IR Search Anton van Rossum

Anton van Rossum 

15 February 2023

J.S. asks:

I’m Dutch, but I’ve worked outside the Netherlands all my life. I currently reside in London, with plans to move in the foreseeable future. As I also have an apartment in Amsterdam, I’ve begun to monitor technology positions in the Netherlands.

Recently, Linkedin sent me a message about an opening for a CEO at a little VC-backed company with a high-tech product. The job description mentions you as the hiring agent. I’ve looked at your Linkedin profile and your long history in recruitment for deeply technical roles really stands out and inspires confidence!

I think I’m a good fit for the job. Developing new technology and building a company around it is something I’ve been doing for thirty years. I have a degree in software engineering and an MBA. I’ve worked with many different technologies, but technology is never the end goal – a scalable company is.

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Much of my knowledge about commercializing technology I picked up in Silicon Valley. I lived and worked there for fifteen years. As a product manager, I was responsible, among other things, for the development and launch of a solution to analyze images with computers. I built go-to-market partnerships with GE and Siemens, who bundled our software with their systems. Eventually, we got bought by a listed medtech company. Of course, I had a lot of help, but as a product manager, you have a very broad responsibility, combining technical skills, market knowledge and the know-how to develop and implement an entry strategy. McKinsey calls a Silicon Valley product manager the “mini-CEO.”

In 2010, I left Silicon Valley and moved to London for my children’s high school careers. With that part of their education now drawing to an end, I’ve started to look for a new challenge. Next to Amsterdam, I’m also considering a return to California.

I’m still fully engaged with technology companies, both startups, scale-ups and listed businesses. Sometimes I’m the sounding board for a management team, sometimes I do the work myself. This position for which you’re hiring, at a scale-up looking to disrupt the market with a technical product, therefore really appeals to me. Shall we have a talk sometime to get acquainted?

The headhunter answers:

Your profile certainly has elements that match the technology and market of the company I’m hiring for. However, I have some serious doubts about your suitability for this role. Firstly, a sales background is a big plus for the position. It’s a deep-tech company with a technology rather than a customer focus right now, and that needs to change. You lack the required sales background.

You also present yourself as the pivotal figure in the medical outfit you worked for in the Valley, the one to whom the company ultimately owed its success. That seems to me to be an oversell detached from reality. You have a nice CV, but you were not the company’s face to the customer. You were an important member of the marketing team, nothing more.

My doubts are further fueled by your general attitude. When you want to sell yourself, you don’t start by downplaying the other party (“little company”). The people working there are very proud of their groundbreaking technology and what they’ve achieved so far.

It seems that you’re missing the required sensitivity and social qualities to adequately address your conversation partners. And with that, you lack essential leadership qualities. This not only makes you completely unsuitable for this position but for any outward-facing role that involves customer contact, such as sales.