Who Unicorns hired, and when
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When Founders need advice about capital allocation, runway, raising Venture Debt or other finance metrics, there is a lot of data to lean on. We can tell them their Gross Margin is within the expected range, and we can tell them that their quarterly recurring revenue growth is in the top 10%.
But when we’re offering specific advice about who to hire into leadership teams and when to do so, the data is lacking.
Combine this with the fact that 80% of early money we invest is spent on salaries, and the average leadership level hire (VP/SVP or C-Level) will be paid around £140k basic and you’re relying on some pretty ‘finger in the air’ estimates on how to deploy a large amount of capital.
With this in mind, we decided it was time to build a quantitative view of who founders should hire and when they should hire them.
But which data should we look at, and how should it be used?
The obvious answer is: follow the Unicorns. Why don’t we look at what those rare and infrequent businesses of $1bn+ valuation did to make their growth magic happen?
So here’s the theory we set out to research:
In the first five years after taking venture capital, what’s the difference between the senior hires of the companies who become Unicorns and those who don’t?
We took 50 Unicorns and 50 “normal” venture backed, B2B tech companies across Europe and North America, and looked at key areas like background, quantity and timing of leadership hires to make direct comparisons between the most successful and everyone else.
In total, we studied almost 2,000 people across these businesses and what we found was sometimes surprising -- but we think it represents the first true picture of this area for founders, and will help them make smarter hiring decisions during those crucial first years.