Every winning startup has leaders that transform the trajectory of the business. You know them when you see them. They are relentlessly resourceful. They run over, around, and through walls. They solve problems in surprising ways and take 100% accountability. Without them, their companies wouldn’t have made it from zero to one, let alone reach hypergrowth scale.
We don’t think these unsung heroes should be forgotten. With your help, we identified heroes across 7 categories that have been recognized by their peers as instrumental for building the world’s fastest growing startups. Here they are.
Michelle is currently the Chief Product Officer of Hinge, the dating app designed to be deleted. She leads the product organization across their growth, core experience, and recommender groups. She helps define short and long term strategy and organization development. As a person who found love through Hinge, Michelle has a profound understanding of just how impactful dating apps can be and is working to innovate on how they can help users express more of who they are and build deeper, more meaningful connections with each other.
Gabriella Rosen Kellerman, MD serves a CPO for BetterUp, a Series D global coaching and development product for the Fortune 1000. She began her career in psychiatry and fMRI research and has worked on global mental health policy and interventions for the World Health Organization. She is the founding CEO of the healthcare technology company LifeLink, former Director of Health and Quality Products at Castlight Health, and a serial executive at, and advisor to digital health and behavior change technology companies. As a thought leader, Gabriella is published widely for both popular and technical audiences in The Atlantic, Scientific American Mind, JAMA, and the Harvard Business Review. She has been profiled in Inc Magazine, and her work has been featured on CNBC, Entrepreneur, and Forbes.
Josh works on the product team at Stripe building Checkout and Stripe Payment Links. He focuses on building products to make it seamless & delightful for startups to accept payments online. Millions of merchants and billions of customers use the products that Josh and his team have built. Josh spearheaded Stripe Payment Links, which launched publicly in May 2021. Payment Links allow users to create a payment page in just a few clicks and share the link with customers without writing any code.
Jiaona leads product management for Webflow, where their mission is to empower everyone to create for the web. She joined Webflow a year and a half ago. Since then, she's helped Webflow not only survive, but thrive, during the pandemic; helped Webflow successfully raise their series B valuing the company at $2BN; interim managed engineering for 6 months while helping hire their VP of Engineering; and is growing and developing a world class product team.
Lane Shackleton is the Chief Product Officer at Coda, a new doc for teams that combines documents, spreadsheets, and applications into a single canvas. Lane started and leads a team of PMs and Designers responsible for all aspects of the product. As one of Coda’s earliest employees, he helped grow the company from private beta to usage by over 25,000 teams globally, including customers like Figma, Spotify and Square. Prior to Coda, Lane spent nine years at Google and YouTube, where he helped create a cost-per-view video advertising solution called TrueView.
Anchor product leaders can see the future. To echo Henry Ford, they’re not looking to give customers faster horses. They’re dreaming up products at the edge of our imagination, ones that customers are desperate for. They rally teams behind them to build, iterate, and execute at lightning speed. They have a founder mentality and are the critical nexus of technology and business within the company.
Rich Bessel is the Head of Design at Robinhood leading the company’s brand, product, content and research design teams. Since joining in 2019, Rich’s leadership and design strategies have helped Robinhood scale and strengthen their design excellence. Under his leadership, Robinhood’s design team won two prestigious Design & Art Direction Pencil awards for their brand refresh and illustration style. Prior to Robinhood, Rich was a design leader at Facebook, Intuit Quickbooks, Intuit TurboTax and Nokia. Rich holds an MBA and two technical degrees. He is also a proud veteran, having served as a US Naval officer.
Katie Witkop is the Art Director at Faire, a curated wholesale marketplace connecting more than 200,000 local retailers with thousands of emerging and established brands across the globe. As the founding designer at the startup, Katie crafted the company’s brand language and experiences with the end customer in mind. The female majority in Faire’s customer base inspired Katie in the definition of the company’s unique name, logomark, culture and identity. Along with the brand, Katie crafted the product design for all four initial products that were developed within the first two years of the company, including the vast wholesale marketplace, B2B brand portal and native apps. Today, she works across Design Systems, Brand and Product to ensure brand consistency at Faire — from input fields to photoshoots.
Samantha is a tech leader with nearly 15 years of experience envisioning, creating, and shipping next-generation consumer products. She has built design teams with proven success across a variety of environments, including large-scale tech companies, mid-sized design consulting firms, and venture backed start-ups. Samantha is passionate about building tight-knit high-performing teams and creating cultures of inclusion and equity. She's created and led women's groups at multiple organizations and regularly speaks at events in the design and fintech communities around how to design your career and how to create inclusive products that empower.
Hatch is on a mission is to provide accessible, transparent, and fair financial services to help people start and grow their business. Michelle currently leads the Design team, where she oversees product design, brand/marketing design, and research functions. She manages a small (and quickly growing) team of product designers and several agency partnerships to drive design strategy & execution across the holistic customer experience. She joined Hatch over two years ago and has worn a number of hats to help the company scale rapidly, build out core teams, and launch products to small businesses. Outside of work, she loves reading, doodling, and making pour-over coffee.
Anchor designers are the great artists of our time. They know how to tell amazing visual stories that transcend demographics and culture. They are endlessly creative, and totally unbound by rules and convention. They are perceptive students of human behavior that know how to get people to magical moments of delight.
Yasi Samimi is the Vice President of Growth at Truebill, overseeing all paid marketing across digital, TV, and outdoor media channels. Originally employee #17, Yasi joined as Director of Growth and has since expanded Truebill’s marketing from ~$30k/month to north of $4mm/month in spend, while at the same time growing Truebill from 50k users to over 2 million users. Twice promoted during her two-year tenure at Truebill, Yasi is the manager of two teams, both of which she built from the ground up. On the creative side, she runs pre-production and production pods, while on the media buying side, she oversees digital and offline squads. Under Yasi’s leadership, Truebill has developed industry leading creative practices and groundbreaking strategies for the preparation of iOS14.5. Prior to Truebill, Yasi was the Senior Acquisition Manager at Smule and a Growth Analytics Manager at Tune-in. She holds an MBA from California State University-Fresno.
Melissa Tan leads Product Growth & Lifecycle at Webflow, where her team enables users at every step of the customer journey (acquisition, activation, monetization, engagement, and retention). Along with the cross-functional team, she is responsible for Webflow’s self-serve business and the company’s overarching monetization strategy. Prior to Webflow, Melissa built and scaled the B2B Growth & Monetization team at Dropbox, where her team tripled the business in the years leading up to Dropbox’s IPO. She also advises startups on product-led growth and actively angel invests. Melissa is passionate about building teams and empowering individuals to achieve their full potential, all while having fun along the way. As a leader, she brings three core values to her work: caring deeply about people, delivering meaningful results, and creating a fun and collaborative team culture.
Holly Chen is a Marketing and Growth advisor, angel investor, and executive coach. She’s the founder of ExponentialX, a Marketing and Growth Collective, and CeilingBreakers, a leadership fellowship program for underrepresented leaders. She is the interim CRO at Impira, previously interim Head of Marketing at Loom and nTopology, and an advisor at ServiceNow, Miro, Teamflow, among others. Before advising full time, Holly was the Global Head of Digital Marketing at Slack, helping it grow from $100M to $700M ARR and going public. Prior, Holly was the Head of Growth at Google Store and Global Head of Google B2B Websites. She worked at Gucci, Deloitte Consulting and Kearny on innovation strategy. Holly has a Master’s in European Studies from the George Washington University and speaks Italian and Chinese fluently.
Tim is the Head of Marketing and Growth at Hatch, a fintech startup whose mission is to help small businesses start and grow. He oversees all things growth-related including new user acquisition, customer engagement, and strategic partnerships. Tim manages a team of growth professionals who work together to test new channels, optimize funnels, and continually find new ways to provide value to customers through the Hatch product or educational content. Visit hatchcard.com to learn more.
Anchor marketers don't just capture demand, they create demand. They know their job is to think like an entrepreneur and get the most results they can for the most effective use of money and time. Rather than succeed conventionally, they win by communicating in surprising and unexpected ways. They market differently, rather than better. They avoid comparison games with other companies.
Sandy is the Head of Operations at Sym, the security workflow automation platform built for engineers, by engineers. In this role, she oversees Finance, People Operations, and Go-To-Market strategy. Prior to Sym, she helped build GTM and Business Operations functions at Algolia and Nutanix where she focused on pricing strategy, self-service strategy, and standing up revenue operations organizations. She’s passionate about advancing DE&I in tech, exploring the outdoors by foot and snowboard, and has spent 2021 as a digital nomad.
Paul Jun is CFO at Pilot where he leads the company’s financial operations and strategy, overseeing the accounting, strategic finance and corporate development efforts. Over the past year, Paul has focused his efforts on successfully leading the launch of a new product and raising $100M of funding. Pilot powers the financial back office for startups and small businesses. The company has raised more than $150M in funding from Sequoia, Index Ventures, Bezos Expeditions and Whale Rock. Paul previously served as VP of Corporate Finance & Strategy at Dropbox and a venture capital investor at Index Ventures. Paul started his career in investment banking at Morgan Stanley and was an investor at Leonard Green and Partners (AUM $38Bn).
Kenny Mendes is COO at Coda, a new doc for teams that combines documents, spreadsheets, and applications into a single canvas. As one of Coda’s earliest employees, he helped the company grow from a private beta to a product used by more than 25,000 teams globally. In his role, he oversees Finance, People, Legal, and Operations. Prior to Coda, Kenny led recruiting at Box, where he scaled the company from 40 to more than 1,200 employees.
Douglas Hanna is the COO of Grafana Labs, the company behind leading open source projects Grafana and Loki, and the creator of the first open and composable observability platform. As COO, Doug is responsible for go-to-market (sales, marketing, customer success, technical support, professional services, solutions engineering) and operations (BizOps, GTM Ops, IT). Prior to Grafana Labs, he spent nearly four years at Zendesk, most recently as VP, Operations at Zendesk. Before Zendesk, he was the founder and CEO of Help.com, a customer service software company, and the CEO of A Small Orange, the homegrown hosting company. A Small Orange, which Douglas joined in 2010, was acquired by Endurance International Group (NASDAQ: EIGI) in 2012 and Douglas continued running the company as the SVP and Brand CEO, A Small Orange at Endurance for nearly two years following the acquisition. Douglas earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Duke University.
Anchor operations leaders keep the bus running. They’re the adults in the room that get the backbone processes in place that set up a startup for hypergrowth. This means finance, legal, compliance, and all the workflows in between. They squeeze out every optimization possible across the value chain so that the bus runs on time, then quicker, and then more efficiently when more passengers jump on.
Jen is the Head of Sales & Customer Success at Assembled, a startup building the operating system for customer support teams. She joined Assembled as the first business hire and built out its go-to-market functions (sales, implementation, customer success and support) from the ground up. She transitioned the company from founder-led sales to a repeatable sales motion, tripling the company's growth. Prior to Assembled, she worked at Stripe where she saw the company grow from 300 to 2000 employees. As an early member of the Biz Ops team, she incubated sales operations and defined the company's segmentation framework. Later on, she led Stripe's support operations team, which was responsible for building the infrastructure to scale Stripe's support. Before joining the tech world, Jen worked as a consultant at Bain & Company.
Kristen was the VP of Sales at Trello, who built the team from the first hire through the $425M acquisition to Atlassian in 2017. She then went on to run the AMER/APAC sales team at Atlassian and later went on to build out and run the Global Enterprise Development Sales team for Atlassian. Kristen currently is the Chief Sales Officer at Shogun with responsibility across all their customer facing teams. Kristen also sits on the board of GuideCX and advises them on PLG go to market motions and enterprise sales. Kristen has over 15 years of experience managing, building and scaling sales teams. She is passionate about building remote and diverse teams.
Armando Mann is the Chief Business Officer and a Board Member at Hopin, the leading shared experiences platform that enables immersive and interactive connection from anywhere. At Hopin, one of the fastest growing companies, Mann is instrumental in the organization’s ongoing growth including scaling the company from six to more than 800 employees around the world in just two years, and building the operations and business strategies to impact and grow Hopin’s 100,000+ customers globally. Previously, Mann held the position of Vice President of Sales and Customer Success at RelateIQ, which was acquired by Salesforce, where he spent nearly four years post-acquisition. Prior to RelateIQ, Mann led Sales and Customer Success at Dropbox. Before that, Mann built the sales teams for various emerging businesses at Google, including Google Offers and AdWords Express. Mann’s first entrepreneurial adventure included building his own startup, AXG Tecnonexo, which grew to more than 150 employees globally. Mann is also a global investor in SaaS startups such as Carta, Blend, Mural, and Freshworks. Mann holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Industrial Engineering from The Buenos Aires Institute of Technology (ITBA) and a Master’s Degree in Business Administration from the Harvard Business School where he graduated as a Baker Scholar.
Jen currently serves as the Head of Sales and Success at Faire, the online wholesale marketplace now valued at $7 billion. In her role, she oversees the growth and expansion of the company’s customer communities of over 25,000 global brands and 220,000 retailers. Since joining in August of 2019, Faire has increased its brand base by 300% and retailer base by 350%, now representing more retail locations by door count in North America than Starbucks, Walgreens, Walmart, Sephora, Target, and Nordstrom combined. Prior to Faire, Jen led the sales and account management teams at ClassPass where she helped launch more than 50 markets around the world and built up the studio supply from to over 10,000 partners. She has spent most of her career in go-to-market roles from either an operating or consulting perspective and has worked at various companies from The Walt Disney Company to McCann Erickson to Bain Consulting and MasterClass.
Anchor sales leaders are day one revenue machines. They can teach a masterclass in the art of relationship building. They serve on the front lines and can close deals in their sleep. They intuitively know how to pave a path to get the customer to “yes”; the word “no” is simply not in their vocabulary. They go beyond the call of duty to make customers successful.
Anthony launched and runs the On Deck First 50 Fellowship, a community through which the most talented job-seekers intentionally find their next roles at world-changing startups. On Deck helps ambitious people start and scale companies, and accelerate their careers. Anthony originally got to know the organization as a participant in the Founder Fellowship in June 2020 while building his prior company, Get Your Next Career. He joined the staff in October 2020 to build OD50, which has supported nearly 400 entrepreneurial job-seekers in its first three cohorts, chosen from 2,200 applicants. In addition to an amazing community of peers supporting each other while deciding their next moves, OD50 Fellows get access to the hottest startup founders, 120 of whom have pitched in reverse recruiting events called Talent Demo Days so far this year. Before pivoting into startups, Anthony spent 11 years at Goldman Sachs across the New York, London and Los Angeles offices, most recently as the Business Unit Manager for Southern California Private Wealth Management.
As Head of People at Mercury, a company that is reimagining banking for startups, Veronica oversees both the Recruiting and People functions. She manages a team of amazing recruiters and owns People programs aimed to scale and evolve the company's culture. She joined Mercury in October 2019 as the 14th employee and they just recently made their 160th hire with no plans to slow down, having just raised their Series B. She feels incredibly lucky to work with a group of hilarious, brilliant and kind people every day and is excited for even more growth ahead.
Front is a hub for customer communication that supports how over 6,500 companies including Shopify, Airbnb, Hulu and Lyft meaningfully connects their teams with customers. Front's mission is to help people work happier, which is a dream for any people leader. Their mission and the direct impact their product has on helping teams around the world communicate in exceptional, new ways are what drew Ashley to the company and continues to energize her in her role as Head of People. She was also excited about Front because of their incredible company culture and leadership team. Front's executive team is almost entirely women and over 50% of managers at Front are women, which is rare in Silicon Valley and rarer still in corporate America. Ashley has been at Front for over three years, leading HR, Recruiting, DEIB, Workplace Experience, and the EA group — all things people. They were 85 people when she joined and they we will be over 350 by the end of the year with offices in San Francisco, Paris, and expanding rapidly. Her primary focus is on scaling Front's business, while maintaining and evolving the culture over time and treating every Front employee like they matter. Prior to Front, she held leadership positions at Airbnb and Box where she learned invaluable insights about building incredible employee experiences that are meaningful at both the company and individual level.
Ragini joined Affirm 4.5 years ago when she was hired as the first Head of Talent and Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI). In her time at Affirm, she has 10x'd the company's active headcount and founded their DEI Council. Today she holds the role of SVP People on the executive team, leading a team of over 100 employees. Most recently, she served on the inaugural Diversity & Inclusion Steering Committee (DISC) which is made up of representatives from senior leadership. DISC provides oversight, support and guidance to departments and teams across Affirm while ensuring internal and external initiatives reflect Affirm’s high bar for DEI. Ragini served as an advisor to startups and fast growing tech companies that needed help creating and implementing recruitment and People processes, infrastructure, reporting and teams from scratch. Prior to Affirm, she decided to go in house with one of her clients, Credit Karma, where she was their Head of People and grew them to just over 500 FTE.
Anchor talent leaders build out legendary founding teams. They have a reputation for discovering “diamonds in the rough” and recognize amazing people before anyone else does. They convince veterans to take a chance on the unpredictable startup journey. They empower people to do their best work. They architect community and set the tone for culture.
Asif has over 20 years of engineering experience with a focus on search engines and edtech. He is currently the CTO of Handshake, the largest career platform for college students and recent graduates. Most recently, Asif was the head of Google Image Search and prior to that, he was the Sr. Director of Engineering for Learning Solutions at LinkedIn, leading the Lynda.com online learning technology organization and launching LinkedIn Learning. Asif was the founding member and engineer of A9.com (a wholly owned subsidiary of Amazon.com), creator and GM of Amazon CloudSearch, and the Head of Search at LinkedIn. Asif is passionate about scaling high performance organizations, developing leaders and coaching early talent.
Karan is EVP Technology at shift.com, on a mission to make car purchase and ownership simple — to make buying or selling a used car fun, fair, and accessible to everyone. Instead of walking into a dealership to buy or sell a car, you will order it online, and have it delivered, with the same level of trust and convenience you’re used to for everything else. That's the kind of impact Shift is having on the world. What they’re pursuing today, will become the new normal 10 years from now. Karan heads the entire Technology team at Shift, defining strategy, and setting the bar for culture fit and technical acumen. He guides long-term architecture and technology solutions, and is a key partner for other executive colleagues. He considers his most impactful “win” to be building out a team of superb technologists with a strong bias for action who thrive on impact to the business.
Andrew Fong is the CTO of Vise. He joined the company after nine years at Dropbox, where he most recently served as VP of Engineering—Infrastructure. In this role, Andrew was responsible for developing Dropbox’s Cloud Infrastructure from an early idea into an industry-leading product. But what he’s most proud of was managing and mentoring his team of 240 global engineers. Prior to Dropbox, Andrew was at YouTube and AOL, where he participated in a series of initiatives to streamline the two companies’ infrastructure and operations functions. Andrew received a B.S. in Computer Science from the University of Delaware. He now resides in the Bay Area with his wife and son.
Anchor engineers apply logic, data, and math to push the boundaries of what we are capable of building. A 10X engineering leader is constantly learning and elevating the work of everyone around them. In the software world, they eat code for breakfast. In the hardware world, they are mad genius inventors. They understand the challenges of hypergrowth and massive scale.