Teams – The New Unit in the War for Talent & Innovation
With the deadline to apply for GCT’s next class only two days away (!!), we’re seeing applications come in at a breakneck pace. It’s humbling to be on the receiving end of this enthusiasm and really exciting to see just how far the NY tech ecosystem has come in such a short period of time.
By any measure, the NY ecosystem has grown materially since we started GCT, if you look at things like VC funding, new company formation, great exits, etc. We’re never interested in another “Alley vs. Valley” discussion. Instead, we think this activity is indicative not only of just how deep (and growing) the bench of talent and expertise is here in NY, but also of how strong the pull of building something truly is. Here’s the thing: building a company is one of the hardest things you can do; we know it first hand. Having an awesome team comprised of people who are not only experts, but who care is both the only way to really survive that kind of stress and to actually enable something to take flight.
So it’s no surprise that when we’re reviewing applications, one of the things that we look at is the strength of the team. That doesn’t mean just looking for a collection of sector experts with great backgrounds and skills — it also means looking for people that want to work together to build a shared dream. Because when the glitz and glam of your launch or seed announcement is gone, the only way you’re going to joyfully work until 3 AM is if you believe in and trust each other. Is it really any surprise that a team built like this can outperform a larger, better funded corporate army?
But not every team is out in the world as an established startup. We can all probably think about jobs we’ve had where we loved our team but hated management, or at least thought management wasn’t taking full advantage of the collective potential of the group. And really the choices have been to stay and endure, leave as individuals, or launch a business. (This last option may have been particularly attractive over the last ~5 years when it seemed anyone who could write a line of code was able to raise a cool million, but those days appear to be drawing to a close and there’s good reason to question whether all this venture activity hasn’t had a net negative impact on economic output.) To date, the wholesale recruiting/movement of teams has been relegated to some areas of finance and costly acqui-hires – a very risky goal for any startup to aspire towards outright. So when Stripe, a company we really admire, announced their “bring your own team” initiative last night, they pointed the way to a new alternative that we’ve often thought of here:
The benefits of this approach are clear — chemistry, familiarity, and shared vision are already assured within a team. There are certainly potential downsides to this approach, including the danger of simply promoting the “in crowd” at the expense of diversity, and of course the risk (and increased cost) of an entire team not working out as opposed to just one individual. But it’s precisely this kind of creative thinking that represents a competitive advantage for companies that are bold enough to act. It also happens to be one area where a corporation with deep pockets can flex their muscles to gain a real, sustainable competitive advantage against startups.
And if this new kind of recruiting works at scale, we’re confident that it will have an unintended positive effect on the ecosystem in general: channelling and activating the efforts of committed and gifted people (specifically engineers) toward ideas with demonstrated scale and opportunity (therefore accelerating that growth). This means cutting down on the creation of frivolous or derivative/duplicative businesses that may just be a result of a frothy market for funding at the earliest levels, AND reorienting corporate dollars from a “spray-and-pray” approach to identifying entrepreneurial talent and “innovation” to a targeted mechanism by which vetted ideas AND proven skills can be absorbed wholesale.
Facilitating this level of efficiency and growth is core to what we are building at GCT. Are you a part of a team that you think fits this profile? Are you a hiring manager that wants to explore more? Let’s start a conversation.
And don’t forget to apply by THURSDAY!
Joe is a Partner at Formation 8, a fund which invests in top startups and connects them with Asian conglomerates to drive innovation at a global scale. Joe co-founded Palantir Technologies, a multi-billion dollar software company which develops mission-critical analysis systems used by government and financial organizations around the world. He is also the founder of Addepar, a leader in private wealth management technology.
Michael M. Milstein
Michael M. Milstein is the CEO of Boylan Bottling Co, an artisanal beverage company, and Co-Founder and Chairman of Grand Central Tech. He is also a partner at New York Private Bank & Trust and a partner at Milstein Properties and is on the boards of The Nicklaus Companies and Ostendo Technologies. Philanthropically, Michael serves on a number of boards including the Milstein Medical Asian American Partnership Foundation.
Justin Rockefeller runs Special Relations at Addepar, a company reinventing the tools to aggregate and analyze financial data. In March 2013, Justin cofounded The ImPact, a nonprofit/NGO membership organization comprised of investors who pledge to make impact investments, track their social impact and financial progress, and share those data with others who have made The Pact. He is also a Venture Partner at Richmond Global, a global venture capital firm.
Harrison is a Vice Chairman of LeFrak, a privately owned firm engaged in the ownership, management, and development of real property, the exploration of energy, and investments in securities. Over the past decade, he has helmed LeFrak’s growing activities in the technology investments space and established himself as one of New York’s leading technology thinkers.
As chief executive officer and founder, Andrew is responsible for the overall strategy, vision, and funding of Illumio. With expertise in the areas of network security and compliance management, Andrew is a frequent participant in panels, articles, and podcasts for leading industry events and publications. Prior to Illumio, Andrew was president of Cymtec and led Business Development for VoiceNet, where he was responsible for sales strategy, business development activities, and customer relationship management. Andrew graduated from Washington University in St. Louis with a BSBA in Finance.
Andrew Yang is the author of Smart People Should Build Things and the Founder and CEO of Venture for America. Previously, Andrew was CEO and President of Manhattan GMAT, acquired by the Washington Post/Kaplan in 2009. He was named a Champion of Change by the White House in 2011 for his work with Venture for America and one of Fast Company’s “100 Most Creative People in Business” for 2012 & 2013. He is a graduate of Columbia Law and Brown University.
Anita M. Sands
Dr. Anita M. Sands is a global technology and business leader, public speaker, and advocate for the advancement of women. She is currently a member of the Board of Directors of two public companies – Symantec Corporation, the world’s leader in computer security, a Fortune 500 company; and Service Now, the enterprise IT cloud company. Her career to date in Financial Services saw her being appointed as the youngest ever Senior Vice President at the Royal Bank of Canada, where she served as the Head of Innovation and Process Design.
Rachel Weiss is an award-winning digital professional and recognized thought-leader with vast experience in emerging technology and digital marketing practices. Currently, she is responsible for creating digital marketing and innovation strategy focusing on mobile, social, content and disruptive technologies across L’Oréal USA. She is also responsible for new digital business ventures and partnerships at the company. Weiss leads relationships with VC firms and entrepreneurs to identify first-to-market opportunities for the beauty industry. Weiss is the founder of one of L’Oréal USA’s key initiatives – Women in Digital. This program supports women in the digital space by identifying and celebrating female entrepreneurs advocating digital and IT careers for women along with mentorship programs and testing opportunities.
Dan’l Lewin is a Corporate Vice President at Microsoft, leading the company’s work in civic tech, campaign technologies and academic outreach, which promotes the work of scholars leading the dialogue on technology policy issues. Lewin has executive and site responsibility for the company’s operations in Silicon Valley, which currently employ more than 2,000 people. Lewin has spent more than 30 years as a Silicon Valley-based executive, leading sales and marketing divisions for companies including Apple Computer Inc., NeXT Inc. and GO Corp. Lewin is on the Corporate Advisory Board of the National Venture Capital Association. He holds an AB in politics from Princeton University.
As the Chief Information Officer of Aperture Group, Lance is responsible for developing and implementing the overarching technology strategy needed to support the long term growth of the business. Lance leads a team of technologists that drive software architecture, development and production support as well as infrastructure stability, reliability and security. Prior to joining Aperture Group, Lance was Managing Director, Global Head of Investment Banking Technology at Goldman Sachs Group, Inc and Managing Director at Morgan Stanley, responsible for infrastructure and development organizations in Wealth Management. Lance earned his BA in Mathematics from the University of Rochester, an MS in Physics from Colorado State University, and an MBA from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.
David Famolari is a Director at Verizon Ventures. Prior to Verizon, David was Vice President at Rutberg & Company, a mobile-focused investment bank, where he headed the private company practice. He also co-founded GoodCompany Ventures, a venture incubator that uses the tools and resources of the venture capital community to help entrepreneurs implement innovative ideas for social impact, and served as a mentor to the Women Innovate Mobile Accelerator program and to the Pipeline Fellowship. David sits on the Technology Advisory Board at Ben Franklin Technology Partners and the Employer Advisory Board at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. David brings extensive product and engineering expertise to Verizon Ventures, having spent more than 12 years in advanced R&D creating new technologies, leading joint ventures and overseeing innovation programs for commercial, military, and federal clients at Telcordia Technologies, Bellcore and Bell Labs. David has authored more than 50 published papers and is an inventor on over 70 granted and pending patents. David earned a M.S. in Electrical Engineering from Rutgers followed by an M.B.A. from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. David is based in the New York metro area.
Barbara has over 30 years of nonprofit management experience in the NY-metropolitan area. She is currently the Executive Director of the Office of Workforce Development in the Mayor’s Office, City of New York. Barbara is responsible for engaging leaders from the private sector, agencies, labor unions and community-based organizations to help New Yorkers build skills for in-demand occupations. She also plays a key role in steering the City’s Workforce Development Board and the Center for Youth Employment.
Previously she was CEO of Code to Work, an employer-focused nonprofit venture whose mission is to seed greater diversity in the IT sector by introducing qualified diverse job candidates to employers through a skills-based hiring approach. She also served as Executive Vice President of Per Scholas, the largest IT workforce development organization in New York City, overseeing fundraising and the training program. Barbara began focusing on workforce issues when she was CEO of NPower National and Executive Director of NPower New York. Previous to NPower she held senior leadership positions at the Primary Care Development Corporation in New York City and Planned Parenthood in Nassau County. She holds a Masters in Administration from the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill and a Bachelors degree from Johns Hopkins University.