WSJ: Venture Firms’ Newest Role- Recruiter

Re-blogged from the WSJ:

By Spencer E. Ante

Earlier this year, Game Closure CEO Michael Carter hit a wall. He’d grown his year-old Web gaming startup to around 25 employees by mining his personal network of contacts. He needed to hire still more workers, but eventually ran out of people to call and had no luck with professional recruiters.

Then he got a call from Highland Capital Partners, one of Game Closure’s investors. The firm was organizing a road trip to three colleges to help recruit computer science and engineering students for the companies it invests in. Carter jumped at the opportunity. When the group visited Carnegie Mellon University in February, students told him about the school’s Entertainment Technology Center, which offers a two-year degree in building and designing electronic media. He ran over to the Center’s building and started introducing himself to students.

Carter said the company has hired students from all three schools he visited, and is in talks with two more. “We never had that many candidates in play at once,” he says.

Carter, like a growing number of entrepreneurs, is tapping venture backers not only for cash, but also for recruiting help.

Venture capitalists have always played a role in recruiting high-level executives for companies they invest in, but now many top VCs are beefing up their recruitment capabilities to help companies hire at all levels–from middle management to the intern pool.

“More and more VCs are starting to realize they should be a source of other skills,” said Harry Heymann, engineering lead at Foursquare, who has hired some engineers through the company’s investors.

Last year, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers hired Andy Chen, a former Central Intelligence Agency analyst, to drive its recruiting strategy. This spring, he helped establish KPCB Fellows, the firm’s first summer internship program. More than 1,000 students applied, and the program placed its first class of 30 interns with several companies the firm has invested in, including Path, Flipboard, Inc. and Klout, Inc.

“Right now engineers are the currency for company building,” said Juliet de Baubigny, a partner at Kleiner Perkins who focuses on recruiting. So it makes sense that firms with a stake in startups want to ensure those companies have the best talent possible.

Binh Tran, the cofounder and CTO of Klout, said Kleiner Perkins helped his company improve candidate interviews, suggesting certain questions and recommending the use of interview sheets so different interviewers avoided repeating questions.

Over the last two years, venture firm Andreessen Horowitz has built a talent database of more than 5,000 engineers, designers and product managers, and launched its own college recruiting program covering 12 schools across America. The idea is to copy the Hollywood talent agency model pioneered by Michael Ovitz at Creative Artists Agency, and the firm’s co-founders have said they borrowed many ideas from Ovitz on how to build a high-quality service firm.

The firm also hosts computer coding contests and sends partners to dozens of campus career fairs. So far, its talent network has made more than 2,000 introductions, resulting in 200 jobs and internships, said Andreessen Horowitz partner Shannon Callahan.

Jose Guardado, the director of recruiting at Nebula, a startup based in Palo Alto, Calif., said the company hired three of the students it met on the trip organized by Highland. While on the road, the venture firm organized meetings and helped him whittle a large pool of applicants down to a small group of vetted candidates.

“We have limited bandwidth,” he said. “It took out a lot of the legwork.”