MitchelLake announces UKI Managing Partner

London: MitchelLake Group has announced the appointment of Mark Sparrow as the Managing Partner of the MitchelLake/Tyzack merged entity in the UKI. MitchelLake acquired the Board & Executive search firm Tyzack Partners early in 2022. Tyzack was established in London in 1958 and is a pioneering firm in the executive search and selection industry.

We are thrilled to have Mark join the firm. Mark was most recently Managing Director for Executive Search at the NP Group in London where he spent 10 years in the UK and APAC. Mark has led multinational operations and executive practices across the UK, Asia, and Australia for more than 20 years.

We are excited to see what the capability and experience of the two firm’s combined networks and operations can achieve under Marks’ leadership.

VIDEO: Why Nationalism is bad for local ventures.

[vc_row css_animation=”” row_type=”row” use_row_as_full_screen_section=”no” type=”full_width” angled_section=”no” text_align=”left” background_image_as_pattern=”without_pattern”][vc_column][vc_video link=”” align=”center”][vc_empty_space][vc_column_text]Denmark is cool. I visited Copenhagen and London recently and met with some outstanding entrepreneurs and executives. More and more, whether I am in conversation in the US, EU or APAC, the topic eventually turns to politics and policy. Sometimes policies have unintended consequences. Nationalism seems to be a trend in many regions currently. For those building ventures or jurisdictions trying to encourage innovation, this is becoming a major growth constraint. More thoughts on this in the video below.

We access global talent communities to perform Executive search for digital ventures and transformation.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

VIDEO: Venture capital growth in ASEAN up 300%

[vc_row css_animation=”” row_type=”row” use_row_as_full_screen_section=”no” type=”full_width” angled_section=”no” text_align=”left” background_image_as_pattern=”without_pattern”][vc_column][vc_video link=”” align=”center”][vc_empty_space][vc_column_text]The Asia Review reported a 300% increase in tech venture investment in southeast Asia to the half-year. Temasek research suggests that Asia may eclipse the US in venture capital investment as early as next year. Perhaps now is the time to look at your opportunities in Asia![/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space][vc_column_text][/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Breaking isn’t always bad

Some years ago I was dealing with a difficult situation, and one of our advisors offered me some sage advice; “Sometimes people outgrow companies, and sometimes companies outgrow people.”

The more time goes on, the more I appreciate the value of an elegant dismount. All things tend to grow at different rates, people and businesses are no different. Ambitious people need the space and latitude to evolve. If that happens more quickly than an organisation can accommodate (or vice-versa), then breakups tend to occur. There are always lessons to be learned when things don’t work out, but the key takeaway is that there is rarely any value in taking seperations personally.

Over the past 17 years, including our current team, we have had nearly 200 remarkable Lakers pass through the doors of our business. Because we typically stay in touch, we know that many of our alumni move on to challenging and significant opportunities and challenges. We are lucky that we still get to work with some now as clients, partners, suppliers, and even the (very) odd competitor 🙂

Without question, many X-Lakers outgrew us for the right reasons. It never feels good when someone leaves your business (or your team), and it’s just as hard to make the call. The upside is a bit like cell division. As you get older you realise that every personality leaves something of themselves behind and also takes a little bit of your DNA with them. Ideally, you both learn what you can from the relationship. Where there remains a substantial alignment of values, you can stay connected enough to be good partners, ambassadors or advocates for each other.

The image above represents a brand map of where nearly 50% of X-Lakers are now working. I find it interesting that so many of our alumni have kicked on from providing services externally to working inside some of the worlds highest profile ventures and brands. Some have even transitioned to product roles and founded their own startup companies. I like to think that in many cases we played a decisive role in developing and accelerating their interest and passion in startup ventures and the technology landscape, even if we were only a small chapter in their story.

We started off as a team of two in Sydney in 2001 and grew up slowly, then sometimes quickly through numerous cycles. Every growth spurt more often than not has been accompanied by some pain. Through two booms and two busts, growing from our first office to our second state, then one country to four continents. As is the experience for many of our growing clients the pattern is often one step back for every two forward. Change is the only constant.

MitchelLake is about to take some significant steps forward. If you appreciate change and want to advise some of the world’s leading ventures and entrepreneurs how to identify leaders and build teams, we should talk. We are currently looking to make senior principal to partner level hires for our executive search and growth practices in Sydney, Melbourne, San Francisco and Singapore. We are also looking for Partners in other cities in Europe, Asia, and North America.

Please reach out if you would like to find out more about MitchelLake. For inquiries about current opportunities, get in touch.

Is Digital Transformation driving Private Equity 3.0?

All that glitters is not bitcoin. PE, meet DX. A lot has been said about the current “Golden age” of private equity. Some thought it was peaking in 2016. Similar questions were also debated by leading executives and business schools in 2010. So are we at the beginning or the end, or just the end of the beginning?


The number of firms and capital in the market globally has increased every year since 1999 until now, and according to BCG we are in a new boom. We saw a record of USD $681 Billion invested in PE funds in 2016 (up 9% on the prior record set in 2015) and expect to have closed another record year in 2017 as predicted by Forbes.


With so much capital to be deployed, there is significant competition and pressure for funds and firms to identify new opportunities and points of leverage. I was recently in a conversation with a very active Private Equity investor who made the comment “I’m not interested in buying businesses that are already shooting the lights out. There needs to be an opportunity to find and drive value beyond just funding scale”. While I get this is a completely reasonable, perhaps expected, point of view for any PE firm to take, I suspect many firms are still looking through the lens of more traditional commercial remedies for improving distribution, removing costs and consolidating operations.


 “More than half of all DX investments in 2017 will go toward technologies that support operating model innovations.”IDC Digital Transformation Spending Guide 2017


Accelerating sales, distribution, and efficiency is now hard linked to the optimisation of digital channels, devices and data to generate customer insights, penetrate new markets, innovate new products or produce new lines of service. IDC research indicates that, the value of investment in digital transformation (DX) was USD $1.2 Trillion in 2017 at a CAGR of 17.9% expected to 2020 and beyond.


Over the past 20 years, there has been a huge variance in the successes and failures of digital execution across industries, geographies and organisations. There is enormous scope for effective digital transformation to be the significant lever in the amplification of value in the vast majority of legacy organisations. The level of investment we have seen from global advisory and tier one strategy firms in digital leadership and competency development over the last 18 months is unprecedented in our 17-year history. I feel this is a leading indicator of the global market demand for innovation advice and execution we are yet to realise.


 “I’m not interested in buying businesses that are already shooting the lights out…”


For PE firms the opportunity to turn around, scale or improve the future state of any business is now critically linked to digital transformation. At MitchelLake our own business relationship with private equity is changing. Where once we were typically sought out for leadership talent for pure-play digital and technology ventures, over the last five years we have been more frequently engaged by the enterprise, and now mid-market companies, to identify and secure digital transformation leaders across all categories of business. In the last 12 months, we have successfully executed executive searches for numerous mid to large cap (~USD $1 to 5 Billion revenues) entities as diverse as medical devices, property development, consumer & commercial real estate, infrastructure & logistics, retail, automotive and media.


What has surprised us is not just the uptick in interest around digital transformation itself, but the level of candidate and investment that mid-market and challenger brands are now willing to consider. In many cases, they are now competing at similar (or in some cases higher) levels as multinational corporations. It is clear that mid-market owners, boards and executives are starting to recognise the scale of both opportunity and the challenge that lays in front of them if they are to successfully transition from current business to future state. Additionally, roles and titles are morphing from VP of Digital and Chief Digital Officer to broader commercial interpretations of senior executive Innovation and Product leadership.


While players like Deloitte note that the mid-market might be catching up (Wall Street Journal 2017), we see a clear opportunity for private equity players to leverage talent and technology without the inertia inherent in institutionalised business models, technology debt and stakeholder resistance that has clearly hindered the digital efficacy of the more mature enterprises and industries.


While ideas and capital are relatively abundant, the ability to lead and execute positive change is not. We welcome contact from companies, firms and individuals who want to know more about how we can help navigate and realise their future potential in the digital economy.


UPDATE: August 2018, Jon also recently participated in Global Financier Magazine’s forum on Digital Disruption in Private Equity with Warburg Pincus and Intuitus.



Building a Bank – a conversation with Anne Boden, CEO of Starling Bank – the UK’s leading Neobank

You would have to be living under a rock in Sydney to miss the rumblings that a few digital consumer banks are on the way in Australia. Xinja just this week announced their entrance loudly to the market through their raise via Equitise. A new way to bank is coming to Australia. So when I recently travelled back to the UK I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to sit down with one of the pioneers of new-age banking – Anne Boden. Anne is the CEO of Starling Bank the UK’s first ever “NeoBank” to provide a Current Account. Through our conversation we were able to discuss the creation of how NeoBanks came to be, why Anne decided to “just build a bank” and some great lessons along the way for future bank builders in Australia.

Matthew Parker: There have been a few new Digital banks launch over the past 3 years in the UK, why is this happening now? What has created the right circumstance for this to occur?

Anne Boden (AB): It all started post financial crisis in 2008/2009 where there was a considerable amount of consolidation in the financial services sector in the UK. So much so that in March 2013, the regulator issued a new set of processes for getting banking authorisation.

This new set of processes allowed for something called ­­“Option B” – a new way of getting a banking license. Previously, you had to have all your capital, all your systems, everything finished before you could get a banking license. But realistically you couldn’t raise money and people wouldn’t join you without a banking license, so it was a catch 22. So Option B created a two stage process – an authorisation with a restriction allowing you to build systems and raise capital, allowing you to function as a fully fledged bank once everything was in place.

This resulted in a number of new entrants into the banking market, at one time there were 20 or 30 new banks going through this process. Very few actually got to the end of this process, and even fewer decided to launch retail banks. We became the first of these retail banks to provide a current account in the UK.

MP: What has been the demand for digital-only banking in the UK and where do you see the future opportunity?

AB: I’d spent 30 years in traditional banking around the world. I’d come to the conclusion that it is very difficult to transform an incumbent bank – legacy systems, legacy people, legacy customers, legacy everything! It’s quite difficult to restructure as well, with raising customer demands, a focus on new technology and in the context of a new regulatory environment. So I decided I couldn’t fix the old system, so I decided to start from scratch.

There’s a few things going on in the market at the moment – we have new technology really changing people’s lives. A population that want to do everything on their smartphone and who want more choice in almost every aspect of their life. We also have the advent of machine learning which is really changing things for the better. Above all of this we also have new legislation in Europe. Payment Services Directive – the original PSD (2006/2007) introduced the concept of an eMoney license and the latest PSD2 is introducing a new way for organisations to relate to banks – Open APIs. These allow banks like Starling to share data with companies the customer trusts.

Customers can permission selected companies to have access to certain parts of their data, and this allows us to create a marketplace. Starling will do current account banking, but if you want a mortgage, we will have a selection of mortgage brokers on our marketplace, and our customers can choose to share their data with that broker. This will give them access to the best deal by using real time customer transactions. The on-boarding is also much easier as we’ve already KYC’d the customer so we can pass that information on. In that marketplace we’ll have a number of products like asset managers, insurers, mortgage brokers, that give the whole gamut of services that customers require.

We also have various products such as “flux” and “yoyo” which operate similar to loyalty products, but with a micro amount of detail on your transactions, so not just that you had lunch, but what sandwich you had with your diet coke. This allows business to offer hyper targeted rewards to their customers.

Overall, everyone has been quite surprised by the popularity of what we are offering. While we were going through the building process 2014/15, we were thinking we were competing with the incumbents for current account switching, but the market has been blown apart and there’s so much enthusiasm from people wanting to do things in a new way. We’ve been deluged with people wanting to try the product. The new banking models are attracting hundreds of thousands of new customers where people previously weren’t changing banks or ever opening up new current accounts.

MP: So what sits behind the bank? Did you build the technology from scratch or are you building on top of another banking platform?

AB: We decided to build the technology from scratch, its more usual to use a banking package, but we decided that a new bank deserves new technology. We were able to take a lot of technology and practices that are now well established in other industries and bring that to banking. We believe that technology is a big differentiator, we are really confident in our team of 40 engineers (and growing), and we’re really confident in the platform we’ve built.

MP: Earlier in the year you raised $54million, what are some of the unique challenges of raising money as a bank vs a non-bank technology company?

AB: A lot of the tax breaks for investing in technology start-ups are not available for investing in banks. The big issue is that normally people raise a few hundred thousand, have an idea and launch it. Then raise a slightly bigger amount and do a bit more and by the time they’re raising four or five million, they have a product in market with customers. But the problem with building a bank is that the entry ticket is 50 million, that gets you the banking license, building the software and having the underlying capital to start the bank. But when you go to raise that money, you have zero customers, and zero product, so the bet is enormous and typically it’s not suited to the VC world.

MP: What have been some of the key regulatory frameworks that had to change in order for new digital banks to be created?

AB: First of all, the phasing of the banking regulation we discussed earlier with Option B. Secondly, the rules have changed allowing new entrants into the payment schemes, and finally, the general acceptance from everyone that the process needed to be described better so you knew exactly where you were in the process. It was hard being the first company to go through this process and hopefully things have got better to people coming in behind us.

MP: How did you stagger your hiring priorities? Did you focus on hiring banking people, or technology people?

AB: Well we needed different people at different stages of the journey. In the early stages when it’s very high risk, you have to have people who can bare that risk, so typically people at either the start of their career or the end of their career. So these people tend to know either a lot or nothing at all. This situation is very humbling as everybody is learning and everybody is rolling up their sleeves to get things done regardless of your “position”.

As you get bigger, you need different set of skills; the risk starts to slowly get smaller, and you can attract different people who find it very attractive working in a “start-up”. But then you’re also going through regulation, so there’s a lack of certainty on who you are – a start-up, or a bank? Then once you’re regulated and the product is out there the true, gritty, start-up feel changes, and the start-up people are no longer interested in what the business is.

We’re quite a sophisticated technology company as much as we are a bank and we’re very lucky that we can hire the best engineers in the world because we’re doing something unique and interesting. We’re still at the start of this journey.

MP: What advice would you give to the new banks starting up in Australia at the moment?

AB: All of us need to take our part in pushing the envelope. We’ve done so much here in the UK with creating new banks, new software and regulation. For the people that come a few years later they have to break new ground rather than just doing the same otherwise we don’t get real progress. We’re really looking for the next iteration in banking development.

Back in January 2014 when I quit my job to start a bank, people thought I was mad. I’d go to a networking event and people would ask me what I did and I’d say “I’m starting a bank”. I could visibly see people stepping away because “people don’t start banks”, and the people who do, start with a couple of billion. So we’ve now made it something you can “do”. We went all over the world to talk about Starling, but most people thought it couldn’t be done, it took a lot of resilience. I’m very excited to be doing something good for consumers in an interesting way and I hope we can continue our journey of pushing the envelope and doing new things.

MP: How did you make it through where others didn’t?

AB: There are lots of people who start banks who don’t have the hunger or the skill base to do it. Lots of executives leave banks and say they’re gonna start a bank, but they tend to be the people who are normally in investment banking roles rather than operational or technology or transaction banking roles. Banks have one set of people who have lots of money and can effectively raise that money but don’t have the skills, and another set of people who have the skills but not the money. So I see a lot of people who are enthusiastic about starting a bank but don’t know what’s involved and don’t spend enough time focusing on consumers and what they really need and care about.

MP: So what is next for yourself and Starling?

AB: The big next thing for us is that we’ve just joined Single European Payments Area – SEPA, so we will be able to passport into Europe, we’ve also just joined the Irish Payment Schemes. In December we on-boarded another few hundred business accounts with the view to move into Europe at the start of this year. We also built all of this on new technology and realised that we had this full new infrastructure of a payments business so we’ve started to allow other businesses to use that payment platform.

In regards to Australia, we’ve had a few people come to ask if they can build Starling Bank in Australia, but that’s still quite far away, we need to keep razor sharp focus on what we’re building in Europe, there’s a lot to do!

The Entrepreneurial Journeys of Women in the London Tech Scene

On 1st June 2017, Frog Valley, in partnership with Startupbootcamp Fintech and Lendit organised a women in tech event called “The Entrepreneurial Journeys of Women in the London Tech Scene”.

The event was hosted in The Rainmaking Loft, courtesy of Startupbootcamp Fintech. We had a magnificent view on the London Tower Bridge on one side and St. Katherine docks on the other side! Beautiful!

We were delighted to hear advice from a fabulous panel of women working in the tech industry:

Ghela Boskovich, the event moderator, is the Head of Fintech and Regtech Partnerships, Startupbootcamp Fintech; Founder & Global Ambassador, Femtech Global; Director, Global Strategic Business Development & Marketing at Zafin. FemTechGlobal is a community working towards inclusion, diversity, and supporting those invested in changing financial services for the greater good through technology. It is comprised of women and men who recognise that diversity in thought, experience, and gender make for a richer resolution to the challenges the financial services industry tackles, and that each diverse voice contributes to a better solution.

Anna Gudmundson, Group CEO at Kin, Anna has worked in the technology sector since the start of her career after graduating with a Master of Science in IT engineering from Uppsala University.
Anna’s experience is primarily in the mobile, software, online and big data sectors; working both with start-ups as well as companies like luxury mobile phone manufacturer Vertu and multinational Alcatel-Lucent.

Now the CEO of Kin Group Plc, Anna is able to combine her passions for digital technology and business with her personal dedication to wellbeing and making positive social impact.

Lu Li, Founder and CEO of Blooming Founders, UK Ambassador of Women’s Entrepreneurship Day | Publisher of Dear Female Founder. Blooming Founders is building a scalable support infrastructure designed to help grow innovative ventures led by women. They provide education and introduce new opportunities to female founders through events, content and a global professional network with over 1400 members.

Wendy Devolder, Founder and CEO of Skills Matter Limited.
Skills Matter helps its highly engaged community of software engineers discover emerging technologies, learn and share skills and evolve practices and ideas. Together, we share insights, skills and expertise needed to build adaptable, flexible and scalable software systems, often with big data sets in conversations, talks, conferences, meetups and online.

Janna Goncharova, Partner Pit Stop Ventures.
She has 10 years experience in investment management and advisory and worked with numerous tech startups globally.
Pit Stop Ventures helps technology startups to get the right tools for high growth in one place. They leverage their partners’ company building, managing and investment experience and a vast global network of industry contacts to facilitate access to capital, expertise, strategic partners, and technology providers for early stage ventures.

Ghela commenced the event keynote with a striking overview of key figures and facts regarding gender balance and diversity in tech:

Tech companies founded by women outperform all male founding teams by 63%
Companies with the highest levels of gender and racial diversity have nearly 15 times more sales revenues than companies with the lowest levels of diversity; in fact, for every 1% increase in gender and racial diversity of sales team, there is up to 9% increase in sales revenues – all other things (process, product, strategy) remaining unchanged.
In 1999 women made up 10% of VC partners (in the US specifically), but now in 2015 constituted only 6% of VCs
And by the end of 2017, globally women’s income will be about $16 Trillion, which is twice the GDP growth of both China and India combined
Within the next 10 years, it’s projected that women will control 75% of discretionary spending worldwide (which is a hell of a lot of money that can also be redirected to invest in women-founded ventures).

She stressed that diversity is not only about gender, or race, but also about education, religion and age. She added that bringing differences and diversity to your business is actually a business strategy to differentiate a company in the market and to make its value proposition unique. *Difference is an absolute crucial component of doing business*.

Following this introduction, there was a presentation of the panel and their professional journeys, the challenges the panelists encountered and a presentation of lessons learnt.

Four themes emerged from the panel discussion:

Being part of the Ecosystem
Ecosystem, role model, and the importance of supporting each other is absolutely essential to any business activities and even more so in the tech industry who is male dominated. During their entrepreneurship journey, our panel have learnt how crucial it is to be part of the community, to expose yourself to new people, to get out there and not to be scared of falling or failing as it is the only way to learn. Resilience is a key element to success. Wendy explained how her business had challenges on many occasions. However she never gave up, she kept trying until she had THE idea and THE support from her own ecosystem and community that helped her take off.

The importance of Confidence, Language and Body Language
Studies have shown that there is a significant difference between women and men in terms of the way they express themselves and the impact they have on others. For instance a man will say: “I suggest we do that”… whilst a woman, in order to express the exact same idea will say: “if you would like, maybe we should… “ In other words, the language seems less confident and therefore less impactful. However, confidence is essential to drive your success; if you do not show confidence then people will have difficulties in trusting you. The panel shared one key advice: Often women lack confidence because they compare themselves to others. A way around that is to actually focus your energy on yourself, on what you are capable of doing, and achieving.

Having Passion
Believing in your ideas is the first step to business success. This also translates into your confidence and body language: if you truly believe in what you are doing than you naturally get people on board. Ghela explained it scientifically via the quantum physics and the energy that builds from it. In business, this is similar: You only can create the dynamic, the energy and the reality that represents your business.

Misinterpretation of language
Speaking of confidence, body language and language, there is something critical that any women should be aware of when evolving in a male-dominated environment: the misinterpretation of language that can sometimes lead to uncomfortable situations. In addition, gossip seems to be emerging that women in leadership positions may have had intimate relationships in order to obtain status. Wendy addressed this with an example of a tech woman being regularly invited as a speaker to various events, while being constantly harassed to the point where she stopped being a speaker. This is not a frequent occurrence, but it does happen so just be aware of it and keep safe.

In conclusion, we would like to share some advice to women working in tech or just starting their journey from one of our panelists Anna Gudmundson, Group CEO at Kin:

Be curious about tech and ask all the ‘stupid’ questions – learn fast. You don’t need to code, but understanding how software development works, conceptually, is helpful since it has an impact on business strategy, timing, costs and risk.

Be proud of your area! A successful tech business has a diverse cross-functional team; developers, designers, finance, marketing… Techies should be proud of their tech skills and marketeers of their great marketing skills!

Startup is hard work, so make sure you are really passionate about your business. That passion will fuel you during times when you certainly won’t feel rewarded for your efforts.

Work on yourself. Barriers in a startup are going to have more to do with your psychology than your skills (the right mindset will adapt and learn). And, on top of that, personal development makes you stronger and happier!

Thank you to Frog Valley, Startupbootcamp Fintech and Lendit for a great event.


Sophie Cohen is Head of Research and Delivery for the MitchelLake Group. She has over 15 years experience in executive search across various industries including industrial, pharmaceutical, finance and digital.

Sophie is a trained Psychologist and has lived and worked in France, the UK, the US and Australia. She speaks French and English fluently.

Nurturing A Culture of Success

Luke Partridge, Director, Asia MitchelLake, was recently invited to participate in a start-up accelerator program run by Silicon Valley-based seed and early-stage venture capital fund Garage Technology Ventures and a Singapore based venture accelerator centre providing business incubator services, iAxil. Luke provides a guest post below.

As part of the program, I was fortunate to be invited to discuss the topic – ‘Nurturing A Culture of Success’. The attendees were all budding entrepreneurs at different stages of development of their start ups but all shared a heightened level of inquisitiveness of how to build successful teams from Co-Founder down. My fellow panellists and I shared our views on what were some of the key ingredients in establishing the right framework and what to look for when it came to hiring, growing and maintaining a great business.
Whilst the focus of this discussion centred around the start-up community I firmly believe conscious and proactive thinking around How and Who you hire crosses all businesses at every stage of maturation. This topic could obviously fill several hefty tomes with content but let me share with you some of the take-aways from the session and how we saw the foundations in building the best team possible.

The following is a summarised blue print of what we partner with our clients to look for in addition to recruiting for our own business at MitchelLake. As a business owner, Co-founder, investor or key decision-maker you will be called upon to use your judgement to either advise or directly impact crucial hiring or on-going personnel decisions. Create a mutual agreement or company covenant that you will not stray from.
These agreements, or PACTS (because this acronym fits my point particularly well), will set the bedrock of success for great teams moving forward.

Personality – equally interchangeable with Passion but the holistic make up of an individual and their differing facets and emotions makes a workplace diverse, stimulating, challenging and generally a better and more productive place to work. Large enterprise spends millions of dollars in harnessing and leveraging this diversity and inclusion, not simply to make their HR policy page read favourably on their website but with a recognition that everyone benefits – ambitious employees relish the opportunity to bounce ideas off each other and this variance of perspective channelled towards a business outcome will inevitably ensure the client or audience is the winner. Good ideas have been strength-tested, iterated and improved as a consequence. Passion though is the non-negotiable as this motivation and drive is infectious.

Appetite – hiring for this trait is particularly important in start-ups when the job description is less defined and whilst people will bring a level of functional expertise to chosen roles there is also an expectation that you will also need to fulfil the requirements of a business ‘decathlete’. This is an ability to multi-task, be flexible, define the strategy in the morning and pick up some toner for the printer in the afternoon, be self-motivated and selfless and also empower those around you to think in the broader context. An appetite for holistic thinking and helping drive a business forward is crucial – myopic and ‘not on my job description’ thinking is toxic and should not be tolerated.

Culture – again a topic all in its self but the founders and investors on the panel made it clear that that first hires into your business will have a huge impact on your culture and will help set the tone for future hiring. A documented understanding of what your business stands for is important but more imperative is how that is practically brought life…the ‘walking the walk’ cliché is probably the best one to use here! A former CEO of Mozilla, John Lilly referred to founders as ‘the keeper of the narrative’ but all employees should be living and breathing the story. Being conscious of what your culture is, how it evolves and how this is communicated both internally and externally is key. Julia Hartz, co-founder of Eventbrite refers to culture ‘as the glue of your business’ permeating all decisions that you make.

Talent – as your business grows, understanding the skillsets you need, at what level and when will increasingly take more of your head space. Given the pace of change within rapidly scaling businesses you should be conscious of hiring for roles that employees can grow into rather than quickly outgrow. Different businesses will obviously have a diverse range of requirements for talent but being open to contractors, out-sourcing and flexible access to expertise can help keep your bottom line more manageable and give you access to specialists as your business requires such as peak development cycles, legal, accountancy and HR services.

Systematic – this is where you can learn again from the larger businesses and the processes they have in place to streamline your hiring. This refers to a hiring methodology that is not as robotic or automated as it sounds but more to ensure you are on plan and that you have a proven model that works. Typically the timeframes are shorter in a start-up environment but best practice is as relevant for a new business as it is for a global MNC – this should include everything from on-boarding, the interview process, mapping out what your organisational structure will look like in 3-6-12 months and beyond, employees individual objectives, recruitment policy and social/celebratory plans for success and milestone achievements. If you are transparent, communicative, consistent and innovative with the above you will have built a fantastic framework to build your culture from.

As I mentioned, the above is not an exhaustive list but more what I see as crucial (and often overlooked) tenets for the best hiring and cultural outcomes. Ben Horowitz (from VC Andreesen Horowitz-fame) refers to the elixir of success as ‘People, Product, Profits…in that order’….the PACTS you take with your business partners should ultimately reflect that.

Want extra reading? Take a look at Ben Horowitz’s blog.

Find us on Twitter.


Inspired by the internet boom, Jon Tanner co-founded the MitchelLake Group in 2001 and has been advising startup, scale-up and enterprise clients on leadership, executive search and talent acquisition for digital ventures and initiatives for the best part of two decades.

Whether the challenge is about inspiring change, driving growth or entering new markets, it is likely that Jon has a reference able story, insight or introduction that can help shed light on a way forward.

As Group CEO and Managing Partner of our global search practice, Jon is based in Singapore and works across our international hubs in APAC, North America, and Europe. He directly supports global clients, collaborating with the broader MitchelLake team and continuing to build our collective ecosystem of exceptional talent and partner organisations.

Jon is an active early stage investor and passionate supporter of entrepreneurs, ventures and innovation in Asia Pacific and beyond, including interests in SocietyOne, Biteable, Blackbird VC and Genos International.