Nav Talent Story & Principles

Nav Talent aims to enable the highest potential individuals to create the greatest impact. My name is Baris Akis and over the past two and a half years my core team and I have been building Nav Talent. I wanted to take this opportunity to share our story, as well as a few challenges and lessons we have learned. I will be periodically updating this blog, so stay tuned!

Personal Story & Launching Nav Talent

Most people’s first exposure to recruiting happens at their first college career fair. It was a little different for me. My mother, Prof. Yesim Toduk, runs one of the top executive headhunting companies in Turkey. They focus 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 at our dinner table.

During my first year at Stanford I started a company, and while growing the team, I interacted with a handful of technical recruiters in Silicon Valley. These experiences were not positive. I also studied computer science and went through the process of exploring internship opportunities. Talk about inefficiency: the experience of handing out resumes to dozens of companies at the career fair didn’t feel like an effective or pleasant approach. Finally, after selling my first company, I started angel investing with a few of my peers. 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 experienced recruiting as an entrepreneur, employee and investor and the process was not optimal for any of the parties.

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 first year 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 us to start 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 2015 Spring to think about what’s next. I had numerous coffee meetings with my ambitious 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. 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 that 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: they all claim to be well funded, mission-driven, and have great advisors and traction, but what really lies under the hood? I started to think, how can I help my peers find the right high-impact opportunities.

I believed that I had a unique combination of technical experience and recruiting exposure that would allow me to build a talent organization. I had also felt the satisfaction of building SENSA that developed the social impact ecosystem at Stanford and helped brilliant people pursue high-impact careers. I felt that there was an opportunity to build a talent company that would do things differently following the core principles below.


Core Principles Behind Nav Talent

  • Technology is the most significant force for change, and the influencers and shapers of our generation will be those who have strong technical backgrounds and understanding.
  • We believe that 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 to a high career point, we believe that we can further support highest 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 are building a talent organization that will foster relationships for 10, 15, 20 years… This better aligns our incentives with those we serve: the next generation of engineering leaders. This is why we now refer to our candidates as members of our community. Once someone is part of the Nav Talent ecosystem, we are here to support them throughout their career.
  • Nav Talent aims to form long-term, trust-based relationships with our members. We believe that happens best when meeting face-to-face. The Nav Talent 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 recruiting companies 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 only with the best clients, and all of our clients are 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.