Awesome People List - Ep 23

People, hiring, FT gems, WTF market updates, goodies

Hi founders and fellow VC friends!

Each week we deliver one awesome person to your inbox. These are the people you need to know—the marketers, sales gurus, engineers, ops wizzes— who give your startup superpowers 🚀. The best part is, everyone is hireable on an interim basis.

This week we’re focusing on talent. There’s TONS you need to know about building an awesome team and managing in the Covid-19 era. 

Today’s episode covers:

  • Our Awesome Person of the week!

  • FT gems

  • PS. goodie bag and more pro tips

Please meet Kevin, your talent and recruiting expert 🤩

The world of people management and recruiting is changing a mile a minute, and Kevin kindly volunteered to be our sounding board. 

Kevin and I met through Maddy, an ex-Uber recruiter turned HR startup founder. Kevin has helped scale fast-growing businesses like Uber, Snapchat, and Google Cloud. Most recently he grew Instacart’s engineering team by 200+ in 2019 and helped build Figma’s recruiting function 💪.

While we haven’t worked together directly, I’ve been impressed by his thoughtfulness, creativity, and kindness in our conversations. A little-known fact about Kevin: He lived in Australia 2011-2012 working as a bartender (quite a different scene from Silicon Valley tech!) and goes back to visit frequently. It’s safe to say, Kevin is crushing my bucket list 🏝.

You can hire him to:

  • Be your head of recruiting (interim or FT)

  • Build out recruiting functions and/or teams

  • Develop and implement recruiting strategies 

Also, Kevin graciously volunteered to do casual virtual coffees with our community. If you need some expert advice, Kevin’s your guy. Let me know if you want an intro! 

Here are 5 of Kevin’s pro tips on hiring and managing people in a Covid era ✨

Companies need to support each other. This is not a zero-sum situation.

The landscape has changed and your hiring philosophy and process need to adjust too.

  • Rethink how you’re approaching interviews and onboarding in a remote world. 

  • Consider reaching out to companies you admire that are doing layoffs. Offer to partner with them to provide safe landings for their talent. 

  • If you’re doing layoffs, reach out to investors and other companies to help your people.

  • Work with other startups to share best practices, new tools, and brainstorm solutions to common challenges. Everyone is going through the same thing at the same time. We can learn faster together.

The show must go on. Don’t forget about these key functions.

Many companies are light on recruiters right now. If you’re one of these companies, remember that recruiters do so much more than sourcing talent. Here’s a mini checklist:

  • Interviewer and unconscious bias training 

  • Onboarding and new hire shadowing and training 

  • University relationships

  • Compensation, including internal equity and market comps

  • Internal mobility and talent development  

Focus on culture to fuel your long-term talent pipeline.

Especially now, you have an opportunity to show up for your team. If you lead with grace, it will pay dividends. The bottom of the funnel builds the top of the funnel. Some recruiters focus on filling the top of the funnel and use that as their success metric. I tend to focus on the middle and bottom of the funnel because happy hires always give referrals. Even if they don’t join, a candidate who had a great interview experience will often refer friends. There is also data that shows that first-year attrition rates are tied to the interview experience.

Remember that hiring top talent is a long game.

Recruiting is often the first to go during layoffs—and then the first needed when hiring ramps up again. Even if hiring has slowed or stopped altogether, it can be a good time to build your recruiting foundation and processes to prepare for the future. For context, it can take 3-6 months to build a high-quality candidate pipeline.

When talking about your company, be consistent.

Telling a consistent story is one of the most common HR challenges. When a candidate hears different stories from employees about the company—whether it’s about valuation, culture, etc.—it’s a red flag. One way to address this is to align your branding and recruiting teams around common goals. 

Let me know if you want an intro to Kevin and I’ll connect you via email!  

FT Gems 😍

I love seeing the strong vouches in our layoffs spreadsheet (the last column). Here are a couple that stood out. Feel free to reach out to folks directly. 

  • Michael Sani- Product Analyst, laid off from Foursquare 

    Michael is the most talented analyst I've had the opportunity to work with in my career. He's not only quick in his analysis he has the unique ability to communicate his findings in a very clear way. Michael is also a great asset to have in client meetings. As a data company, some of our deliverables are complex and can be difficult to navigate for non-technical people. I often relied on Michael to explain aspects of the data that clients were licensing/evaluating.


  • Zarrah Birdi - Healthcare BD, laid off from Clarify Health Solutions (Series B)

    Zarrah is a creative and extremely poised team contributor who is constantly stretching and challenging my thinking. We've dropped her into many challenging situations, and she has always risen to the occasion, despite difficult circumstances, demanding team members and "leadership", and ambiguous objectives. I would highly recommend Zarrah for a role where you need a valued team member who can drive to results, think outside the box, and just GSD. 


That’s a wrap! Let me know if you want an intro to Kevin (or any of the secret goodies below!) and I’ll make it happen.

Stay awesome, 

Julia Lipton

Founder of Awesome People List

Founder of Awesome People Ventures

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PS goodies and more tips

Virtual goodie bag! 

Are you wondering WTF is going on with the markets? Me too. Here are two awesome resources 🤓.


  1. Every Monday at 11:45am PT, Iris from Floodgate hosts a “Monday Markets” segment on Twitter. I interview her and it’s always super informative. 

  2. One of my besties (VC, ex-Morgan Stanley) sends a short bcc email focused on Covid market trends on Fridays. It's always fun, numbers-packed, and accessible. It’s one of my favorite emails and I asked her if I loop in my friends 🥳. Last week she covered: Covid’s Impact on influencers, malls, oil, and the dairy industry. It’s just too good! Let me know if you want in on this top-secret action!

Want to try Superpeer?

When I invested in Superpeer (1:1 paid calls with your followers) a couple of months ago, I had no idea how hard the economy would be hit. Practically overnight, Covid forced people to find new revenue streams. It’s been fascinating to see creators, freelancers, and influencers adjust to the new normal. Superpeer currently has a waitlist, but if you want to try it, let me know and we’ll get you approved asap. As an example, Chris Messina is currently crushing it via his twitter. Feel free to forward this offer to your influencer/creator friends and we can get them approved asap too.

Final hiring and sourcing tips 

Adapt your strategy for sourcing top talent. The current economic climate requires that you dramatically change your strategy and approach for finding talent. Mass messaging through the standard channels (LinkedIn, email, platforms, etc.) can come across tone-deaf. In light of mass layoffs and uncertainty, you need to show empathy and thoughtfulness. One of the most amazing things I’ve seen during the pandemic is people collaborating on lists of employees impacted by layoffs. This creates new channels of engagement for companies looking to hire.

Adjust your process and metrics accordingly. Pipeline conversions are changing. We can’t rely solely on historical benchmarks for how many people should pass a phone interview, in-person interview, and accept an offer, etc. We’re seeing those numbers skew in today’s climate. For example, the pass rate may suffer for engineers taking a standard System Design/Architecture test, because those tests are now done remotely and the engineer no longer has the benefit of a whiteboard to draw their designs. 

Signing off for real!!!