Coming up with transformative ideas and picking big markets is the first job of a founder, but the key ingredient for any durable company is exceptional people. World-class founders build world-class teams, but as any first-time founder will tell you, hiring is the most misunderstood input into a company. At Madrona, we recognize that great founders need help hiring the leaders they need to scale the company in the early days and to eventually take a company public or onto other success. So, we spent the last four years creating Madrona’s talent team to give our portfolio companies an advantage at every stage of growth. Today, we’re excited to take our team to the next level with the addition of Audra Aulabaugh.
Getting beyond the first 10-50 hires
Hiring is the lifeblood for any startup in growth mode. By definition, growth means constantly feeding the flywheel of customers, revenue, and people. But for early-stage startups, recruiting is rarely given deep consideration during ideation, creation, and fundraising. When founders do finally have enough funding to build their team, they struggle to scale beyond the first 10-50 employees once they’ve maxed out personal networks and those of their early hires. First-time founders often know how to hire individual contributors and leads in their own area of expertise but often struggle with hiring executive leaders who can scale beyond the early stage.
“Hiring is the lifeblood for any startup in growth mode”
The Madrona talent team is a superpower for our portfolio founders and CEOs when it comes to getting beyond personal networks and helping to scale a company’s leadership team. Our finger is on the pulse of Seattle’s product, engineering, and GTM leadership talent. We want to make it natural and easy for these leaders to call us first when they are thinking of making a career change. We advise, consult, and teach CEOs and teams how to accelerate the speed and quality of their hiring. And our rich and accessible content, templates, playbooks, and workshops allow CEOs to tap proven, modern recruiting practices, eliminating guesswork and ensuring they aren’t bogged down with where to begin.
Meet the Team
Matt Witt, myself, and now Audra Aulabaugh have 80 years of combined experience as talent operators in high-growth companies, early-stage startups, executive search, interviewer training and consulting.
Audra brings recent startup PeopleOps and talent experience to Madrona. She was head of talent at Heptio (acquired by VMWare in 2018) and at Polly.ai. Prior to that, she spent a decade at Seattle gaming powerhouse Big Fish as they expanded and grew to become one of Seattle’s largest acquisitions of that time.
In all three cases, Audra built talent machines from scratch, including working closely with first-time founders to identify goals, help with company culture definition, and create interview processes and assessments — all core elements to building a workforce beyond friends and former colleagues.
Just as we advise our founders and CEOs to create a wish list of people and cultivate them, we followed that playbook with Audra. She and I worked together in 2016 during her time at Big Fish, and I was so impressed with her growth mindset that she landed on my wish list. I cultivated a relationship with Audra as she spent time working at our portfolio companies, hoping we could eventually harness her powers across the portfolio. And now, that day has arrived.
Audra’s skills will complement and round out the talent team at Madrona. I am currently focused on teaching entrepreneurs how to build their teams, authoring playbooks and running workshops to help early-stage teams build out their talent machines for all functions. Matt mainly works with CEOs on their VP and C-Level searches for Product, Engineering, GTM and G&A.
Audra is creating opportunities for leadership talent to learn about Madrona and our companies well in advance of making a career change. She’ll be actively working to attract leaders to our network, nurture those relationships at scale, and make it easy to activate when the timing is right. She will be building our inbound engine through events, content, and communication. I’m excited to have Audra on the team. Please welcome her!