“Who hasn’t been offered a job at SoftBank?” some people joke at venture firms.
SoftBank’s Vision Fund over the last two months has been aggressively trying to poach rising-star venture capitalists, a flurry of attempts that has ruffled feathers among some of the people it is trying to recruit.
The recruitment would equip the $ 100 billion Vision Fund, mostly led so far by former bankers, with more startup experience.
The Vision Fund has retained the search firm Russell Reynolds to try and bolster its stable of vice presidents and directors, according to multiple people who have been approached by the fund. The recruiting effort has centered on younger venture capitalists at top-tier firms — think people in their late 20s or early 30s who are not general partners but rather rank a seniority level lower, such as principals or just plain old partners.
It’s the latest way in which the Vision Fund is competing with traditional technology investors in Silicon Valley: A battle for talent.
But there have been some hiccups. The firm has used impersonal methods, like LinkedIn messaging, to reach out to potential hires, which has rubbed some people the wrong way. The messages and tenacious recruiting effort have been a source of curiosity and even some ribbing in their offices, sources at three venture capital firms tell Recode, with some folks joking internally: “Who hasn’t been offered a job at SoftBank?”
To be fair, recruiting firms are always hustling for top talent, though some people say they wish the pitches had been more personal.
Venture capitalists are buzzing about the outreach in part because the recruiting experience at VC firms tends to be more organic and relationship-driven — courting younger talent gradually over lunches, through mutual friends and, for more senior roles, a sometimes years-long dialogue about the job. It isn’t uncommon for search firms to be involved at identifying possible hires, but the actual contact tends to come from firm leadership.
The Vision Fund and Russell Reynolds declined to comment.
The scouting does, though, make a lot of sense. The Vision Fund over the last year has hired about 100 full-time people — in London, in Japan and here in Silicon Valley — but the pace at which they’re deploying the capital calls for more manpower to help find and execute technology deals across the globe.
A hundred people may sound like a lot, but compare it to a big firm like Andreessen Horowitz, which has 130 people to manage $ 6 billion, while the Vision Fund has 100 people to manage a fund that’s more than 15 times larger.
It’s safe to say folks there are working long nights and could use the hand.
SoftBank or its Vision Fund is as of now hiring for at least 14 different positions at its headquarteres in San Carlos, according to posted job listings, ranging from its two-year investment associate program to several open vice president positions.
The Fund is looking now for people with some operational experience, according to a source familiar with its thinking, hopefully landing people with both some investment experience and some technical background in a particular field.
Plus, the Vision Fund’s leadership up till now has been primarily led by former bankers, who are a natural fit at executing later-stage deals but do not have as much experience serving on boards of startups, for instance. They do, though, have more background in negotiating.
While the firm does have some veteran operators as managing directors — like former LinkedIn exec Deep Nishar — its leadership hasn’t come from blue-chip venture capital firms.
Early last year, the Vision Fund raided the technology banking sector’s top talent, landing bigwigs like Michael Ronen of Goldman Sachs and Colin Fan from Deutsche Bank — presumably for a lot of cash.
This year, it appears the technology fund is preparing to nab talent from the traditional venture community as well.