- Norwest has hired ex-Salesforce sales guru David Rudnitsky to be its third operating executive.
- The hire is part of the firm’s recent expansion of its portfolio services team for its founders.
- Here’s why more VC firms may be doubling down on these roles during the market downturn.
The VC downturn is dragging further into 2023, and early-stage startups may start to increasingly lean on their investors for support.
That’s the bet that the venture capital and growth equity investment firm Norwest Venture Partners is currently making as it expands out its portfolio services team with its latest hire, ex-Salesforce sales wizard David Rudnitsky, as the firm’s chief revenue officer operating executive and principal.
Rudnitsky, who most recently worked as the chief revenue officer for content management platform Yext, practically “wrote the playbook” for enterprise sales at startups. Throughout his career, he’s been a sales leader at Oracle, Netscape, and Ariba before joining Salesforce in 2002, and helped the company land its very first enterprise client. Salesforce cofounder and CEO Marc Benioff even dedicated a chapter of his book, “Behind the Cloud,” to Rudnitsky’s strategy for landing enterprise customers.
Rudnitsky told Insider that while he’s been able to coach founders outside of his full-time job as an angel investor, the move to Norwest would give him the chance to “help a lot more companies than just the ones I’ve been personally engaged with.”
“We try to be an invited guest in the companies,” he said of his work with his first four Norwest portfolio companies. “A lot of what I’ve done is help them understand their structure and their groundwork for a playbook.”
Rudnitsky’s hiring is the latest signal that firms like Norwest are growing their VC platform or portfolio services roles, which help advise a firm’s founders as they see fit on questions around topics like sales, go-to-market strategy, talent retention, and operations.
“It’s become evident that people have smart ideas, and now they need a blueprint for execution,” he said. “If you do this long enough, you see patterns and then you start to see how to help them.”
According to a recent report from VC Platform, an industry group that focuses on these kinds of roles within funds, over 50% of VC firms have invested in platform services in the last decade, compared to about 26% in 2000 and 27% in 2010.
For roles specifically in sales and go-to-market strategy, the percentage of firms with at least one full-time employee dedicated to this area has grown from 2.4% in 2000 to 9.6% in 2022, VC Platform data shows. Larger funds saw even more growth, with 26% having at least one business development specialist in 2022 compared to 7.1% in 2000. Other big name firms like Andreessen Horowitz and Kleiner Perkins have whole teams dedicated to go-to-market sales strategy for their companies.
For Norwest, its portfolio services team was launched 13 years ago by partner Katie Belding, who has been at the firm for over two decades. The team supports founders who are looking for advice and coaching in different aspects of their businesses. “We help them navigate across these environments,” Belding said of market booms and busts.
But the team has been expanding quickly, with some other recent strategic hires. Last year, Norwest hired longtime marketing executive Lisa Ames to be the chief marketing officer, operating executive, and principal and Renée Cohen as their marketing operating executive, partially in response to requests from their portfolio companies. “We did a net promoter survey to see what they value the most, and we found that they want even more sales support,” Belding told Insider, “so this sales and marketing need is a huge need for the portfolio.”
Rudnitsky’s role on the team will round out the existing team, Belding noted, by providing portfolio companies with in-house access to his expertise in sales and advice on how to tweak his playbook to each of the founder’s individual needs.
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