Big VC names matter little when recruiting tech talent

New talent wants to work somewhere with a mission, according to Contrary Capital.

New tech talent places mission above big-name venture firms that back companies, a new survey from Contrary Capital said.

San Francisco-based Contrary surveyed people in its talent network to find out what makes them want to work at a company and found that they want a workplace that has a mission or a greater purpose.

Eric Tarczynski, founder and managing partner of Contrary, told Venture Capital Journal that venture firms could take some lessons for their portfolio companies when hiring new talent. What the survey showed is that some new talent places venture capital backers low on the totem pole.

“Often, people think that getting a rubber stamp from a top-tier venture firm helps with talent recruiting and that kind of thing,” Tarczynski said. “But it’s really interesting because it was at the bottom of the list and dispels the notion that that is how they’re considering the kind of companies to join.”

Contrary Capital surveyed about a hundred engineers and designers in its talent fellowship to understand what type of companies attract top talent. The survey asked them to name companies that they would like to work for. Brand-name companies such as designer Figma, security provider Anduril and internal systems platform Retool topped the list.

Tarczynski added that many new entrants to the job market want to work at companies where they can feel they have a hand in growing and from where they can learn.

Contrary Capital invests across several stages in different sectors. Its portfolio companies include food delivery service Door Dash, diversity recruiting platform Canvas and rental car platform Kyte. It’s backed by founders from Airbnb, Tesla and Facebook.

The fund prides itself as one that puts talent first, so it built a fellowship where it gathers a group of engineers, designers and product talent. They join a network of other top talent that they can tap for support or advice.

Eric Tarczynski headshot
Eric Tarczynski, Contrary Capital

When asked what were the 10 most important factors in start-ups they want to join, most of the tech talent surveyed ranked mission as number one.

“Mission is number one but mission means different for everybody. It could mean making an impact on the world or it can mean making a difference in something else,” Tarczynski said.

He said the idea of a mission has to be baked into a company’s DNA from the beginning, especially as Gen Z emphasizes purpose, whether it’s a calling to solve issues or a different greater calling. He said companies that have done the best job of attracting good employees have made early career talent recruitment a pillar of their model.

The other factors were the identity of the founders and the availability of mentorship. The rest were culture, salary, equity, stage of the company, who the VC backers are, recognition or popularity, and location.

For Tarczynski, this shows talent wants to work for more of the hyper-growth businesses rather than the more established tech giants.

The survey also noted that early-career starters want a more hybrid work environment to be able to collaborate and socialize easier. However, only 20 percent of those surveyed preferred a fully remote workplace.