Almost three years ago, when I was introduced to the Founders and Managing Partners of Oak HC/FT, I was incredibly impressed by both the firm’s history and companies in the portfolio, but also by how differentiated Oak HC/FT was in its approach to People and Talent.
I’d spent the prior fifteen years in Silicon Valley scaling hypergrowth startups: five at Khosla Ventures leading Talent and Platform, and a decade before that at Daversa Partners placing executives at companies like Square and Twitter, and it had become clear to me that People, Talent, and strategic leaders of those functions were dramatically undervalued at companies, and in the market.
One of the many reasons I joined Oak HC/FT was the alignment I immediately found with the Founders on the priority talent should take within our portfolio companies and at the firm level. What I found in Oak HC/FT was a commitment from the Founders to invest in Talent and People in a way that was differentiated from any firm I’d been at or heard of to date, and I knew that the holistic change required to elevate people leaders would need to be driven by an investor who deeply understood the strategic impact this could have on a portfolio of scaling companies.
In evaluating macro trends in the talent market, and how they intersect with trends at each of our Healthcare and FinTech portfolio companies, we recognized a theme that’s emerged in the past three years: the growth in responsibility set, and subsequent rise in importance of strategic people leaders.
The role of the Chief People Officer has never been more crucial and visible, as these leaders are now responsible for navigating everything from a company’s social justice positioning, to COVID and remote work, to the war for talent, and beyond. We also noticed that portfolio companies with excellent, strategic people leaders were scaling more successfully and smoothly than companies without that leader in place.
That in sight, combined with our broad goal of elevating people leaders and the People and Talent functions at our portfolio companies drove us to launch the Oak HC/FT Chief People Officer’s Guild, or CPO Guild.
The CPO Guild is comprised today of five of the most well-regarded Chief People Officers who have excelled at scaling successful startups. Recognizing that talent is a key driver of growth, the Guild’s Founding Members will provide Oak HC/FT’s portfolio companies greater access to top talent in healthcare and financial services, mentorship, and a supportive expert community of talent leaders.
Our diverse group of Founding Members includes:
- Bernard Coleman (Chief Diversity& Engagement Officer, Gusto; Formerly Global Head of Inclusive Engagement at Uber and Chief Diversity & Human Resources Officer of Hillary for America)
- Davina Mazaroli (Former Head of People, Sidewalk Labs; Formerly Vice President of People at ABinBev)
- Kerry Van Voris (Chief Human Resources Officer, Checkout.com; Formerly Chief People Officer of Oscar Health)
- Madan Nagaldinne (Chief People Officer, Paxos; Formerly Chief People Officer of Blink Health and Compass)
- Michelle Bucaria (Chief People Officer, PointClickCare; Formerly Chief Human Resources Officer of Teladoc Health and Global Head of Corporate &Investment Bank Recruiting and Firmwide Head of Campus Recruiting at JPMorgan Chase)
From leading teams through transformative growth at Oscar Health and Teladoc Health to driving diversity and inclusion initiatives at Amazon and Uber, these five Founding Members have honed their expertise in People and Talent.
On March 9th, we brought together our Founding Members, portfolio company CEOs, and great people leaders from within and outside the portfolio at The Bowery Hotel in New York to celebrate the launch of the CPO Guild.
Led by the five Founding Members and Fortune Media CEO Alan Murray, the panel discussion that ensued pushed the group’s thinking on a number of key topics. From digging into the role of the Chief People Officer in navigating political issues, to a lively debate around the role of compensation as a core retention tool, the panelists offered uninhibited insights from the front lines.
Key takeaways from the host and panelists included:
“There’s been a dramatic change in what creates value in the economy. In the 1970s, more than 80% of the value of Fortune 500 companies was physical stuff. The value was oil, inventory, equipment, etc. If you look at Fortune 500 companies today, you’ll find that more than 85% of the value is intangibles. The value is intellectual property, brand, etc. That number shows that 85% of the value can walk out the door every day. That’s all tied to people.”
- Alan Murray, CEO, Fortune Media
“The most important tools you can use to win the ‘talent war’ are purpose and joy. The question becomes: Money matters, but are you living a life of purpose?”
-Bernard Coleman, Chief Diversity & Engagement Officer, Gusto
“There hasn’t been a harder job over the past two years, but there’s also never been a better time to be on the field.”
-Kerry Van Voris, Chief Human Resources Officer, Checkout.com
“The CPO’s role is to challenge the leadership team and push people out of their comfort zone.”
-Davina Mazaroli, Former Head of People, Sidewalk Labs
“The greatest challenge facing my job is attraction and retention. Opportunities and career development are paramount for retention.”
-Michelle Bucaria, Chief People Officer, PointClickCare
“Today, the greatest opportunity I see is moving toward a value-based compensation instead of a location-based compensation.”
- Madan Nagaldinne, Chief People Officer, Paxos
At Oak HC/FT and within the CPO Guild, we’re eager to continue to build on the momentum of our launch event, and we believe we have the right ingredients to catalyze an ecosystem-wide change.
If Oak HC/FT’s approach to Talent and People, or our Chief People Officer’s Guild, resonates with you as a startup executive or great people leader, please reach out to us – we’d love to get in touch and get you involved with this community.