HR and recruitment: a crucial part of all phases companies go through, especially for startups looking for growth. No wonder we brought in an expert within this field to join our community. Meet: Aik Deveneijns, founder of LevelUp Ventures.
First, a bit of background.
Aik didn't initially start as an expert in HR and recruitment. He began his career in venture capital and later became COO of a SaaS startup that provided a platform for entrepreneurs to start a webshop. In this role, he faced the challenge of recruitment, as the number of job openings often exceeded the number of employees in the company. However, through hands-on experience, Aik successfully expanded the team from ten to 75 people within two years, just before the company got sold to Lightspeed Commerce at a double digit money multiple.
After this successful endeavor, Aik started thinking about his next move, while making his first angel investments. He reflected on his proudest accomplishment and biggest challenge, both of which revolved around - you guessed it - building the right team. At the time, recruitment solutions mainly relied on “no cure, no pay” models, which he describes as just sending resumes as a basic transaction and lacking focus on what the companies truly needed. Motivated to bring about change, he took matters into his own hands and LevelUp Ventures was born, adopting a personalized approach to HR and recruitment. With a team of 20 people, Aik now works closely with founders and CTOs to assemble the ideal teams for tech companies. Additionally, the company has established a successful executive search practice catering to the startup/scaleup ecosystem.
A fund destined for success.
During his time building LevelUp Ventures in 2016, Aik met our co-founder, Herman. When Herman and Maurice decided to establish Curiosity and asked if he was up for being one of their advisors for the fund and portfolio companies, he didn’t hesitate for a moment. A new investment firm with two experienced founders in charge, including complementing qualities? That’s going to pay off.
Besides his full trust in our founders, Aik states that the focus of Curiosity on Northern Europe, AI, and the B2B market has great potential. Although B2B companies may receive less of a media hype, they often create significant value, as history shows. Meanwhile, AI is reaching its peak hype cycle combined with a high maturity level, and will soon be a part of our everyday (working) lives, serving as a co-pilot for previously manual tasks. Even in his own job, tools like ChatGPT are already being used regularly, which as Aik predicts will only increase during the next couple of years.
Additionally, Northern Europe offers a start-up-friendly and mature market when it comes to startups and venture capital. Hence, Aik was eager to join as an advisor and, together with his co-founder Lebinh, become a LP in the fund himself, putting some skin in the game.
So, what does he bring into our community?
In short: his knowledge of HR, Recruitment and HRtech. While Herman and Maurice can knock on his door to get his advice on startups related to this field during the due diligence process before deciding to invest, our portfolio companies can do the same when in need of guidance. Something that’s often needed since HR and recruitment are an ongoing process for every company. Aik gives us a few examples: How do employee needs change as a team grows from five to fifty members? How can a company maintain its culture when employees work remotely or even in different countries? How should friction related to salaries or high turnover rates be managed? And, of course: when and how many new employees to hire, as well as what profiles will best complement the existing team? Especially the latter poses a significant challenge due to the everlasting talent shortage.
Let’s conclude with some of Aik’s tips. The first step when companies encounter a scaling bottleneck is to examine the current and future organization chart. This evaluation provides an opportunity to assess which teams require the most new hires, and which leaders might become bottlenecks in the future and therefore need coaching, a sidekick, or replacement. It is important to identify the missing personality traits and abilities. Does the company need someone who is result-driven and analytic or more of a conceptual thinker? As Aik emphasizes, successful matches are based on competence, as well as personality. While basic skills for the job are important, these can usually be further developed. Together these steps form the basis for the right profile and starting point of the search.
While this process may look easy on paper, reality shows it isn’t. Aik is happy to offer his guidance to our portfolio companies, based on real conversations with the startups. Through these discussions, he addresses their specific needs, explores various routes to consider, and weighs the pros and cons, enabling well-informed decisions and, most importantly, the construction of the best possible team.