Building People Ops in Early-Stage Startups with Natalie Ledbetter

people operations in early stage startups

Gareth Webb brings in Natalie Ledbetter, Head of People and Platform at Boldstart Ventures, seed-stage VC focused on highly technical founder-led businesses.

Natalie has 20 years of experience focused on both early-stage and hyper-growth organizations. She works with founders to build and scale people-first companies concentrating on the end-to-end employee experience.

In this episode, we discuss Natalie’s unique role in building out people ops in early-stage startups, where founders go wrong, how hiring and people needs evolve as companies scale, the rise of the chief of staff role, and more.
Additional topics covered: 
  • common hiring mistakes founders make in early-stage startups
  • when to bring in a people leader to the organization
  • why you should consider a chief of staff role
  • building out a strong culture



[00:00:00] Gareth Webb: Natalie. Hi, thank you for joining us again for like I've had quite a lot of your time lately for various conversations and having you come down to Austin as well. Appreciate that. So timely conversation. So a big announcement today just closed another big round. And that's public knowledge now, right?

[00:00:15] Natalie Ledbetter:It is public knowledge now. Yes.

[00:00:19] Gareth Webb: Very good. So that'll be it's nice to see. Good news

[00:00:20] Natalie Ledbetter: Sixth fund. Yep.

[00:00:22] Gareth Webb: Sixth fund. Is there any kind of, is this fund just a new fund or is it toward any sort of specific niche?

[00:00:28] Natalie Ledbetter: There isn't like a specific niche. That's the one thing, if you read any of the blog posts that we did a number of our and we also announced two of our two of our basically principles have moved into partner roles.

[00:00:40] And the, what I would say is actually it's. It's [00:00:45] the opposite. It's we are very thematic and we've been at this for 11 years. And for us, if we're winning with, this deep knowledge of these spaces developer tools, like infrastructure Um, like security, et cetera.

[00:01:01] And we're all, we're building a name and a reputation around that as well because of the deep knowledge. There's really no reason for us to be, I mean, I think we will look at different technologies and whatnot, but like for the most part, we stay in our own lane and that's probably one of the reasons that we, have been so successful.

[00:01:21] I believe there was a study done where we we have the most unicorns of any seed investors I think out there, which is pretty exciting.

[00:01:29] Gareth Webb: Yeah, that's [00:01:30] fairly mad statistic, especially when trying to court new investors. The other thing as well is your, so you focus on technical founders only, or predominantly.

[00:01:41] Natalie Ledbetter: That's right.

[00:01:42] Gareth Webb: Only. So they're and by definition, a lot of the products are Less for one of a better word, body shop type businesses, right? You don't have huge head counts. You have scalable IP, scalable software largely product led growth type, right type opportunities.

[00:01:57] Natalie Ledbetter: We have a number of product led growth companies.

[00:01:59] And that. That I would say has been in the last handful of years. Mostly because that's a new, that's a new sales motion. But that is one of those motions that works really well with developer tooling because you win the minds and hearts of developers. And then, moves up through organically [00:02:15] through the organization, through through the engineering team.

[00:02:18] And then later down the road, you bring in your enterprise sales. We really, we. Most of our investments are actually pre-product and a big chunk of them are actually pre incorporation as well. So we are yeah, so we get in there very early, and that is one of the things I would say.

[00:02:35] Is again, it's this, it's a mentality of getting in the trenches with them that I think, makes our approach different.

[00:02:45] Gareth Webb: Yeah. So it's quite unique then in my mind, anyway, that a firm that's it's not an unknown VC, but it's a lesser known a hidden gem potentially.

[00:02:53] Yeah. The fact you get in so early, and then the fact they have you as like a People Partner or [00:03:00] operating partner, head of people. That's quite unique because there's plenty of firms out there that are bigger investing in bigger firms and they don't necessarily have a dedicated talent partner, people partner.

[00:03:09] Yeah. So like how did it come about like you getting in touch with bold start and joining them?

[00:03:15] Natalie Ledbetter: It's actually a funny story. Because what I would say is it's always been something that's been interesting for me, so I've been a people leader in three different startups come in, scale it out, build the sort of foundational, but building blocks of HR, talent acquisition, anything around like learning and development, professional development culture.

[00:03:34] And then in my last company, it was actually with facilities as well. But what I would say is so the way that it came about and I would say the one that thing that's a little bit unique about [00:03:45] me compared to, I think a lot of the people in this role is I'm an operator.

[00:03:51] I come from, startups. I have seen it all. I've have the pattern recognition that comes with those things. I know how to win the best talent. And then I also can help them build. So what I would say is like that is the value that, that I bring that's a little bit unique to this role.

[00:04:09] We're starting to see it a little bit more as far as bringing like. Ex people, leaders as opposed to executive recruiters and just, having, so I would not call myself like a talent partner. But how did I get this this role? Dipti who is the people leader of sneak one of our companies [00:04:30] actually introduced me to to the bold start guys.

[00:04:32] But it was a, it's actually a funny story because I came in and they were like, we don't know what this role is. We don't have a job description. We don't have anything. We think you're too senior for this role. So like great meeting you, this was really fun and um, stay in touch.

[00:04:50] And I in my proper form, I said to them I'll revert in a couple days with a deck of what, of a hypothesis that I have in terms of the value that I can create for your founders. The funny thing has been, I think, It's actually been quite successful to the point where I feel as though I could just be working for, you know, 24 hours straight for two [00:05:15] years and like never get it all done, which is just, it's so hilarious when you literally have made up your entire job and you are just like, Incredibly busy.

[00:05:26] Yeah, but anyway, so it came about in a very odd way. But it, the dynamic, you could just tell the minute that we all met, that it was just like a perfect fit. And when I showed them my hypothesis of what I thought I could build, they were like, this is exactly what we're, we're imagining.

[00:05:43] So yeah, so that's the story of how I got to Boldstart.

[00:05:47] That's

[00:05:47] Gareth Webb: very cool. And so yeah, you are you are not only a value add to the partners of Boldstart, right? In terms of. Helping their capital be more effective in hands of founders, but probably [00:06:00] in, just in terms of attracting founders and a value add there's plenty of money out there.

[00:06:04] Sure. There's a lot of smart money and there's a lot of dumb money and then everything in between. But if they can show, why they're Their allocation is gonna be more beneficial and increased chances of success than I think, right. the people piece is very complicated.

[00:06:17] I dunno if you follow open view at all, like they're another yeah. Yep. The PLG guys up in Boston. Yeah. But they had some research for last year may not be the case right now, but last year that hiring and people matters were more stressful to founders than fundraising. Yeah. Which makes sense, I think, but yeah, so I'm GE I guess you are like a way of.

[00:06:38] Adding value to the capital, but also alleviating the stress for a founder. I wanted to talk about that. Like what what's your like [00:06:45] day, one week by week? Like you get intro to a new founder that has just received a seed , funding round what's your like typical sort of standard operating procedure with them?

[00:06:55] Natalie Ledbetter: Yeah. So once the money hits the bank I'm brought in to introduce the way that we as Boldstart as a company can can help them and the key differentiators between us and some of the other VCs that are out there. And so typically I bring them in, I do an onboarding presentation where I essentially spell out kind of the areas where they can honestly where the, where they can lean on me.

[00:07:21] And so I typically will bring them through this whole entire process. Send them the deck just so they understand. Because [00:07:30] what I talk a lot about is this new discipline of like people operations, as opposed to like a more buttoned up HR type of function. And we go through looking at programmatic things that you can build along the way along the entire employee journey.

[00:07:47] And so my sort of remit is to get them thinking about those things before they even get to To, to start scaling. So I find myself getting in the trenches, even with them building alongside them and helping them, take things that I have learned and making them bespoke for those founders.

[00:08:05] And it's just, I think, an added time saver really, because, I am, I'm there to counsel them on hard on hard people related issues, [00:08:15] but I'm also there to take work off their plate because like I say to them, I've probably built it, architected, it, experienced it.

[00:08:22] So right. But yeah, it's, I think the biggest thing is really just we have these technical founders, typically engineers, technical product managers, et cetera in the CEO, in the founder seat. And my goal is to help. Think through how are, how can you build a culture that is people first in this hyper-technical environment.

[00:08:42] A lot of it is really just teaching them how to fish essentially.

[00:08:47] Gareth Webb: And so if you, the money hits the bank, you give them kind of a bespoke run through, but it is essentially a structured playbook that you have. There's like a, almost like a mini program of, Hey, here's the [00:09:00] first few things you need to take into account.

[00:09:02] Natalie Ledbetter: Yeah. Well, what I'll say is because certain companies, like one of our companies um, actually within their first four hires, they had someone who is um, essentially a people leader. And so that wouldn't be a company that I'd spend a ton of time with. I spend time with her bouncing ideas and things like that, but for the most part, she's coming into this with that knowledge already.

[00:09:28] So for the most part in terms of playbook, you'd be surprised at how much it actually does vary in terms of what they've already been thinking about what they've already built before. And some of these people, some of these founders have had their heads down building for, some time.

[00:09:43] It really just depends. I [00:09:45] would say playbook wise, you know, I have like a list of, of times um, in terms. You know, Checking in with them and just making sure. Do you like have this insurance set up to have you you're starting to hire abroad. What are you doing? Are you building an entity there or are you actually using one of the one of the international PEs and weighing the pros and cons and things like that.

[00:10:08] So it's what I, one of the things I love about this job is actually the diversity, because again, I could have. The people leader of a big ID, which is already a unicorn coming to me and saying what's your favorite tool for X, Y, and Z? Or, and it, and that could be something like a tool for like a confluence or something like [00:10:30] that.

[00:10:30] And then I could have someone saying parental leave. What do I don't what do I do? so it's that

[00:10:37] Gareth Webb: is the beauty. Everyone wants, everybody wants to know what everyone else is doing. Yeah,

[00:10:40] Natalie Ledbetter: Totally. Where do we have to be?

[00:10:41] Gareth Webb: But I think, okay. So how how do you, but how do you help with that?

[00:10:44] If it's something that's pretty complex like that. Yeah. Where do you get, where do you get your Intel from?

[00:10:48] Natalie Ledbetter: Yeah, a couple of things, I would say that one, I read a lot, I try to keep tabs on the market. I have two really amazing People ops organizations. One that is very New York centric.

[00:11:03] And then one that is people, tech partners, which is an advisory service for HR tech. And so it is essentially frankly, some of the best people leaders I'd say actually in the [00:11:15] world, in both of those groups and I have the experience of, uh, the pattern recognition that comes from doing a lot of these things, however, in this new world that we're living in,

[00:11:30] I look to them a lot to say, what are these things? Have you experienced this thing before, or one of our founders is actually, something's awry with X, Y, and Z. And I have a a really good group of. People to lean on in order to get advice and figure out what, how other companies are responding.

[00:11:51] I will say I don't know, a bigger community that shares as much outside of probably engineering. That shares as much in terms of making [00:12:00] sure that we're all. You know, even things like attrition numbers and things like that, just so we can all compare and make sure that, are you an outlier?

[00:12:09] Then we probably need to focus on why you're not getting your offers accepted or whatever it may be. Cause this is just a very unique market right now, a very hard market right now. It's, I think it's helpful for my founders to be, to understand that they're not special, everyone's going through, these issues.

[00:12:28] You are not the only one. And so being able to advise from that perspective also, I think makes them feel like, okay, so it's not just us. This is happening, to other companies and things like that. Which, obviously when things are hard [00:12:45] and being able to find out that other companies are experiencing even larger companies that are way have way more right.

[00:12:51] Name recognition are, really neck and neck with you in terms of, offer acceptance rate in terms of how many candidates are actually coming in the top of the funnel, those kinds of things. So it just, it, frankly, it makes them feel better to know that what, they just have to keep focused, stay on track.

[00:13:11] And in a lot of cases, depending on what the problem is, they'll bring me in to look at how they've been doing something and I can say, okay different market now. This is how we're gonna have to switch up our approach essentially to recruiting to human resources, all of those different things.

[00:13:29] [00:13:30] So yeah that's basically it.

[00:13:32] Gareth Webb: Yeah, there's no like there's no gradual iteration anymore. I feel like it's like the changes are drastic. The changes are like on a dime, right. Markets change from being the most like empowered market for a candidate yep. Two months ago to yep. To not really being the case anymore.

[00:13:49] Yep. Um, Which, and I think also it sounds a little bit sadistic, but I think if you are a small company in the trenches and you're finding things difficult, sometimes it's not nice to know, but it's like good to know that there's problems at each exactly. Each company stage now pre IPO. They're trying to, they're trying to IPO exactly.

[00:14:08] Facebook. They're trying to continue growing. Exactly. What are the let's focus on like the real early bit? Cause I think this is like very [00:14:15] interesting. The money hits the bank, as you said, like they're ready to go where they might still be stealthy or building out their teams.

[00:14:20] And it's not like full steam ahead with growth, but maybe it's like, they're just trying to get critical mass in their team. Yep. What are the common. Mistakes, not just around hiring, but just in terms of people ops what are the most common stakes that you try and like negate with your presence?

[00:14:35] Natalie Ledbetter: I'm like uh, there's tons of those. I would say top 10 again, it's not none of these things are surprising to me, and this is the thing that I say to all of our founders too, is. It would be weird if you knew all of these things, just like, it would be weird if I could come in and code as well as as you can.

[00:14:55] So that's why I'm here. I would say one thing, and this was something we were talking [00:15:00] about early on was just is the prematurely scaling. I think that the companies that end up just moving full force ahead with hiring and maybe don't even have product market fit yet. Perhaps they don't even have customers yet or design partners yet.

[00:15:16] And then in most cases, because it's happening so quickly you're not benchmarking candidates against each other, equitably. And and so you end up in a situation where you may have redundant hires. You may have people stepping on each other's toes. If you haven't defined what those roles look like and who owns what and honestly a number of things, but that's what leads you to a reduction in force.

[00:15:42] And so if you're really [00:15:45] thoughtful about being that every hire should matter, especially in those first in those first couple of years, when you are. Especially when you're in stealth, frankly. What you don't wanna have happen is having to do a reduction, a re. In stealth or at seed is doing a reduction in force. That is problematic on a number of levels, but culture takes a big hit when things like that happen and you don't want things like that to impact your ability to hire the best talent.

[00:16:15] So we try to slow any of the founders that we have who are um, start just hiring. We are. Pretty clear with them in terms of saying I think we need to slow down. We, you already have a [00:16:30] marketing team of three people and you still don't really have product market fit yet.

[00:16:35] So let's, big market team So yeah, that's one. And this one's a two part that's kind of interesting. Um, So one is hiring too senior and one is hiring to junior. So hiring too senior - what I mean by that is if you're filling out your team, your early team with VP level and above in a lot of cases, those are very experienced people and for no fault of their own.

[00:17:02] And it actually makes a ton of sense. If you have a person who's been kind of moving up this ladder the further they get away from execution. And execution has to be front and center with [00:17:15] everything that you're that you're doing because obviously You're up against the clock, which is how much money you have in the bank.

[00:17:21] And and so what I would say is when you the further away from execution that a leader gets the less they want, frankly, want to get in the weeds, get in the minutia, build alongside be the person executing. And instead of living in an area where you're. It's about strategy. It's about it's about, starting to plan all of these things without actually having people on the ground building the things that you have to build for people operations.

[00:17:51] And then the other piece is the junior piece and We see this a lot as well, which is, you meet an engineer who has a ton of promise [00:18:00] and maybe they are right out of school or, you know, you've gotten them to actually leave school or whatever it may be. That's gonna require a lot of handholding.

[00:18:11] And so again, if we're thinking about being up against the clock, That is something that can slow you down, like immensely and you and, or, other people on your team. I would say those two things are are one of the are big mistakes. And then another thing I would say is Actually there's two other things that I think are really important to, for our founders to be thinking about, which is a, what does your interview process look like?

[00:18:39] And it doesn't have to be set in stone because it's gonna evolve as you grow. But the [00:18:45] problem that I see is if you're having Just conversations with candidates and a conversation varies from one candidate to another. You're not benchmarking your talent properly. And so you could end up hiring the, making the wrong hires and in that same vein uh, assuming that a a person that you hire is going to be staying for the next five to 10 years is just I try to prepare everyone to understand that right now uh, startup um, employees have like a tenure of 1.5 to two ish years.

[00:19:21] Typically.

[00:19:21] Gareth Webb: That's what it is?

[00:19:22] Natalie Ledbetter: Yeah. Yeah. Don't get hung up on this idea that these people are gonna be around forever. And then also there's the DNA of those [00:19:30] early stage people versus the DNA of a later stage person and things like that. And then the last thing I guess I would say is It's hard because you've been working on this thing, building this product, building this service, whatever it may be for a long time, you've fallen in love with it.

[00:19:47] It, you treat it like your baby. But. When you go out and you are starting to recruit and you start getting frustrated around the fact that, people aren't falling in love with your brand, this candidate wasn't in love with us enough and things like that. You're not the real, the reality is you're not a known quantity yet.

[00:20:07] You may be able to hire the best of the best. Down the line, but you're you may also come up against the, the Googles of the [00:20:15] world, the fangs of the world which have name recognition. So that's the other thing is just being able to say look, I know. I know that, you think your baby is the most beautiful baby in the world, but at the end of the day your job is actually to talk about that.

[00:20:32] And what what the benefits of joining that team are, what the candidate is actually going to learn. From becoming a part of the team, as opposed to being like I'm looking for fan girls and fanboy of our, of our product or technology.

[00:20:47] Gareth Webb: Yeah, there's a lot of everybody's guilty of it, but like silver bullet syndrome where you wanna hire the team now and that's the team.

[00:20:54] And to your point, like you either hire, you wanna hire really senior because that makes you think that. They've been and done it [00:21:00] before. So they're absolutely gonna do it again, which is not the case. There's lots of people that do really well get to a VP level. Yeah. But what got them there yep. Was different set of circumstances.

[00:21:09] Yep. Potentially timing, obviously skill that's. And then on the junior side. Yep. Yeah. You can hire a really bright high potential person, but they just may fail because you don't have the resource or time to coach , or the patience potentially.

[00:21:23] Natalie Ledbetter: Yeah. Exactly.

[00:21:25] Exactly. We want you really focused on building your product.

[00:21:28] And if there's anything that is frankly distracting you and at, as much as I believe in hiring younger, less experienced employees as you scale and getting them ready to be the next bench. Whatever that may be a manager or [00:21:45] just a more senior individual contributor that you actually have the things in place to support them in that too.

[00:21:52] So it's actually it's partly like it's slowing you down from building, but it's also doing a disservice to young employees who are still learning. .

[00:22:02] Gareth Webb: Yeah. And there's also the romanticism around startups. I feel like still where people wanna get in either for the payday or the learning or closeness to founders.

[00:22:13] Right. But it's a lot harder than everybody thinks pretty much most of the time. It's tough. I think like all things in life, like middle ground is good. In many cases like joining a mid-size firm or hiring, hiring somebody with a middle, medium amount of experience. That's it's not being drawn to the, which is what a lot of people [00:22:30] seem to be drawn to.

[00:22:31] When do you, at what point do you start to consider or talk to founders about bringing in their own people ops leader?

[00:22:39] Natalie Ledbetter: People leader. Yeah. So that's an interesting question. And then what I'll say is it depends. One of the things I think about is, if you have a hybrid office or an office where everyone's expected to be there, I would start as early as you possibly can.

[00:22:57] I would say by 20 people, you should really be thinking about it. And this is not the way, this is not the traditional way of thinking about it. This is a new way of thinking about it because what was once an HR nightmare can now turn into a PR nightmare and there [00:23:15] are endless examples of things like that.

[00:23:17] So you want someone it's beyond. Making sure that your values are on the wall or things like that. It's actually a risk related role as well. So I say, yeah, typically the earlier the letter, particularly if you have employees in an office that is where that's where it, it can become risky with our founders which typically everybody is remote.

[00:23:41] I would say, once you've hit product market fit and you've got a fairly, sizable team and you're ready to hit the go button in terms of like you've got product market fit, you've done the design partners. You've had people beta test it. You are ready to go. You're ready to launch when you [00:24:00] see that coming up, that is the time to get that person in there.

[00:24:05] And typically, I would say by 30 people, but even if you wanted to bring someone in, even as early as 10 people, a more junior person, maybe just to get again, some of those foundational building blocks built that makes sense too. But right now, the way I think about it is, and again, going back to HR nightmares, equaling PR nightmares the earlier the better.

[00:24:29] Gareth Webb: You hear a lot of scaling in and around a raise. So I'm guess like most of the time people going into series a have those things you mentioned, right? They have product market fit. If it's a

[00:24:39] B2B product.


[00:24:41] Natalie Ledbetter: In our companies, in

[00:24:41] our companies, most of them when they're, when they [00:24:45] hit a, if they don't have some sort of person representing.

[00:24:49] The people ops discipline that you should be getting ready to do that in a, in your series a for sure.

[00:24:57] Yeah. Okay.

[00:24:58] Gareth Webb: Very good. I think like we've talked about this before, but I do wanna talk about it a little bit more is that you may not need a full blown like people leader, but the interim step to that is the.

[00:25:12] Potentially chief of staff type person or you can have a GM yep. In some businesses, but chief of staff is like the growing job title. Yep. Like we, we are big advocates of it. You see what an execs life is like before. And then what it's like after hiring one and the value.

[00:25:29] Probably [00:25:30] immeasurable. Like again, is that something you put, you pull into the conversation early mm-hmm

[00:25:34] as

[00:25:34] like, Hey, have you thought about doing this? Or, cause that, that's quite a versatile profile, you can hire into that role. Correct? Like it's not necessarily a graduate, but it could be someone three years out college who's just super smart, but equally it could be someone who's more seasoned.

[00:25:47] And doesn't wanna

[00:25:48] Natalie Ledbetter: be as an MBA, all of those things. Yeah. Yeah, Yeah. I think you're absolutely right. It's been something I've noticed over the last I'd say two years is is this idea of bringing in this chief of staff And or what we call at bold start, we call them Swiss army knives, and really what that is a a person that you can get a ton of mileage out of in terms of they can figure out the health [00:26:15] benefits they can you know if you wanna do an offsite, they can plan the offsite.

[00:26:19] They can write a blog on something and you can to toss them whatever kind of projects that your founders, frankly, don't have time to work on. I think you're absolutely right. The profile has changed extensively. We used to think of chief of staff as being as being, having an MBA um, that is, and, has worked in consulting probably at some point and is on the path to.

[00:26:45] Call it COO or CEO. And it's a highly business oriented function. And what I would say is with our founders, because they are highly technical. We like bringing in actually both different, like the chief of staff and [00:27:00] or that Swiss army knife. And oftentimes it's the Swiss army knife that makes more.

[00:27:05] Rather than a traditional chief of staff, but essentially we recommend bringing in those people when your founders are getting to a point where the other things they're doing, the other things that they have to do in order to build a business become they're getting pulled away from road mapping.

[00:27:23] They're getting pulled away from building et C. When we get to that place where that's gonna slow them down, that's when we know we've gotta bring that person in. But I would say, it is incredibly helpful, especially in when you're dealing with technical founders to have someone in that, in that seat within five people.

[00:27:42] Because you're having to set up, your [00:27:45] bank accounts, your insurance, all of those kinds of things. And as a founder, while yes, some, a lot of this stuff is gonna be on your plate for a bit. It is helpful to have that person that you can of toss those things over those like operational things over to.

[00:28:01] Gareth Webb: Yeah. Cause from your perspective, it's an execution nightmare. Isn't it. If you have very bright minds who should be fully embedded in the innovation kind of life cycle and en engineering talking to customers and they've been bogged down with ops. In terms of like slight extension from that conversation in terms of culture, like a lot of your companies I'm sure were probably remote prior to 2020 or partially distributed it and I think it's a bit of a A bit of a sweeping [00:28:30] statements made that like a lot of technical teams don't care too much for culture.

[00:28:33] Or they're not so bothered about it. Like they wanna be remote. They wanna, yeah. I think that's always the case. I think it's unfair to suggest that is how Technical team members or engineers think or product managers. Sure. Have you noticed a, have you noticed a kind of culture, like a dilution or a drop off in building culture with early stage companies given what's happened in the last couple of years?

[00:28:56] Natalie Ledbetter: You know what, it's, what's really interesting. And I think this also goes back to the way that our incredible investing team looks at products and founders is yeah. We actually see the opposite. We have hyper engaged founders hyper engaged technical [00:29:15] founders in almost every single case who really care actually really care about culture.

[00:29:22] And I think that again, part of my remit is to spend time with them while they're in stealth. To think through things like your what are your values gonna be? Because we can use those values to build a number of things. We can use that those values to build our rubrics for for benchmarking candidates we can use that for how we approach um, How we approach, DEI there's a number of different things that we can use those those values and whatnot for.

[00:29:52] But what I would say is in our case our founders are they wanna build the best companies that they can [00:30:00] possibly build. And I. A lot of them have spent time in companies that don't have good cultures. And so they understand that is actually how you pulled people in. And so again, I work with them to think through and actually there's a first round article that was written many years ago.

[00:30:18] That says about 80% of your culture comes from the founders and they, there are endless examples of that as well. So the culture already basically exists. It's starting to build and come about with the founders. And so it becomes a exercise in like, how do you codify? What what your culture is?

[00:30:38] How are we gonna sell that to candidates? So yeah, so I feel that's the that's something that's really [00:30:45] interesting about these founders is for the most part, they are obsessed with with building, amazing companies and having, you know, phenomenal um, leaders and. And giving people opportunities to learn and and that, they listen to me when I'm saying, you need to have a mental health offering because we're in the largest mental health crisis we've ever had.

[00:31:07] And really thinking about like, how do you support your people? So I'd say we're very lucky on that side. In terms of culture,

[00:31:16] Gareth Webb: Yeah. Yeah, I think there's the sort of singularity of vision and purpose with your founders in particular, right? Like they're solving often, it's very narrow but like large scale problem, so sure.

[00:31:29] Having people. [00:31:30] Align with that and join, there has to be a singularity, a vision through the hiring process. What do you think? Um, You've gone you've, done. Um, Agency world in house talent and people there in the VC space, seeing all of it. Probably, you're like right in the face of it, but you can probably step back sometimes and see the industry changing.

[00:31:50] What do you think's missing in like the people industry, both the talent and the people ops. What do you think are the things that like, that need change in the short, medium, long term?

[00:32:01] Natalie Ledbetter: Well, I'll tell you one thing that I get asked about a lot and it's something, frankly I have great relationships with out scout with single sprout in New York and a number of other partners on that work independently, freelance [00:32:15] folks.

[00:32:15] And one of the things I hear a lot is. I want a contingency recruiter and that's hard. I think we're seeing less and less on the contingent side and more and more on the container re or retainer side of things. So that would pro that's the first thing that actually came to mind in terms of in, in terms of things that they are looking.

[00:32:39] Um, When they're going outside of um, or they don't have an internal team yet. right. So that would be like the biggest thing. And then look like, I think we know who the like incumbent I call 'em the incumbents of um, exec search in technology.

[00:32:55] Gareth Webb: And does every, do you see

[00:32:56] most people get money and then gravitate towards that?

[00:32:59] They just [00:33:00] go to the bigger names.

[00:33:00] Natalie Ledbetter: Oh, Yep. Yeah.

[00:33:02] Yep. Absolutely. Absolutely.

[00:33:04] Gareth Webb: And even, and they probably, they can afford it in the short term, but they probably don't really understand like how expensive that could be for them. Oh,

[00:33:12] Natalie Ledbetter: It, no, they, because we're very upfront with them about how much it's gonna cost and right with the incumbents, you're not looking at spending in most cases, less.

[00:33:24] $75,000 for an executive. And that's actually on the lower end. If you're talking a C-suite person could be well over a hundred thousand dollars. So that's why I'm saying the contingency model is really attractive to them because they only pay, you know, you only pay when there's a success and they're helping you fill, fill, uh, the top of the funnel.

[00:33:38] Gareth Webb: But they have ample choice. Yes. So like, why is that a problem? Because there's would you set. Yeah. [00:33:45] Like they're getting hit up all the time.

[00:33:46] So I guess it's just like how the filtering, yeah. I Is the problem, like they don't knowing who to go to.

[00:33:51] Natalie Ledbetter: They, yeah.

[00:33:52] They don't know who to go to. And so oftentimes they'll come to us for recommendations. And like I said, I have a handful of companies that that are uh, contingent recruiters again.

[00:34:07] Not many left. But that said I can help them fill out the team using these partners that I have that are from like the, individual contributor side of things, which is actually what they're looking for is staff and principal yeah. Level engineers that can move the needle they can do is.

[00:34:26] Yeah. And frankly, the big guys of the world. I won't name names, but [00:34:30] the big guys of the world in terms of these large exec recruiting companies oftentimes don't even will not do a, any searches below a VP level. And with my founders, in most cases, we're saying we Don.

[00:34:44] We don't want founder. We don't want a VP level person at this stage. So we wait for them to, raise their second round of found round of funding and then start to think about bringing in a exec recruiter. But I think there's so many opportunities out there that for me, I really believe in.

[00:35:04] Experimentation. Yeah. And that is with build building people programs, but also on the side of working with different vendors. And one of the things I've been really [00:35:15] pleased with is that our founders have been. Uh, Incredibly impressed with the people that we have brought in to work with them on hiring those ICS and being just beyond impressed.

[00:35:29] So I've had a lot of luck with the companies that, you know, are gonna work hard because they're trying to build their reputation. And so for me, I am all about experimenting with new people. I have a very fine tuned sense of intuition. And and I good,

[00:35:46] a good BS detector.

[00:35:48] Yes. A good BS detector. And then obviously there's the data like show me who worked with before. Show me the show me the people that you've hired. How long are these hires taking those kinds of things. [00:36:00] And then I'll say this is. We gotta test this person out.

[00:36:04] Gareth Webb: Yeah. That's a good shout. Um, I was gonna ask you about the it's quite timely conversation point and I've to other people, leaders who have a slight different view to you.

[00:36:14] Yeah. But that's completely fair. Like we will have different philosophies. You, the notion of somebody that's been laid off and currently we're seeing. Thousand of people being laid off. Yeah, like some hiring managers and execs and people team won't touch those candidates.

[00:36:28] That's not about. Something, I, people don't wanna hear it, but it is the truth. Some people are like they got laid off for a reason. Yep. But it's also bad luck. Yep. And you could have just joined the firm at the wrong time. Exactly. Your view is that like they should categorically be considered for roles, if there's a fit,

[00:36:43] correct.

[00:36:43] Natalie Ledbetter: Well, If here's the [00:36:45] problem. When you do a layoff, in most cases, especially if you plan to. In most cases you should not be doing a layoff based on performance. If you have a person having a person a performance issue, terminate that person. If you're throwing in all the people that, for some reason, you don't have the guts to terminate based off their performance.

[00:37:10] Then it can get a little dicey. Yeah. But the issue is it can get dicey, but the problem is there's also again, a risk component to it. So you lay this person off three weeks later, you're like, oh my gosh, we do need another demand gen person. So let's put the job out and, see who we can get.[00:37:30]

[00:37:30] You can actually get sued for that because that's actually, you did not terminate them. You you laid them off, so it's a wrongful termination. That's but, but I think, the point I try to make is that. And this is something that I talked to a lot of founders. In fact, I wrote this in one of our slack channels yesterday, which is I share a lot of the the layoff lists and lists of talent from different organizations that I know hire well.

[00:37:58] And then I'll say to them, look like you need to understand that people decide on who goes in a lot of different ways. So some companies it's. Anybody who started after February has to go. And in other organizations it [00:38:15] could be the most expensive people. We gotta cut the most expensive people. So I just want people to have an open mind.

[00:38:23] I think when you're looking at yeah, I agree. Stuff like that. As opposed to just assuming that a layoff and termination are not the same. So

[00:38:33] Gareth Webb: yeah. Blankets blanket statements. Don't do anybody any favors? Really? Do they? I think that's right. People just are so time poor that they're like, oh, I can't be bothered to think about that.

[00:38:41] So I'm not going to engage, yeah, I think I do think We, we try to be mindful of this with the companies we work with. I think candidates should get a bit smarter and should pay more attention to when did the last funding round hit the bank? Like, As in like what's the dry powder.

[00:38:57] Yep. Be more demanding around the cap [00:39:00] table. Ask to see revenue asked to see Not just on crash comp, but also in stock. What does that mean? There's a lot of companies that just throw out like, oh, you get 10,000 options. No, no more transparency. I think that's bad news. So I do think it's every, I think candidates.

[00:39:15] People have to take responsibility for the decision making process of where they work. If they have that luxury sometimes you have to just take a job. Which I get. But yeah, I do think there are other firms that are like, no, we're not gonna touch anybody from that company. Right.

[00:39:27] Um, And that that's obviously. I think pretty tough. Okay, cool. We're up on time almost. I got one last question is who, if we were to invite somebody from your world to talk to about all things, people who are like the more influential people for you in the space that like you [00:39:45] draw inspiration from? or learning from

[00:39:47] mm-hmm

[00:39:47] Natalie Ledbetter: I think there's a number of people who are interesting to listen to. Obviously everybody knows Laszlo Bock um, I would say that I'm trying to remember the C H R O of Deloitte. Um, He's also very outspoken about another a number of things and consistently writes, and also studies the dynamics of what's happening out there in terms.

[00:40:08] In terms of of human resources and talent acquisition. And then I would say in terms of um, you know, people that I that I really admire, that I know are very knowledgeable are people like Shelby Wolpa, Who is, I believe she's in in Austin, she's part of, one of my groups.

[00:40:28] Um, I [00:40:30] uh, Dipti actually from sneak has done a phenomenal job of running people, operations over there. And then um, and then I'd say uh, you know, someone that I think is highly disciplined and thoughtful in terms of the human resource component. Is is a, a woman named Sierra Laconni who actually is the chief people officer at Dashlane.

[00:40:56] Gareth Webb: Okay very good. We'll check 'em out. Yeah. Thank you so much. Once again, I feel like you'll be sick of us very soon. So we'll promise. You'll give you a little

[00:41:04] rest for I, I love working with you all.

[00:41:06] Yeah. Any, Any will give you a rest on any coms. But look congrats on the new funding the new fund and yeah, it's probably a super [00:41:15] cool time for you guys.

[00:41:15] Isn't it to be assessing like what's happening in the world. And there must be a whole bunch of new founders out there coming up with some very complex problems to, to be solving. So I look forward to hearing and seeing about it more. Look, thank you so much again, Natalie and speak soon.


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