The Spark that Led to Human Capital

Human Capital

Human Capital aims to be your partner in shaping the future. My name is Baris Akis and over the past four and a half years our core team and my co-founder, Armaan Ali, have been building Human Capital (previously Nav Talent), with the mission to empower ambitious engineers to maximize their impact on the world.

I wanted to take this opportunity to share our story, as well as a few challenges and lessons we have learned as we have grown Human Capital I will be periodically updating this blog, so stay tuned!

Personal Story & Foundations of Human Capital

For many, the earliest exposure to recruiting happens at their first college career fair. For me, it was a little different. My mother, Professor Yesim Toduk, runs one of the top executive headhunting companies in Turkey, focused on placing C-suite executives at some of the largest companies in the country. I grew up hearing about the challenges and opportunities associated with the business and had the chance to meet some of the country’s business leaders right at our dinner table.

During my first year at Stanford, while studying computer science, I started a company. While growing the team, I interacted with a handful of technical recruiters in Silicon Valley, where the experiences were not positive. I went through the process of exploring internship opportunities, handing out resumes to dozens of companies at the career fair, which didn’t feel like an effective or pleasant approach. Finally, after selling my first company, I started angel investing with my current co-founder, Armaan. This gave me first-hand experience in seeing that a team of great engineers is uniquely able to create disproportionate value for a company. By the end of my third year of college, I had experience recruiting as an entrepreneur, employee, and investor, and had firsthand knowledge of how the process was not optimal for any party involved.

I’ve always been very impact-driven. During my high school years, I started and grew one of the largest youth organizations in Turkey. During my time at Stanford, I was surprised and frustrated by the lack of social impact startups, so I co-founded and led the social entrepreneurship organization on campus, Stanford SENSA (Social Entrepreneurial Students’ Association). One of the primary motivators for starting SENSA, was to enable our peers that were interested in social entrepreneurship to more easily pursue impact-focused careers.

I finished my degree requirements at the end of my third year and dedicated most of Spring 2015 to think about what’s next. I had numerous coffee meetings with my peers with the goal of being inspired by their career paths. Unfortunately, I started to see a pattern; everyone was joining tech giants like Google, Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, etc. When I asked them “why?” none of them told me because that’s what they always dreamt of doing, or that’s where they create the largest impact or that’s where they learn the most. Most of them gave a version of an answer sounding like, “I want to do something high-impact I don’t know what that is. So I’m going to go work at Facebook for a few years until I figure out what’s next.”

More than anything, I was surprised to see my peers settle for these safe roles where they would, for the most part, have a marginal impact. I wanted to better understand why they weren’t pursuing roles at high-growth startups where they could have more ownership, higher impact, and better mentorship. After further discussions, I realized the biggest issue was that my peers were not able to identify which startups were great places to start a high-impact career.

There are hundreds of startups in the portfolios of top VC funds. If one only looks at the websites of most startups, they look pretty similar, all claiming to be well funded, mission-driven, and have great advisors and traction, but what really lies under the hood? I started to think, how I can help my peers find the right high-impact opportunities.

Alongside Armaan, we believed that we had a unique combination of technical experience, recruiting exposure and venture investing experience that would allow us to build a member organization that partners with high-potential engineers and empowers them to maximize their impact.


Foundational Principles Behind Human Capital

  • Technology is the most significant force for change, and the influencers and shapers of our generation will be those who have strong technical backgrounds or understanding.
  • We believe that the most brilliant people only actively look for new roles at two points in their career. First, just after graduation, and second, when they reach a leadership ceiling. Even though one can benefit from the services of top-tier headhunting firms after reaching a high career point, we believe that we can further support high-potential individuals to have life-long careers of high-impact by systematically meeting with them at the university and being a partner from start to end.
  • Contrary to most profit-driven professional service organizations, we are willing to sacrifice short-term profit for building and maintaining long-term, trust-based relationships. We don’t charge our members for any of our services. We are building a membership community that will foster relationships for years to come, better aligning our incentives with those we serve: the next generation of engineering leaders. We refer to our candidates as members of our community. Once someone is part of the Human Capital ecosystem, we are here to support them throughout their careers.
  • Human Capital aims to form long-term, trust-based relationships with our members. We believe that happens best when meeting face-to-face. The Human Capital team meets with each member in person and works to add value both during their job search and also post-graduation through our alumni program.
  • Most agencies work with almost anyone who pays them and charge their clients on a varying scale. We believe this creates an entirely misaligned structure. People get funneled where the recruiting company can make more money. As a result, there is no recruiting organization in the startup ecosystem that engineers trust. We work with the best companies, on the same fee terms — ensuring that our motives are only to find the best match for our members and our clients.

We are more excited than ever about the exceptional individuals we’ve been privileged to work with, the incredible things we’ve helped them accomplish, and our potential to change the world together in the coming years. Human Capital is your partner in shaping the future.

Human Capital

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