A conversation with Founders Keepers
I’ve always believed that being able to attract the brightest talent is one of the key drivers of success in business. Some of the most immensely rewarding experiences in my career have come from persuading clever people to work for me and giving them the scope to make great things happen; whether that be defining a key product for lastminute or innovating within the Made.com supply chain.
Securing top talent, however, can be tricky; particularly for niche skill sets in the startup and scaleup world. So, to continue this quarter’s theme of hiring, I sat down with the team at Founders Keepers to find out how they work with companies in the tech ecosystem, and why a career in executive search is so rewarding.
Founded by Ric & Lizzie Segal, Founders Keepers connects great talent with the world’s disruptive companies. The team helps high-growth businesses, at critical stages of their journeys, to hire their most impactful senior talent. Being a founder-led scaleup itself, FK advises its clients as peers and through a community of global leaders, the company delivers expert support and pioneering research.
Founders Keepers has a wide variety of clients including Personio, Allbirds, Generation Home, Choco, MyTutor. Last year alone, the team placed over 50 candidates in investor-backed companies. Out of those, 47% of senior appointments were women, while the proportion of ethnically diverse candidates reached 19%, up from 11% in 2020.
Getting to grips with Executive Search
Every organisation wants access to the best talent; people who have the skillset hit the ground running and have an impact from day one. However, the shortage of workers with key skills, such as CTO roles where a blend of technical ability and leadership experience is crucial, has reached critical levels. Two-thirds (66%) of digital leaders in the UK are now unable to keep up with their growth ambitions due to a lack of talent. In this context, the services of executive search become invaluable.
Executive search companies seek out, vet, and introduce highly qualified candidates to companies. The service is typically used to fill strategically important roles, including CEO (Chief Executive Officer), CPO (Chief People Officer), CTO (Chief Technology Officer), CPO (Chief Product Officer), CMO (Chief Marketing Officer), CFO (Chief Financial Officer), and GM (General Manager).
Beginning your career in Tech
Two of the best things you can do early in your career are to 1/ get the broadest perspective possible of the area you’re interested in, and 2/ meet people in this space to understand how different roles slot into the wider landscape.
If you want to get into the ecosystem, then a tech-focused Executive Search firm achieves both of the above with gusto!
To break it down, this is what I believe starting your career in exec search at a company like Founders Keepers gives you:
1. Deep sector expertise
The ongoing up-to-the-minute research that the role involves gives employees a great opportunity to become clued-up on the latest industry movements and trends. Furthermore, such wide-ranging exposure can help you figure out what you don’t like and, through doing so, instead steer you toward topics and areas that pique your interest.
For example, developing a knowledge of the direct-to-consumer landscape may evolve into you becoming the go-to member in your company for a quick download on the best talent in this sector.
2. Business acumen
Founders Keepers is a startup! We have the same emerging opportunities to build a varied professional repertoire across marketing, people management, strategic partnerships, platform building and community management that would benefit anybody starting their career.
Much of one’s career is about how you package up your history of work, the experiences it has exposed you to, and how these have helped you to grow. To do this well requires a good level of self-awareness and reflection. These traits are as useful when applying for your first role, as they are when hiring for the next Chief Product Officer for a $5 billion unicorn.
“Where do I want to go with my career? … Then how might I package myself up to best be framed in this context?”
You may not have had work experience or summer internships, but there’s a narrative you can weave together about the choices you’ve made, the subjects you’ve chosen, the books you’ve read, the projects you’ve got involved in, and the side hustles you have. Working in Exec Search exposes you to the good, the bad, and the ugly of self-branding. And once you know what good looks like, it’s an underrated firepower that will stay with you throughout your career.
I can’t think of another graduate position where you begin your career interacting with the world’s most successful, inspiring, and impressive people on a daily basis. You spend your day getting to grips with the needs of the business — a unique window into the founder mentality. This is immensely powerful. What’s more, for those who join Founders Keepers, you get access to everybody working within the wider Founders Forum Group. Whether that’s consultants at Founders Intelligence, functional experts (eg. Product, Growth Marketing, Data Science) at Founders Factory, or top venture capital investors at firstminute capital.
And these are the traits FK looks for:
- Hunger to learn: For Analyst positions, Founders Keepers don’t expect any previous experience. It hires people who are ambitious and have a passion for learning. If you’re interested in tech and have a willingness to get stuck in — Founders Keepers would love to hear from you.
- Curiosity: In the world of Exec Search, one minute you could be learning about FinTech, and the next diving deep into the web3 wormhole. Curiosity is the key driver that motivates the top performers to go the extra mile and quickly get to grips with a new industry.
- EQ: The FK team are collaborators. That’s because the people who really thrive in this industry are relationship builders. Those excited by creating authentic connections, both within their own teams, with their clients, and the wider ecosystem.
- Humility: The team are always learning from one another and from their clients — having humility and knowing what you still have to learn enables them to continuously improve and perform at the top of their game.
- Good sense of humour: Founders Keepers deals with people! The ability to spark a wry smile on a colleague’s face can keep spirits going when faced with a tough challenge.
Combine all of the above? Well, you’ll go far in tech. Anyone looking to start or build their career should consider joining our Founders Forum Group sat at the heart of the world’s most exciting technology leaders, entrepreneurs, and investors. Kicking off your career within the Founders Forum Group will guarantee you the opportunity to gain excellent commercial experience, find a specialism, and develop a skill set that will help you to excel and propel your career.
Founders Keepers are currently hiring for several roles in London and Berlin. More details can be found here: