Who’s Your War Admiral? Why Horses Beat Unicorns

Companies like Uber, ZenDesk, Okta, Braintree, Github...all truly transformative companies, led by extraordinary, highly valued, highly talented transformative technology leaders.

We hear a lot about “unicorns” in executive search. I get it, they’re rare. But when it comes to transformative talent, I don’t believe in unicorns, (nor should you). The best people aren’t successful because of magical powers. They work hard with grit, determination, and skill. They’ve also learned from great mentors, and pass along what they learned to the next generation. These people are a rare breed, but they exist. I like to think of them as War Admirals.

War Admiral was the racehorse who won the Triple Crown and Horse of the Year back in 1937. So what’s he got to do with transformative talent in 2019? War Admiral was bred to win. His father had been a champion, and that same team trained War Admiral. After he retired from racing, War Admiral’s lineage became one of the winningest in history, producing champions like Seattle Slew, Zenyatta and the most recent Triple Crown winner American Pharoah. My point is lineage matters, greatness begets greatness. Early in a search, organizations will often target specific high-profile, brand name companies, but lineage is equally important. Great people come from great lineage. Experience is always critical, but look at their mentors. Who did they learn from? What did they learn, and what are they able pass on to others? A candidate’s lineage indicates  likelihood of success across a multitude of factors critical to your business.

Our most successful placements all come from exceptional lineage. When you trace back the origins of the family tree, you may find a War Admiral. They are an elite category, highly sought after and extremely rare.  I’ve been fortunate to work with several War Admirals over the years. I’m looking forward to sharing their stories in the coming weeks.

How To Scale Without Breaking: 4 Common Symptoms To Watch Out For

Those new employees...they haven’t been indoctrinated in your systems, culture or your vision. And let’s not forget all the new responsibilities that are pushing your team to their limit. Scaling without breaking is no small feat.

Scaling stresses all aspects of your business, making identifying risk extremely difficult. Symptoms seem to bubble up everywhere from people to product to process. In my experience, the root of the problem...and the fix...comes down to people. Your software is buggy? Q&A test wasn’t strenuous enough? Product too complex? If you trace problems back to their root, you’ll find people...and also the requirements needed to scale without breaking.

Pay close attention to any product delivery flags signaling that you’re not meeting customers’ expectations.

Here are four common symptoms that need to be addressed in order to scale effectively and prevent breaking:


I spend a lot time helping our clients peel back layers and diagnose problems as companies scale. Often times, seemingly minor issues are actually symptoms of much larger issues that need to be addressed. If you’re experiencing issues with talent, customer service, silos or culture, take the time to thoroughly diagnose the problem at its root and design the requirements of your next leader accordingly.

The C-suite hiring puzzle: How companies like Intel are shifting strategies

When Intel Corp. last month picked Bob Swan as its new CEO, the chipmaker was following a new playbook that has become more prevalent in the executive search world.

Silicon Valley recruiting experts told the Business Journal that search times in general are getting longer and more tech companies are looking outside of their traditional lines of search for executives. And as was the case with Intel, more tech companies are pulling CEOs from non-technical backgrounds and promoting to the C-suite from within.  

“It's really hard because it's just not a cookie-cutter design anymore,” said Jason Cooper, who works for Jobspring Partners, a recruiting firm that has worked with companies including Adobe Inc., Cisco Systems Inc. and Symantec Corp.

Some Intel workers told the Business Journal last week they thought Swan’s non-traditional background struck a favorable chord with employees who wanted a different kind of leader. Swan, who was Intel's CFO at the time, served as interim CEO during the company's eight-month search for a permanent chief executive.

“The war on talent is real and they (companies and boards) say they have these positions open and they need to get projects underway,” said Heather Johnston, district president for staffing services firm Robert Half Technology. "Our surveys show that 90 percent of C-suites are also concerned with their ability to hire those individuals."

Read the full article here ...

Finding The Right Talent in Times of Transition

Determining the right candidate profile while your company is transitioning can be daunting. You are often in uncharted territory with requirements and qualifications in flux. With so much at stake, how do you set your search up for success?

Identifying Competency Stage by Stage

Businesses in transition are typically on the spectrum of build, scale and/or change. Most companies have one foot firmly planted in one stage with elements of the others needing to be addressed. The requirements of each stage are unique and it is extremely rare to find talent that performs well across all three.

Your ideal candidate should have competency in your current stage and the capabilities to take you far into the next. By clearly defining where you are and where you want to be in the near future, you can focus on the qualifications most critical to your organization’s success. Let’s take a closer look at the unique characteristics of the three most transitional stages, and the talent traits necessary to succeed in each.
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Build: Zero to One

Company Characteristics: Building is a priority with startups, but it is common across all stages. The #1 priority here is finding market fit...as quickly as possible. With small, scrappy teams and little support, the founders’ knowledge and vision are critical. Small teams come with limitations, particularly around recruiting, development and operations.

Talent Traits: Build talent has technical prowess, but are versatile enough to operate with limited resources. This person should be a talent magnet, attracting the best people as your business continues to grow. Also, they need to be passionate about your company’s mission as they will help define your culture.

Scale: Bringing Order To Chaos

Company Characteristics: To scale, an organization has found market fit and is building market credibility. Often times, their product offering is gaining momentum, and building towards critical mass. Internally, there is a supporting cast in place; they have identified blind spots and are moving from organic to more structured processes.

Talent Traits: The ability to work cross-functionally is important here. You are looking for a great communicator, a chameleon comfortable switching between technical, business, and people skills. Credibility is also a factor as well. This stage requires someone who has seen scale, understands the importance of operations, process, and possesses deep functional expertise.

Change: Digital Transformation

Company Characteristics: Companies in this phase are typically well established but in need of transformation. They are making significant changes to deal with new competition and other market factors. These organizations have operational processes and technology in place, but they may be outdated and need to addressed.

Talent Traits: Leadership is paramount with companies going through change. They must be politically savvy with the ability to influence up and down, and to both internal and external audiences. They also must be experienced in making the difficult decisions necessary to reorganize and fix dysfunction.

It is important to note that transitions are rarely linear. They exist on a spectrum. If your company is changing, chances are you are continuing to build. And, going through major change will most likely include elements build and scale. Only by establishing which stage characteristics are most important to your organization will you have a clear understanding of the talent traits needed to get you to the next level.

Hunt Scanlon - Riviera Partners Acquires Bamboo Talent

Riviera Partners said that its proprietary recruiting platform combined with Bamboo Talent’s vertical specialization and market-specific expertise will allow the combined entity to better serve a national client roster of innovative companies.

“Hiring the right technology leadership is increasingly difficult as demand grows for key individuals that can create value within organizations,” said Will Hunsinger, CEO of Riviera Partners. “This is particularly true in New York where some of the top technology organizations are expanding operations, traditional industries are pursuing digital transformation, and venture capital investment has seen unprecedented growth.”

“This is why it was so important to acquire Bamboo Talent which has an unmatched reputation within the New York City tech community,” he said. “Both Bamboo and Riviera are successful in this vibrant market and bring a strong record of performance, established relationships, deep insights and access to local talent.”

Read the full article here ...

Financial Review - Silicon Valley: Why the smart money is pulling out

"Winter is coming," says Russell Hancock, chief of think tank Joint Venture Silicon Valley. "The markets don't lie."

Hancock, who knows Silicon Valley like the back of his hand, might be spot on. House sales in San Jose have soared by 131 per cent, the highest rate in America, according to 2019 figures from real-estate giant Redfin.

Rising living costs, a growing homelessness crisis, Donald Trump and a sense of crisis at some of Silicon Valley's most successful companies is driving a wave of departures from San Francisco. The Bay Area has been the thriving home of the world's most famous tech hubs for decades, witnessing the dotcom boom and bust and the flood of workers looking to make their fortunes at Facebook, Apple, Netflix and Google while incubating a side-project a venture capitalist might take a gamble on.

Read the full article ...

Mergers & Acquistions - Technology M&A is thriving

GTCR-backed Resonetics has acquired Caribou Technologies, expanding the buyer's services into centerless grinding, forming, coiling, and machining. The deal represents Caribou's third acquisition for Resonetics in precision micro-manufacturing over the past year, following investments in Medelec and STI Laser. Caribou also grows Resonetics in the medical devices sector. "Consistent with our initial investment thesis for Resonetics, the Caribou acquisition strategically enhances the company’s capabilities, geographic reach and customer portfolio," says Resonetics CEO Chip Hance. "We believe that the recent acquisitions combined with the company’s strong organic growth have established Resonetics as a leading supplier of specialized componentry for interventional medical device companies.” GTCR invested in Resonetics in 2018. Kirkland & Ellis and PwC advised GTCR.

Technology M&A is thriving, and private equity firms are hot on the trail of innovations that will drive sustainable value to customers and make companies more efficient, more effective and less expensive to run. Among the developments appealing to PE investors are: artificial intelligence, data management, data virtualization, digital marketing, healthcare IT, industrial automation, the Internet of Things, machine-to-machine learning, payment processing and Software-as-a-Service. To gain more insights into what kinds of tech deals will dominate the field in 2019, Mergers & Acquisitions reached out to 10 private equity firms that are active investors in technology: Francisco Partners, Genstar, Great Hill, HGGC, Insight, LLR, Riverside, Silver Lake, TA and Vista.

Read the full article here …

Doubling Down on Technology Leadership. Doubling Down on New York

The engineering, product and design leaders we work with are changing the world, one line of code at time.

Though the tech industry started in the Bay Area, it has created job and economic growth across the nation and the world.  It’s no surprise that the same entrepreneurial spirit that created Silicon Valley is behind the wave of digital transformation powering today’s most successful companies on both coasts.  Startups built on technology are being created every day in cities where tech talent, venture funding and ideas are prevalent. And, right now some of the industry’s most exciting growth is in New York.

Last fall, Amazon announced that it will add a second headquarters with 25,000 new jobs in the city.  Google is expanding its Hudson Square Campus and will double its staff there by 2022. New York is a hub for startups due to abundant venture funding and availability of top talent. Not only is New York home to important global companies, it is also home to over 7,000 startups in the consumer web, health tech, B2B, and fintech. In fact, New York-based startups raised more than $25 billion from venture capital firms last year.  

In recent years, we’ve built a vibrant technology recruiting practice in New York, placing critical leadership at companies such as Cadre, Oscar, Rent the Runway, Warby Parker, BlueVoyant, Citizen, Earnest Research, and theSkimm.  Today, we’re doubling our commitment to the market with the acquisition of Bamboo Talent, a highly specialized, talented team of recruiting professionals who are deeply embedded in New York’s technology community.

Founded in 2014, Bamboo has brought tech leadership to growing companies like ActionIQ, Beeswax, Bread Finance, Cadre, ClassPass, Datadog, Etsy, Frame.io, Glossier, Goldman Sachs, MongoDB, Namely, The New York Times, and TrialSpark. Our combined relationships with CEOs, CTOs, founders, venture capitalists and talent partners will accelerate our ability to match stand-out talent to top opportunities in New York.

We are very excited to welcome Will Potter, Glenn Murphy and Jon Peters to the Riviera family.  We look forward to placing more leaders that power the growth of technology on the East Coast, just as we have done out West. It’s an exciting time in tech, and we are just getting started.

Will Hunsinger is CEO of Riviera Partners

Riviera Partners Expands in New York, Acquires Bamboo Talent

SAN FRANCISCO – February 5, 2019 - Riviera Partners, the leader in retained search for engineering, product management and design leadership, today announced the acquisition of New York-based Bamboo Talent. Riviera Partners’ proprietary recruiting platform combined with Bamboo Talent’s vertical specialization and market-specific expertise will allow the combined entity to better serve an impressive, national client roster of today’s most innovative companies.
 

Will Hunsinger, CEO of Riviera Partners explained: “Hiring the right technology leadership is increasingly difficult as demand grows for key individuals that can create value within organizations. This is particularly true in New York where some of the top technology organizations are expanding operations, traditional industries are pursuing digital transformation, and venture capital investment has seen unprecedented growth. This is why it was so important to acquire Bamboo Talent which has an unmatched reputation within the NYC tech community.  Both Bamboo and Riviera are successful in this vibrant market and bring a strong record of performance, established relationships, deep insights and access to local talent.”
 

Bridging New York and Silicon Valley
 

Bamboo Talent, founded in 2014 and headquartered in New York City, is well-known for building lasting relationships with candidates, companies and venture capital partners. The team at Bamboo has partnered with companies from their earliest funding rounds through every stage of growth. Their broad network of relationships with seasoned engineering talent, CEOs, CTOs, founders, venture capitalists and talent partners are among the best in the business.
 

Bamboo recruiting experts have successfully placed top tech talent at a variety of impressive, New York-based companies including Datadog, MongoDB, Goldman Sachs, Etsy, ActionIQ, ClassPass, The New York Times, Glossier, Beeswax, Bread Finance, Frame.io, Namely, Cadre, and TrialSpark. Co-founders Will Potter, Glenn Murphy and Jon Peters will join Riviera veteran Jodi Jefferson.
 

“Everything that Riviera Partners does is focused on long-term relationships and client results, which is core to our sustainable recruitment ethos,” said Will Potter, co-founder of Bamboo Talent. “Riviera’s impressive track-record and deep insights will accelerate our ability to offer better experiences and results to both clients and candidates in the NYC market, while still living our values.”
 

Powerful, Proven, Proprietary Talent Acquisition Platform
 

Riviera Partners specializes in matching VP- and C-level engineering, product and design leaders with companies whose success depends on transformative use of technology. The firm’s state-of-the-art, proprietary software platform provides full transparency at every stage of the search process and facilitates collaboration between recruiters, hiring executives and candidates. The platform leverages machine learning algorithms that are trained against decades of technology recruiting experience and an extensive database of 500,000+ candidates.  Its recommendation engine detects the explicit and implicit signals throughout each search to help clients and to help recruiters to identify and hire specialized, highly-qualified candidates quickly. The result is faster time to hire and a dramatically better experience for both clients and candidates.
 

About Riviera Partners
 

Riviera Partners is a key driver of innovation for today’s most influential companies by expertly placing executive talent in the crucial areas of software engineering, product management and design. By combining nearly two decades of recruiting expertise with a proprietary platform that uses machine learning to score and predict the best candidate for a company's specific needs, Riviera is the go-to talent partner for leading venture capitalists and technology innovators. Learn more about what Riviera Partners can do for your business at rivierapartners.com.