September 30, 2021 – No one could argue that Mercedes Chatfield-Taylor and Matt Comyns, both of whom recently departed from Caldwell to co-found their own executive search firm, Artico Search, are anything less than ground-breaking search leaders. They are both among the very best in their respective specialties, recruiting some of the most sought after, and costliest, hires in the search industry and building successful practices and teams in their areas of specialty.
In joining forces, they are looking to create a powerhouse search brand that reflects their experience, passion, and core values focused on delivering the people to drive change and transformation in the tech industry.
Ms. Chatfield-Taylor’s team focuses on executive-level search for scaleup venture capital and private equity-backed technology companies. The team has deep expertise in global enterprise software, data and consumer internet businesses. Ms. Chatfield-Taylor is deeply passionate about the importance of diversifying the industry, with a full 53 percent of her placements tracked since 2019 being underrepresented executives.
Mr. Comyns’ team, meanwhile, specializes in cybersecurity, recruiting chief information security officers (CISO) and direct reports for large global corporations and fast-growing private companies, among other vital cybersecurity roles. Between their talent, reputations, networks, and the synergy of their specialties — “grow and protect” is their branding mantra — the new enterprise is barely a month old, and it is already a force to be reckoned with.
With offices in San Francisco, New York, and Austin, Artico is off to one of the fastest starts in recent memory. Given the billions of dollars flowing into venture capital and private equity investments these days, as well as the ever-present threat of cybersecurity breaches, Ms. Chatfield-Taylor expects growth to accelerate. And, of course, their new firm lacks many of the off-limits restrictions that their larger competitors must bear, which should appeal to global scaleup organizations.
Besides being Caldwell’s top two rainmakers (with Ms. Chatfield-Taylor far outpacing the field for 10 consecutive years), the two recruiters came across one another quite often in their work. “I found myself overlapping with Mercedes more than any other partner on the platform,” said Mr. Comyns. “It just naturally happened. She had clients that were focused on hyper growth, and they were worried about breaches. We both had venture-backed, new cyber technology companies that were getting funded that needed growth leadership, like a new chief executive officer, a new chief product officer, or a new chief marketing officer.”
Many times, Ms. Chatfield-Taylor would be working with a client to fill some leadership roles and find that in its rapid growth, the business also needed a chief information security officer, which Mr. Comyns would, in turn, help deliver.
Among the Best
The overlap – and alignment – between Ms. Chatfield-Taylor and Mr. Comyns’ searches only grew more obvious over time. “Matt and I started talking about this several years ago,” said Ms. Chatfield-Taylor. “We just realized that there was a lot of synergy between the work we did. It was this idea of build it up, scale it up and then make sure that you’re protecting it too, so you do not see your enterprise being demolished by aggressive, persistent, and constant predators who are trying to make their way in.”
Prior to Caldwell, where she was managing partner, venture capital and private equity practice lead, Ms. Chatfield-Taylor held leadership positions at executive search firms including Heidrick & Struggles, where she helped re-establish and run its global venture capital practice; Highland Partners; and iCOM Consultants, an emerging technologies boutique she co-founded in 1999. Prior to that, she was vice president of marketing for XL Insurance, a global excess insurance, reinsurance, and financial risk-management company, with holdings of over $13 billion.
Mr. Comyns had been managing partner of the cybersecurity practice at Caldwell. Before that, he co-led Russell Reynolds Associates’ global cybersecurity practice. He also served as CEO of Pacific Epoch, a consulting firm that specialized in market intelligence and research for U.S.- based companies seeking to invest in and expand into China—until the completion of the firm’s sale. He was also a pioneering executive at the beginning of the internet in San Francisco.
Both business partners have impressive client rosters. Ms. Chatfield-Taylor has completed dozens of CEO searches and hundreds of high impact investor and C-level assignments. This summer, before departing from Caldwell, she placed the chief financial officer for GoFundMe, the largest global fundraising platform, as well as the new chief marketing officer of Armis, a unified asset visibility and security platform provider. Other recent placements included the CMO of Samsara, the CTO of Newsela, the CMO of Sisu, three board members for Oportun (IPO) and the CEO of Stack Overflow. On the investor front, a GP for B Capital, a partner for Decibel, a partner for Unusual VC and an operating partner for Insight Partners.
The Threat of Breaches
Mr. Comyns’ clients, meanwhile, include any number of companies that have been affected by serious cyber attacks and are now looking for talent to prevent it from happening again. “The reason I get those searches is that the ninjas who are brought in to fix the breach are recommending me to their clients,” he said. Given the ubiquitous nature of cybersecurity, his clients range from global financial services operations, a crypto currency company, unicorn tech enterprises, a top energy company, a major insurance company, and the list goes on. The greatest growth area over the last two to three years has been with private equity and venture capital-backed organizations, including Blackstone, Vista, and a16z.
“Ask almost any company, not just technology companies, growth companies, what are the two things that you’re most trying to do in the market?” said Ms. Chatfield-Taylor. “They will tell you, ‘We’re trying to grow and at the same time we’re trying to protect ourselves from the new threats in today’s world.’ And we think no search firm right now has quite captured that branding – or delivered on that promise. It’s a key differentiator for us.”
Currently, Artico has 12 employees, with seven recruiters, including Ms. Chatfield-Taylor and Mr. Comyns, devoted to each of the two sectors. The remaining staff members are project managers and IT. By January, Ms. Chatfield-Taylor and Mr. Comyns expect that overall number to grow to at least 15.
“Our values are, ‘Don’t settle, be human, do what you love, and change lives,’” said Ms. Chatfield-Taylor. “We’re very clear on our purpose, which is to deliver extraordinary talent to build, scale and protect. So, we want people who are excited about these companies we’re serving. We want people who are maniacally focused on execution.”
The Hunt for Cyber Technology Leaders Heats Up as Risks Multiply
With technology has come the insatiable – and merciless – need for talent. Having the right leaders and teams in place is now more critical than ever. Cyber technology leaders appear in various forms: chief information security officer (CISO), chief information risk officer, chief security officer (CSO), VP information security, chief trust officer, chief information officer (CIO), chief technology officer (CTO) and many others.
These executives are vital, front line leaders facing down increasingly numerous and sophisticated threats. Their job is to secure both the enterprise and its external products and solutions. They report to boards of directors and management committees on a regular basis, are considered strategic assets to be leveraged, and increasingly give organizations their competitive advantage. The cost of hiring one is rising – and that is good news to the scores of executive recruiters who hunt them down for clients around the globe. Read now >>
Diversity is also one of the firm’s priorities, a passion that Ms. Chatfield-Taylor has embraced since she entered the search industry. “One thing that we have to keep doing is making sure that we are collecting the right talent for the roles and that we are working with the right partners who are committed to quality and doing great work and are committed to diversity,” she said. “I have been committed to diversity for my entire career, so it’s not a last-minute add-on.”
Passion Beyond Talent
In many ways it is Ms. Chatfield-Taylor and Mr. Comyns’ passion for their work that sets them apart. For all their expertise, the foundation of their new firm rests in their meticulous and mindful approach to serving clients.
“We’re good at what we do, that’s true,” said Mr. Comyns. “We’re good search professionals. But the other thing is that we love this industry. As frustrating and as crazy as this industry can be, we really love the practice of search—partnering and working with clients and candidates and solving their problems. We wake up every day and, even on our toughest days, we enjoy what we’re doing. That’s all we want to do. This is all we want to do for the rest of our careers.”
Ms. Chatfield-Taylor concurs that: “We’re very clear on our purpose, which is to deliver extraordinary talent to build, scale, and protect,” she said. “We want to be known for exceptional delivery of talent. We’ve got a phenomenal team who are all highly focused. We’re going to continue to be scrappy and trustworthy. One of the things we’ve heard repeatedly from talent, and certainly our clients, is that we do the best work and we are resilient. We get it done. I believe how you do anything is how you do everything, and that’s pervasive in our culture and delivery. That’s who we are and who we want to continue to be.”
Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; and Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media