Part 4: Sourcing A Players

Marc Laurent
Kerala Ventures
Published in
7 min readNov 6, 2019


Strongest talents often already have a job so the traditional sourcing strategy enabled by your page is probably not always the most suitable one.

Different rules, different tools. Looking back on our experience, the 3 most powerful levers have been:

1 . Employee referral

We all already know what employee referral is but we are usually a little bit disappointed by its impact on the recruitments. Looking back on our experience, there is a correlation between the effectiveness of employee referral and how systematically it has been enforced.

In other words, a trap to be avoided is to boil employee referral down to an Amazon coupon and a random email when it pops into your head ☺

to: team
subject: Help needed - Inbound Marketing Manager
Hi everyone,We have opened the Inbound Marketing Manager position (job desc here: jobdesc).Please let us know if you have someone in your network that might be interested!Sonia

We have witnessed over the past few years that emphasizing and systematizing employee referral improved the impact it had on candidate pipe. We usually suggest our entrepreneurs to add it to a management routine they already have (monthly email to the whole team, monthly team meeting …) as below:

to: team
subject: September news
Hi everyone,This is what happened over the last month 🚀Have a good read & feel free to reach out to me anytime!SoniaMRR- €5k of new MRR (gross)
- €0.5k churn
- €34k MRR (end of month)
Product- New Architecture on Android (90% → 100%)
- New billing workflow & interfaces (70% → 90%)
- Video editing tool (40% → 60%)
Marketing- Launch of the monthly newsletter
- We were at the Digital Summit
- Implementation of Hubspot (80% → 100%)
- Customer base clustering (40% → 60%)
HR- We are proud to welcome:
- Ariane (ex-Uber, joining the sales team)
- Josh (ex-Octo, joining the tech team)
- Bruno (ex-Blue Agency, joining the marketing team) - Congrats 🎉 Anne-Sophie 🎉 for bringing Bruno onboard!
- Best referrals of last month:
- Adrien (3 referred applications)
- Anne-Sophie (2 referred applications of which Bruno 💪)
- Lucie (1 candidate)
- We still look for full-stack developers and one inbound marketing expert, materials below:
- Fullstack Developer (Job desc / Score card / Blurb to send via email to your contacts)
- Inbound Marketing Manager (Job desc / Score card / Blurb to send via email to your contacts)

Below is a slide extracted from a “DMM” (Docto Monthly Meeting) during which Doctolib systematically congratulated “Doctolibers” who have contributed to building the Doctolib team.

Extracted from the “DMM” (Docto Monthly Meeting)

2. Close network (ex colleagues, board members, …)

There are two kinds of emails we all probably receive at least once a week:

  • Nigerian prince scam emails 😁
  • Someone from your network forwarding a vacant position they look to fill in their company:
subject: Fwd: Hiring a VP Marketing
Hi Marc,I hope you are well. We look for a VP Marketing. Please let me know if you know someone who could be interested.Jannie

The hard truth is that if someone took 15 seconds to write a sloppy email and send it to you, you will probably not spend more than 5 seconds reading it and thinking of how you can help them. Yep, that’s probably what’s going to happen. We all have busy schedules and other priorities.

When we reach out to the Kerala network to help our companies source off-market candidates, we try to keep 2 things in mind:

  • A) Candidates should be pitched by companies the same way VCs get pitched by founders. Indeed, both candidates and VCs manage assets and choose whether or not they want to invest into a company. VCs invest cash and candidates invest time. And as you know time is the only wholly finite, non-renewable resource.
  • B) More than asking for help, we believe we are sharing a rare opportunity. We think that joining one of our portfolio companies is a great opportunity, so we try to detail in the email why we think it’s a good deal for the candidate.

Below is the email Kerala sent to our close network to source candidates for the Head of Strategic Projects position at back in June 2019.

P.S: I sincerely thank all the Kerala friends we contact several times a year and who systematically help us source A Players for our portfolio companies 😚🤗

from: marc@kerala.vcto: close_friends@gmail.comsubject: Head of Strategic Projects at buddy!What's up? How were your holidays?Look, we are looking for a strong profile (5y+ exp.) to join as Head of Strategic Projects. The role is based in Lyon and directly reporting to Côme the founder & CEO. They just closed a €10M Series A with Alven and Côme needs a star to give him a hand on several strategic and operational topics.I've put more info below. I think the company has a very high potential and that this is the right timing to jump in.Let me know if you think of a strong candidate who is not yet in your team ;)
- Accounting SaaS for liberal professions and independent workers (doctors, nurses, lawyers ...)
- Customers connect their bank account to Georges that produces tax reports and accounting statements.
- Users love the product (4.9 Google / 4.8 Facebook / 65 NPS)
- They are building the European Intuit / Xero (multi $B companies)
- Founders are really outstanding (Côme / Pablo / Romain / Adrien)
- They are based in Lyon
- Kerala (Doctolib, Malt ...) led the €1M Seed round on December 17 when they had 600 clients (€9K MRR)
- They just closed a €10M Series A led by Alven (Qonto, Algolia, Dataiku, Frichti ...) and have now tens of thousands of clients
Head of Strategic Projects:- Taskforce directly reporting to the CEO and working on several horizontal topics such as:
- Exploring and building business cases of new offers, new partnerships ...
- Structuring and leading the implementation of cross-department processes (HR, Finance, ...)
We look for candidates who [are / have a]:- 5y+ successful experience in a fast-paced environment
- Hands-on approach / Entrepreneur mindset
- Smart / Business sense / Strategic view
- Analytical skills
- Leadership / Personal skills
- Top academic background


As you probably know, there is a fierce competition between investors. Every VC aspires to be the most value-add investor around the table to consolidate their reputation in order to attract the best startups to come.

Hence I recommend CEOs to manage their board and to underwrite a healthy competition among board members :)

3. Direct approach

When we start sourcing candidates through a direct approach, we usually recommend starting by setting the composite drawing of the candidate we look for. More specifically his/her:

  • Former likely experience
  • Current likely companies
  • Current likely titles

Back in late 2015 when Kerala led the recruitment of the first Chief Financial Officer of Doctolib, we determined that the ideal candidate would be not far from:

Former likely experience:

  • 2–3 years of experience in the Financial department of a software company
  • 5–7 years of experience in Audit and Transaction Services
  • At least 2 years of international experience

Current likely company:

  • Software company
  • International presence
  • 500–1,000 employees
  • Has raised money from international funds
  • Has executed at least one M&A operation

Current possible titles:

  • CFO
  • Chief Financial Officer
  • Finance Manager
  • Finance Director
  • VP Finance

I browsed hundreds of linkedin profiles and reached out ~50 potential candidates this way:

subject: CFO at Doctolib :) ?message:Hi XXXX,I'm a member of the board of Doctolib, the leading European platform for health practitioners. In 24 months they've reached 6,000 practitioners using the platform every day, 140 employees and 1m meetings handled every month.Doctolib just raised €18M from Accel Partners (Facebook, Dropbox ...) and is now hiring a CFO to join the top management.We are looking for someone who has managed a Financial department in a company growing by at least 40% per year and operating in at least 4 countries. Given what you've done with XXXX, I thought you might be a good fit for what we want to achieve over the next few years.Happy to jump on a call if I've raised your interest :)Marc

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Read next:

>> part 5: Interviews That Pick The Best Candidates <<




Marc Laurent
Kerala Ventures

VC @keralavc — Formerly @OtiumCapital & @alvencap — @CentraleNantes & @HECParis alumni