Aditya Agarwal | June 30, 2020
Leveraging Technical Expertise to Effect Change at ICONIQ Growth
Technical advisory at ICONIQ Growth
A big question that I had when I joined ICONIQ Growth was whether someone with my experience and skillset would be able to make a meaningful impact at this stage of investing. The conventional wisdom is that by the time a company raises growth capital, it has already gotten product-market fit, built out its core technology and product and now it’s simply a question of scaling out the go-to-market motion and adding fuel to the fire. Our hypothesis at ICONIQ Growth was that more and more, we could help our companies across every aspect of growth and particularly around scaling out their core technology both from the product and team perspective. It’s been really gratifying to see that hypothesis play out over the last 18 months after building out an incredible Technology Advisory Board with industry renowned senior technical leaders in the ICONIQ network.
ICONIQ Growth’s platform has always been centered around an investment strategy of “Entrepreneurs Backing Entrepreneurs.” As a partner to over 70 technology companies, we deeply understand growth stage needs and the technical and organizational challenges that come with rapid scaling. As part of this strategy and understanding, ICONIQ Growth introduced its Technical Advisory Board (“TAB”) in early 2019, formalizing relationships with senior technical leaders in the ICONIQ network to provide valuable thought leadership to the entire ICONIQ Growth platform.
ICONIQ Technical Advisory Board members have helped our portfolio company leaders in myriad ways, from scaling engineering organizations to navigating architectural considerations as well as providing direct mentorship and sharing unique insights around engineering and product.
The Technical Advisory Board is comprised of senior engineering and product executives who have built successful engineering and product organizations in technology across a range of leading platforms, including Dropbox, Facebook, Lyft, Pluralsight, Cisco, Airbnb, and Slack. Members of the Technical Advisory Board have been critical in helping ICONIQ Growth portfolio companies scale and solve complex technical challenges, with several members working deeply and regularly with some of our portfolio companies’ leadership and engineering teams on complex technology hurdles.
Leveraging proprietary resources and informed perspectives, Technical Advisory Board members have helped our portfolio company leaders in myriad ways, from scaling engineering organizations to navigating architectural considerations as well as providing direct mentorship and sharing unique insights around engineering and product.
Scaling Engineering Organizations: Technical Advisory Board members seek to empower our portfolio company leaders with effective organizational design strategies and career development frameworks for engineering and product teams. Examples of this include defining roles and responsibilities of a technical leader, such as the CTO and VP of Engineering, and working through challenges that arise when deciding between the creation of a sole- versus multi-person product / engineering leadership structure.
Navigating Architectural Considerations: There are a range of architectural considerations and best practices that our Technical Advisory Board members have had extensive exposure to. Leveraging our infrastructure expertise, members have helped assess the cost, stability, and efficiency of cloud versus hosted infrastructure, shared perspectives on the configuration and security of single- versus multi-tenancy, and developed methodologies for when businesses begin transitioning from phased releases towards continuous deployment.
Providing Direct Mentorship: Our portfolio company leaders have a range of diverse backgrounds and technical experiences. From personalized coaching and mentorship to situational advice encompassing all aspects of leadership and senior hire assessments, we believe in unlocking the power of these leaders through personalized guidance and mentorship.
Sharing Unique Insights: Our network’s proprietary ecosystem of technical talent and thought leaders allows our members to connect our community and facilitate collaboration around engineering and product in truly unique ways. We have hosted curated events featuring leaders of our broader network, including a fireside chat with Jeff Rothschild, Facebook’s first VP of Engineering. We’ve held interactive conversations and workshops centered around product and engineering, including a workshop with Anantha Kancherla, Ryan Atkins, Matt Eccleston, and Keith Adams discussing ways to drive productivity and engagement for engineering teams, define the Engineering Operations (“Eng Ops”) function, and more.
Throughout the pandemic, our members continue to be active — we hosted a virtual fireside chat in which we shared practical tips and advice (and war stories) from our time leading high-growth, high-performance engineering organizations through periods of uncertainty, crisis and upheaval. In addition, we launched a Slack channel with our members and portfolio CTOs for real time collaboration.
Additionally, Technical Advisory Board members have been instrumental in partnering with ICONIQ Growth’s investment team to evaluate and provide insight into prospects’ technology and products during diligence processes. The Technical Advisory Board has also leveraged its unique access to help with broader investment sourcing and surface new opportunities outside of the existing network.
Our Technical Advisory Board has grown tremendously since inception to include the following members:
- Aditya Agarwal is the Technical Advisory Board lead and an ICONIQ Growth Partner. Aditya was an early engineer at Facebook where he wrote the Facebook Search Engine, also serving as Facebook’s first Director of Product Engineering. After transitioning from Facebook in early 2011, Aditya co-founded Cove, a modern collaboration software company, which was acquired by Dropbox in early 2012. Aditya served as Dropbox’s VP of Engineering and subsequently took on the responsibility of Chief Technology Officer in October 2016
- Amy Chang serves on the board of directors for Procter & Gamble, and has previously served on the boards of Cisco, Splunk and Informatica. Post-acquisition of her startup Accompany by Cisco, she led Cisco’s multi-billion dollar Collaboration business and its 5,000 person team which includes the videoconferencing, phones, calling and contact center businesses. Prior to Accompany, Amy was at Google for over 7 years, growing Google Analytics to serve over 86% of the entire web. She previously led product for the paid search and affiliates channels at eBay
- Anantha Kancherla is the VP of Engineering at Lyft’s Level 5 Autonomous Vehicles Division, where he is building autonomous vehicle initiatives. Anantha started his career as a developer at Microsoft and joined Facebook in 2013, where Anantha helped develop Facebook’s mobile Newsfeed and core mobile experiences. In 2015, Anantha joined Dropbox and led the Collaboration efforts as Senior Director of Engineering, launching Dropbox Paper and improving its core collaboration functionality
- Jeff Rothschild was previously the VP of Infrastructure Engineering at Facebook where he also established numerous critical technology functions within the company including User Operations, Site Integrity, Data Analytics and Infrastructure Engineering. Jeff co-founded Veritas in 1988 and Mpath Interactive in 1995, which subsequently went public in 1999. Jeff started his career at Honeywell and Intel, where he worked on the development of the Intel 3805 mainframe storage system. Subsequently, he developed a consultancy focused on network storage technologies
- Keith Adams was most recently the Chief Architect at Slack, where he led technical teams and was in charge of setting up the infrastructure that Slack runs on. Keith started his career as an early engineer at VMware, where he conducted various work at the virtual and physical hardware / software interface boundary. Keith joined Facebook in 2009, where he contributed to search infrastructure, led work on the HipHop Virtual Machine for PHP, and helped start Facebook AI Research
- Matt Eccleston was previously the VP of Growth at Dropbox. Matt led engineering for Dropbox Business, Growth & Monetization, VP of Product Engineering and subsequently VP of Growth for more than five years in total. Matt started his career as an early engineer at VMware, where he initially focused on core virtualization and then helped form and lead the end user computing business unit as a director, principal engineer and Chief Architect
- Mike Curtis was most recently the VP of Engineering at Airbnb, leading engineering as it grew from 40 to over 1,000 engineers. Mike also had tours leading other groups as the company scaled, including Data Science, Information Security, Corporate Development, Performance Marketing, and Trust & Safety Operations. Prior to Airbnb, Mike served as a Director of Engineering at Facebook, leading engineering for the User Growth and Engagement team. Prior to that Mike was VP of Engineering at Yahoo, leading engineering for Yahoo Mail and Messenger
- Nate Walkingshaw is the Chief Experience Officer at Pluralsight, where he oversees Pluralsight’s engineering, content and author teams. Nate began his product experience when he started Paramed in 2004 and was acquired by Stryker Medical in 2009. Following the acquisition, Nate led global R&D at Stryker’s emergency services division. In 2011, Nate founded Brightface, which was acquired by Strava in 2013. Subsequently, Nate joined O.C. Tanner and founded Tanner Labs, a technology R&D division within the company, and served as Chief of Research and Innovation
We are thrilled to bring together such high caliber and experienced personalities to provide unique and tangible perspectives on engineering and product as well as mentorship and best practices on critical technical topics to our growth stage companies. The Technical Advisory Board has provided tremendous value to the ICONIQ Growth platform, and we are looking forward to all the milestones to come!