October 3, 2023 – In the past year, a handful of new search firms have been launched to help organizations find senior talent. Veteran executive search consultant Ross Johnston recently launched Centric Search in the U.K. The firm focuses on founder-led, investor-backed technology companies recruit leadership team members at VP and C-level. Centric works with some of the fastest-growing technology vendors across Europe, typically partnering with companies from seed round through series C+. Hunt Scanlon Media recently asked Mr. Johnston about what led to the creation of his new firm and he pointed out two things. “Early-stage companies were caught in between – needing the quality of a top-tier search firm but the speed, flexibility, and more reasonable price point of a more contingent firm,” he said. “Centric solves this need and bridges this gap. Most search firms are not focused on this stage of growth – they are either functional specialists or big broad catch-all search firms and doing most of their work with later stage or public companies.”
“What a founder needs at early stage is completely different, often making a VP or C-level hire in a function for the first time for both the business and themselves personally,” Mr. Johnston said. “There was a gap in the market and a massive need for proper advice, deep network, and true understanding of what a great candidate looks like in this dynamic.”
“Centric Search specializes in leadership hiring for early stage company – typically still founder-led and backed by venture capital,” said Mr. Johnston. “Non-technical leadership hires – especially go-to-market (CRO, sales, marketing) and operations (COO, CFO).
We operate across Europe with a deep network in all major European tech hubs – London, Dublin, Amsterdam, Berlin, Stockholm, Paris, etc.”
Mr. Johnston also shared with Hunt Scanlon some current trends he is seeing in the search industry. “Boutiques becoming more prevalent – at early-stage, clients need focus and specialism,” he said. “Bigger firms can’t provide this.” Mr. Johnston also points to accountability in pricing. “We’re in a resource constrained economy,” he said. “Gone are the days clients can find themselves paying two-thirds of a search fee with nothing to show for it. Pricing from search firms needs to be milestone based and more back-ended.”
What is Attracting Top Tech Leaders
For the last 15-plus years, people flocked to tech with promises of a faster pace, career growth, the ability to innovate and drive impact, and the overall prospect of wealth and prosperity. But a new report from Hunt Club says that an interesting phenomenon has been happening for the last 12 months: “For the first time since starting Hunt Club seven-plus years ago, we’re seeing top-tier tech talent turning toward more traditional industries that not long ago they would have called sleepy, unimaginative, or boring,” said Nick Cromydas, co-founder and CEO of Hunt Club.
“It’s not just people that have done the start-up shuffle for 10 to 15 years (i.e. bounce from start-up to start-up without ever achieving a liquidity event), it’s also leaders who have had material private exits or significant wealth creation events through accruing restricted stock units (RSUs) YoY that grew in value insanely fast,” he said. “This leads me to believe that the change happening is bigger and much more nuanced than what it seems on the surface. I’ll break it down.”
“Diversity sadly taking a back seat as companies are under strain for performance in the current landscape – some view meeting diversity targets as a luxury for good times, not a necessity and also correlated to increasing performance,” Mr. Johnston said.
Finding C-Suite Leaders for Tech Companies
With over a decade of experience hiring C-suite leaders for technology companies, Mr. Johnston began his career in the U.S., working with blue-chip tech corporates such as Samsung and Mastercard. Intrigued to work more closely with the founders and builders of pioneering technology companies, he began working with earlier stage companies and helped build the leadership teams of prominent tech brands including Airbnb and Klarna.
Previously, Mr. Johnston was a director with London-headquartered executive search firm Kommol. Before that, he served senior consultant with The Up Group, a European technology-focused executive search firm. Earlier in his career, Mr. Johnston gained search experience with 360Leaders, Candela Search, and the Marlin Hawkins Group.
Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; and Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media