VP Talent Operations at ’87

’87 was born out of Chicago-based Sterling Partners, the multi-billion Private Equity fund founded in 1987. It invests in & incubates direct-to-consumer businesses.

Kelsey was well-prepared for the task. She previously served as Director of Talent Acquisition at hypergrowth Truck Club, acquired by Nordstrom.

In this 20-minute conversation, Kelsey reveals the promise - and the pitfalls - of talent management in consumer-facing businesses.

Feb 6, 2020

Sunny Vanderbeck knows a thing or two about selling companies.

Sunny is Managing Partner of Satori Capital, a very different kind of Private Equity firm, based in Dallas.

In his work as an investor, he draws from a wealth of entrepreneurial experience, having led his business, Data Return, to a $3 Billion market cap & becoming one of the youngest CEO’s of a NASDAQ company.

He’s had the rare opportunity of selling his business twice, buying it back in between.

Prior, Sunny has served as a Section Leader in the U.S. Army’s 2nd Ranger Battalion & led a team at Microsoft

In his new book Selling Without Selling Out: How to Sell Your Business Without Selling Your Soul, Sunny offers practical advice for selling your business - or taking on an investor - without compromising what matters to you.

If you’re thinking about raising capital - or selling your business - you’d be hard-pressed to find better advice than Sunny’s in this 20-minute conversation.

Feb 5, 2020

You probably know about Silicon Valley startups.

And Manhattan’s tech chops.

But have you seen the new companies that are cooking up in the Midwest?

Or, as Ira Weiss, Partner of Hyde Park Venture Partners, calls it: “Mid-Continent.”

And he should know.

HPVP invests exclusively in early-stage tech companies in the (previously-considered) flyover states. If you’re raising a first or second round of capital, this fund is likely on your radar.

Ira has been investing in private companies for 15 years, with over 125 VC & angel investments. He sits on many boards as a director or observer of FourKites, Parkwhiz, ShipBob, and others.

And, somehow, he finds time to teach entrepreneurship as Professor at University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business.

In this 20-minute conversation, Ira shares his many insights about how to successfully scale a team as your business ramps. (Even if you’re not Mid-Continent, it’s filled with practical advice.)

Feb 2, 2020

Few talent experts are as impressive than Andy Caine of Frazier Healthcare Partners, the $4.2 billion growth & venture capital investor in over 170 companies.

Andy works closely with Frazier’s Growth Buyout portfolio companies. There, he focuses on pre-investment organizational due diligence, talent assessment & development, and post-acquisition management.

He’s become an expert in helping PE backed companies scale. In total, Andy has conducted over 250 talent evaluations, coached 200 leaders, and assessed 60 organizations.

Prior to Frazier, he was an Organization Practice Expert at McKinsey & Company. If that’s not enough, he also served as Commander in the US Army’s Attack Helicopter Company.


In this 20-min conversation, Andy shares what he’s learned by evaluating the talent at countless many growth-stage companies. And the mistakes you should avoid.

Jan 28, 2020

The smartest Private Equity investors have added whip-smart heads of Talent to their in-house teams.

Because investing is one thing… But attracting Rockstar teams to do something with that funding is another.

Here’s Exhibit A.

Based in Palo Alto (ground zero of the talent war), Kelly Carlson is Head of Talent with Symphony Technology Group. She leads the firm’s talent efforts & works with STG’s portfolio company CEOs & leadership teams to crush the number.

And she’s well-qualified to do it.

Kelly joined STG from TillmanCarlson, the retained executive search boutique where she recruited CEOs, CFOs, CTOs. (Say that 3 times fast!)

She mastered her craft during 8 years at Russell Reynolds Associates as one of the early members of the firm’s technology practice.

I had a chance to speak with Kelly about how to find the best candidates, how to land them, and... probably most important these days…how to keep them.

If you have 20 minutes, it’ll be well spent on this one.

Jan 21, 2020

…And you think that your business is complex?

Meet Luke Saunders, CEO & Founder of Farmer’s Fridge.

His ambitious venture combines custom hardware, software, food prep, distribution, and wirelessly-gathered data analytics. (You could say he’s bitten off alot.)

Based in Chicago, Farmer’s Fridge makes fresh meals in their kitchens & fills their Fridges with wholesome, delicious salads, bowls, and snacks.

Luke founded Farmer’s Fridge in 2013. And he’s dining with some heavy-hitters...

He’s raised $42 million from Danone Manifesto Ventures, Innovation Endeavors, Cleveland Avenue, GreatPoint Ventures, Finistere Ventures, and PowerPlant Ventures.

In this 20-minute conversation, Luke reveals how he’s scaling the team, building the culture, and changing how we eat on the go.

Jan 18, 2020

I just had to good fortune to interview Emily Azevedo.

She’s Vice President of Talent of the prominent growth capital firm Mainsail Partners.

Based in San Francisco, Mainsail leads majority control investments in EBITDA-positive software & tech-enabled services.

Emily joined the firm & works with Mainsail’s portfolio companies on their talent needs, including executive leadership, recruiting, compensation, and assessment.

Prior, she mastered her craft at (my alma mater) Heidrick & Struggles, the preeminent executive search firm.

In this 20-min conversation, Emily reveals the keys to scaling the people part of your growth business. Including the key pitfalls to avoid.

Jan 16, 2020

Here’s the CEO of one of the fastest-growing food companies I’ve ever seen!

Mike Pytlinski is CEO of Nutridried, makers of Moon Cheese. I love this snack! (And it’s super healthy.) You’ve likely seen it at checkout in every Starbucks.

I tracked down Mike to understand how he’s scaling the business & the team. He was well-prepared for this hypergrowth.

Prior to Moon Cheese, Mike was VP Marketing at Palermo’s Pizza, where he tripled the business.

He developed his CPG & leadership chops at Kraft Foods, and holds an MBA from Kellogg School.

In this 20-minute conversation, Mike shares his insights on recruiting, building a culture, and how to manage hypergrowth (a very high-class problem)

Jan 14, 2020

Time is everything in recruiting. (You can’t fill the seat fast enough.)

Yet, most recruiters don’t charge on a time-based basis. They’re either contingency or retained.

Why is that, anyway?

I had to find out.

So I just interviewed Peggy Shell, CEO of Creative Alignments, based in Boulder.

She came up with the super-cool concept of “Time-based recruiting”

And growth companies seem to love it.

In this 20-min conversation, she explains how she went from math teacher to headhunter and why time-based recruiting might be just what your business needs.

Jan 11, 2020

I’m confident enough to admit that I’m a fanboy of Jason Fried.

He’s CEO & Co-Founder of Chicago-based Basecamp. They make the original & leading project management tool.

And I was humbled to interview him for Recruit Rockstars Podcast.

Because Jason is one of my favorite thinkers on the subjects of work, hiring, and culture (Warning: Some of his views are highly unorthodox. But they work.)

Jason co-founded Basecamp 20 years ago. He leads a team of 50 employees (in 30 cities!) Remarkably, half have been with the company for 5+ years. (How does that compare to your team’s tenure?)

And he’s bootstrapped the whole thing, with no Venture Capital other than a small investment by Jeff Bezos himself.

Basecamp now has 3 million customers, including me.

If that wasn’t enough, Jason has also co-author ed bestselling must-read books: Remote, Rework, and the new It Doesn’t Have To Be Crazy At Work.

If you’re a leader trying to get the most out of your people, you could do a whole lot worse than follow Jason’s example. In this 30-minute conversation, he reveals how most leaders get it entirely wrong.

Jan 8, 2020

For the milestone 300th episode of Recruit Rockstars Podcast, I wanted to bring you a milestone guest.

I mean … Milestone

With months of persistence, I finally persuaded Marcus Buckingham to join us.

You know Marcus, the bestselling author, is widely recognized as the world’s leading expert on Talent. He’s a renowned thought leader on unlocking the strengths & increasing your team’s performance.

His books include “First, Break All the Rules” & “Now, Discover Your Strengths.”

I was captivated by his new book “Nine Lies About Work.” He takes an in-depth look at the lies that pervade your team & what truly brings them together to perform.

If you’re leading a team (successfully or otherwise), this 20-min conversation with Marcus will change the way you go about it.

Jan 6, 2020

Imagine running a company.

With employees who handle dangerous chemicals.

And being required to keep track of 15 million (!) different files to describe how to handle each chemical.

Sounds like an opportunity for SaaS to streamline things?

Glenn Trout is CEO of VelocityEHS, the leading SaaS platform serving the employee health & safety category. (He’s a fellow alum from Kellogg.)

EHS regulatory reporting requirements are rigorous. Glenn realized that tracking all this info with paper binders or home-grown Excel & Access databases wouldn’t work.

He now leads the biggest provider of on-demand EHS compliance solutions.

VelocityEHS is backed by CVC Growth Fund, the private equity firm with $1 billion in equity commitments.

In this 20-minute conversation, Glenn reveals how he’s created a magnetic culture & scaled the team.

Dec 20, 2019

Based in Menlo Park, Unusual Ventures invests in Seed & Series A startups. Their focus in enterprise & consumer tech.

Unusual has an ‘unusual’ secret weapon.

His name is Jon Volk, and he’s Director of Talent at Unusual. He spots talent for the fund & their portfolio companies.

He’s uniquely qualified, as a former recruiter at Google, Amazon, and AppDynamics.

Venture Capital is all about pattern recognition, even when it comes to hiring. Fortunately, I persuaded Jon to invest 20 minutes sharing his best practices & lessons learned.

Dec 19, 2019

Did you know that $300 of supplies are wasted & thrown away during a typical surgery? Not to mention the occasional instrument that’s accidentally left inside the body cavity :-O

Not anymore.

Jennifer Fried is CEO & Co-Founder of Chicago-based ExplORer Surgical.

They’ve created workflow management software for the operating room.

Which helps docs & nurses avoid mistakes, achieve better clinical outcomes, save lives, save money on wasted supplies, and avoid patient lawsuits.

She’s raised millions from top VC’s including Aphelion Capital, Elliott Management, M25, Pritzker Group Venture Capital, Wasson Enterprise, SymphonyAlpha Ventures, HBS Alumni Angels, and The George Shultz Innovation Fund.

In this 20-minute conversation, Jennifer reveals how she’s scaled the team. How she hires. Plus, how she took maternity leave from her own startup (…and what she found when she returned.)

Dec 17, 2019

Think you're open, honest, and direct with your team?

If you're like most leaders, you could do better.

Far better.

So I sought out an expert on the topic of giving feedback. And I found him.

Aaron Levy heads Raise The Bar Consulting. He's also author of the fascinating new book "Open, Honest, and Direct."

It has an average of 5-star reviews on Amazon for a reason.

He's one of the best thinkers I've met on the topic of unlocking your team's potential.

Invest 20 minutes with Aaron in this new interview.

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