8 NYC Companies on Tackling a Year of Rapid Growth

Big projects, intricate expansion challenges and ambitious hiring plans are all on the horizon for these tech leaders.

Written by Tyler Holmes
Published on Jun. 23, 2021
8 NYC Companies on Tackling a Year of Rapid Growth
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2020 was a year of confronting unavoidable change and rethinking how we conduct day-to-day business, both for our internal teams and the clients they serve. Different industries leaned into a variety of methods to stay afloat, and there was no clearly defined answer to making or breaking it available right away. That said, what one thing do the following NYC companies that managed to find success all have in common? Consistently embracing those changes and pivoting into new business strategies.

For example, since March 2020, check-in app Foursquare acquired two companies and a new CEO.

“We are coming back to the office as a much different company than when we left it 15 months ago,” Marc Ellenbogen, chief legal and human resources officer, said. The changes have inspired the company to nearly double its headcount in 2022 and adapt its onboarding processes.

While rapid growth is an exhilarating process for companies to experience, it also comes with its share of challenges. Vice President of People Randal Vegter said that due to interactive coding platform Codecademy’s expansion, the team has since become distributed across America and Canada compared to their previous Soho-based headquarters. “Being so distant was hard, and the expansion prompts so much learning and rethinking.”

In addition to Ellenbogen and Vegter, six other NYC tech leaders shared what their ambitious hiring plans look like for 2021 and the exciting projects they’re taking on to make sure each company’s growth is a seamless transition.

As Actuate CTO Ben Ziomek succinctly put it, “it’s all about having a plan.”


Jeff Kingsley
President and COO • Known

Known is a modern marketing and digital media agency engineered to meet unprecedented challenges and opportunities facing marketers today.


What do your hiring plans look like this year?

Known has spent the last few years building an integrated model and testing the offering with clients. We are seeing the market respond in an incredible way. Currently, we have over 80 open jobs across all of our offices (New York, LA, Boston, Austin and Seattle). That number will keep going up as the year progresses, even as we hire against that initial requirement.

While we have many different kinds of technical and skill requirements, there are some traits that have always been markers for success. First: a drive to be excellent. The people who work here are smart, driven and passionate about what they do and want to be surrounded by others with a similar ethos. Second: a collaborative and kind approach to working together. For as smart as the people are, this is a remarkably low-ego and friendly environment. We care a lot more about winning as a team than who gets the credit – that’s a big part of why most people like being here. Third: being inquisitive about how and why things work and open to feedback. We believe there’s always a better way to do things. Delivering great work demands that we constantly reimagine how we do things, from the simplest to the most complex task.


What steps are you taking to making sure this period of rapid growth goes smoothly from an employee experience perspective?

There’s a great line in The Leopard by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa that translates to, “everything must change so that everything can stay the same.” That’s the constant struggle when a company is growing quickly. Very few things that work well in a 30-person company do the same for 300 people; we know they won’t work at all for 3,000. Things that felt flexible and empowering become disorganized and inconsistent. There’s not enough time to build the same kind of relationships with each new employee that once provided the guidance, development and trust in a smaller organization.

Companies must rip out old systems and build systems that scale and deliver consistent excellence. We’re trying to stay focused on the culture we’ve built as articulated in our core values around how we interact with each other, with our clients, and with the broader business community. As the company scales, we’ll accelerate our investments in the organization itself. We are rolling out new technology platforms and hiring more people in our talent organization. Beyond that, it takes a lot of communication from every level of the company, starting with the CEO and moving through each practice and discipline.


What’s a project you’re really excited to tackle this year?

I’m really excited to be focused on our growth and scale. The last few years for us have been about proving a new business model and building a viable foundation for the opportunities we see ahead of us. I’m confident that we’ve done both of those things.

The next few years should be about broadening our horizons and offerings – which can mean new services and products for our clients, new geographies for our offerings, and a continued and substantial investment in our proprietary technology. All of those things should mean better outcomes for our clients, better opportunities for the professional development and careers of our employees, and the chance to make a real difference in how marketing works for the next 20 to 30 years. And the single most critical element in any of that will be finding the right people to join our team, investing in their professional development, and making sure that we’re all having just as much (or more) fun as we were when the company was 30 people. It will be a different company for sure, but one with the same DNA and the same core values.


Marc Ellenbogen
Chief Legal & Human Resources Officer • Foursquare

Check-in app Foursquare has evolved over the years to serve not only as a location-based social network but as a personalized tour guide to cities around the world. The platform uses location intelligence to connect users with businesses in their area and share recommendations with one another.


What do your hiring plans look like this year?

Foursquare is in a period of high growth, and consequently has aggressive hiring goals in 2021 and beyond. Specifically, we are looking to grow our employee base by 20% in 2021, and to nearly double our headcount from there in 2022.

Some key characteristics and traits we look for in new team members are: a positive “can-do” attitude, grit and resilience, team player/strong collaborator, diversity, strong communication skills, open-mindedness, ethical behavior and honesty.


What steps are you taking to making sure this period of rapid growth goes smoothly from an employee experience perspective?

Scaling a company, while very exciting, also creates plenty of challenges. We try to anticipate growth and plan as much as possible so we can ensure our employees have a good experience from the day they submit their resume throughout their tenure at Foursquare. We have been focused on adding skilled recruiters to our team and more onboarding cohorts to continuously improve the experience for both candidates and hiring managers as we scale. 

We also evaluate our benefits offering to help us retain and attract top talent by introducing vendors like Maven/Carrot to help employees expand their families, and Bravely to focus on growth and development as well as implementing a 401k match.

The most important thing we can do is to listen to our employees. We currently have very active employee resource groups within the organization representing diverse viewpoints. We regularly send out pulse surveys to gather data regarding morale and then create action committees based on these results. Finally, our goal is to work as efficiently as possible – therefore having the right technology and processes in place is an area of continued focus as we recognize they are vital to scale the business properly.


What is the most interesting challenge facing your team at the moment?

Since March 2020, we’ve acquired two companies and have a new CEO. We are coming back to the office as a much different company than when we left it 15 months ago.

For a company that historically worked in the office five days a week, we will be facing the challenge of navigating the transition to a hybrid work model as well as having a large percentage of our workforce who have not actually met their teammates in person. We will overcome it by embracing change, listening to our employees and being flexible and thoughtful in our approach. As always, we will put the health, safety and wellbeing of our employees at the forefront of all our decisions and are looking forward to tackling these challenges in a post-pandemic world.


Ben Ziomek
Chief Technology Officer • Actuate

AI software company Actuate analyzes data from existing security cameras in real time to detect weapons, intruders, social distancing, masks, crowds and where people travel in any environment.


What do your hiring plans look like this year?

We’re expanding a ton this year. After raising our Series A, we’re looking to triple the size of the company, with a particular focus on building our product and customer success organizations. Across the entire company, we look for skilled professionals who are self-starters. Our goal is to start every meeting by asking “what do you think we should do?” and we look for people who want to be empowered and thrive in that type of self-driven work environment.


What steps are you taking to making sure this period of rapid growth goes smoothly from an employee experience perspective?

It’s all about having a plan. Scaling from seed to Series A is one of the biggest transitions that startups go through from a percentage growth perspective. This means that it’s critical that the team has a clear view of what changes to expect, when. For example, we don’t just surprise people with a new management hire or process. Instead, we tend to circulate org charts complete with “TBH” roles weeks in advance of making a hire, and actively solicit team input when hiring new people.

For processes, our approach is similar: we don’t just make arbitrary decisions around tools and processes. Instead, we give everyone a heads up that we’re likely going to have to adopt – say, a ticketing system in the next few months – and ask them their take on how we should approach the migration process.


What’s a project you’re really excited to tackle this year?

More automation! It may seem odd for an AI company to say that our goal is to build more automation, as that’s our entire business. But while we’re experts at automating security camera monitoring itself, the onboarding process is still more manual than we’d like. As such, we’re building AI and automation to support our core AI and automation product. This means that we’re taking hard looks at what the UX for setting up security systems looks like and how our customers think about the various components of their security platforms.

Our goal is to build seamless systems that not only make it easier to install Actuate, but also eliminate a lot of the manual hardware management processes that our customers have to do whether or not they use AI. This means that we’ll be able to expand our services to not only automate our customers’ day-to-day security monitoring work, but also everything they do to support that work, dramatically increasing our value add!


Sahil Sud
Head of Product • Ribbon Health

Ribbon Health’s platform provides the infrastructure for payers, providers and digital health solutions to enable accurate provider directories, reliable referral management and efficient care navigation. 


What do your hiring plans look like this year?

As an early-stage startup, we are focused on growing our team quickly and efficiently. We are looking for exceptional people who care deeply about ensuring that every healthcare decision is high quality, cost-effective and convenient. We are looking for people with grit and tenacity, kindness, intellectual curiosity and a desire to keep improving. We are looking for people who want to grow personally and professionally as quickly as Ribbon is growing as a company. 

Our product team exists to connect our sales, deployment, engineering and analytics teams together and ensure our collective efforts are pointed in the right direction. We gather input from internal and external stakeholders and coalesce this feedback into a cohesive view for what we are building and why. To realize this purpose, we are seeking to hire action-oriented people who can use data to find truth and leverage effective planning for the sake of building the best possible product.


What steps are you taking to making sure this period of rapid growth goes smoothly from an employee experience perspective?

Employee experience is top of mind for us. Our goal is to make Ribbon the best career decision any of us has ever made. To do this, we have created a deliverable-driven onboarding process that empowers our teammates with the context and resources they need to dive into their work.

During their first two weeks, new hires attend onboarding sessions led by each team to learn about their respective roles and responsibilities. New hires are also given a few projects to complete in their first 15 days, including a “working norms” document that outlines their preferred work habits, communication styles and feedback preferences. Lastly, they are assigned several larger projects to complete in their first 90 days, which enables them to ramp up quickly by working on important initiatives with support from the rest of the company. 

We are always thinking about how we can better support our teammates at every stage of their Ribbon journey. We encourage everyone to share feedback regularly and decide how involved they would like to be in the recruitment process. This creates a culture of transparency around hiring and holds us accountable to each other and our values as we grow.


What’s a project you’re really excited to tackle this year?

Ribbon’s product has two major components: data and distribution. Data covers the accurate and comprehensive information Ribbon compiles about providers, facilities and insurances. Distribution is the means by which our customers engage meaningfully with our data. There are a variety of mission-critical initiatives across both that we are tackling this year.

On the data side of the house, our team is excited to build scalable infrastructure to enable us to more efficiently and effectively aggregate, process and analyze data from thousands of data sources. This is one of the most challenging product initiatives we are working on, and it is core to everything we do as a business. Our data pipelines allow us to create a data asset that can be trusted by our customers to enable patients to find care. We not only need to build scalable technology to execute against this, but we also need to build effective processes and the right team to ensure we remain ahead of the curve.


Tom Lin
Chief Customer Officer • AvePoint

AvePoint is an independent software vendor that allows users to migrate, manage and protect data in Microsoft 365.


What do your hiring plans look like this year?

With the rise of remote work and increased adoption of virtual collaboration technologies, AvePoint’s business is seeing quite a boom, and we’re bringing on many new team members due to the growth we’re experiencing globally. We have hired around 300 people in the last 12 months – over 100 in the U.S. alone – and currently have over 150 openings to fill in the short to mid-term.

We’re hiring frequently in Jersey City (our global headquarters), Chicago, Arlington, and Richmond, VA. We are looking for passionate individuals who want a fast-paced technology startup environment, and who are not afraid to roll up their sleeves and put in the work to drive the business forward. Our core values are agility, passion and teamwork; anybody who identifies with those values is certainly welcome on our team.


What steps are you taking to making sure this period of rapid growth goes smoothly from an employee experience perspective?

Internally, we are fully invested in the Microsoft cloud with full global adoption of Office 365 and Azure, which allowed us to transition from in-person to fully remote work overnight with minimal complications. Our people team has done a great job introducing virtual happy hours, remote exercise challenges and numerous other fun activities to keep employee engagement and morale high. We’ve developed a fully virtual onboarding process that is a combination of live training and pre-recorded videos, complemented by one-on-one mentorship to ensure all new hires are hand-held through the onboarding process and feel included.

Without a physical presence, human interaction is needed now more than ever in the virtual world, and we’re taking big steps to ensure that we over-communicate and are overly inclusive to all of our employees. Lastly, we’ve recently brought onboard a global chief people officer, who will help us continuously improve our employee experience as we transition to a hybrid-remote work model.


What’s a project you’re really excited to tackle this year?

AvePoint is currently undergoing the filing process of becoming a publicly-traded company. The premise of going public will impact every aspect of the organization, as we have been a private company over the last 20 years since inception. The recent growth in our business, coupled with the boom of the remote working technology sector, has shone a light on AvePoint’s stability and revenue growth over time. We’ve been experiencing 30% revenue growth year-on-year, and we’re doing it all organically without taking on any debt.

As we step forward into becoming a publicly-traded company, we feel it is needed now more than ever to pay attention to our talent, so we will continue to invest in both talent acquisition and retention programs. We will also, for the first time in company history, be looking into acquisitions for growth, paying careful attention to complementary cultures and technology to ensure smooth mergers as we grow.


Randal Vegter
Vice President, People • Codecademy (a Skillsoft company)

Codecademy is an interactive platform that offers free coding classes in 12 different programming languages through easy, hands-on lessons. 


What do your hiring plans look like this year?

Our growth plans this year are aggressive – we aim to double in size from 150 to 300 and will likely continue at that scale over the next few years. Since we raised our Series D earlier this year, we’re using that to scale every department and go much further with our mission than we ever thought was possible. And I mean every department: engineering, product, curriculum, marketing and everything in between. 

We look for candidates who are excited to build something really, really meaningful in the world. People who embody our values around winning as a team, thinking deeply, persevering, improving relentlessly, and constantly learning. Startup life can be tough, but it’s also incredibly exciting and rewarding, especially with the kind of people we get to work with every day. If that sounds like an adventure you want to be on, then definitely come talk to us.


What steps are you taking to making sure this period of rapid growth goes smoothly from an employee experience perspective?

Everything starts with onboarding. Since we’re fortunate to work for a company that builds a learning platform, we went ahead and put our onboarding directly onto the platform so that new employees are engaging with the product from day one. Beyond that, it’s about equipping our managers to do a great job bringing people on board, thinking through a solid 30/60/90 day plan, etc.

As we’ve grown, we’ve become a fully distributed team, which has required a lot more asynchronous communication. We’ve made Notion our company-wide, internal table of contents, where projects are run and everything important can be found. Growing also inevitably means more meetings, so we’ve moved our core meeting hours to 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. EST, to ensure everyone has dedicated focus time and we can hire all over North America.

When we were a team of 70, we had one person on our people ops team who knew every employee and ensured each person was having a great experience. We want to retain that level of closeness as we grow, so we’re significantly investing in that team.


What is the most interesting challenge facing your team at the moment?

Scaling our team and our culture is a huge priority this year. Beyond that, I would say stepping out of NYC. New York City is part of our company’s DNA – our co-founders started the company in a Columbia dorm room; our headquarters are in SoHo. Being so distant because of the pandemic was hard for us, and it was definitely a difficult decision to become a distributed team. But having made the decision, it’s both liberating and exciting. Our team is spread all across America, and we are starting to reach out and unlock entirely new pools of talent in places across Canada. The expansion prompts so much learning and rethinking, like how we reach new markets and handle company-wide holidays. It’s always exciting to have new challenges.


Heather Fegan
People Ops Manager • Shapeways

Shapeways is a technology platform that provides businesses with advanced additive manufacturing solutions every step of the process, from design to production to fulfillment.


What do your hiring plans look like this year?

We are focused on hiring top talent to scale our teams and have a robust plan to round out our teams. We are looking for candidates that align with our company values, are motivated and engaged, and can enrich our culture.


What steps are you taking to making sure this period of rapid growth goes smoothly from an employee experience perspective?

Any time a company grows, internal processes must be carefully looked at, assessed and oftentimes adapted. This is especially true with rapid growth. We have assigned a dedicated people team member to drive and support the total employee experience. In addition, we enhanced our onboarding procedures to improve the overall process and accommodate remote employees. Lastly, we focused on the current team structures and created a strategic plan for short-term and long-term growth to ensure we don’t grow too quickly but still able to keep up with talent demand.


What’s a project you’re really excited to tackle this year?

Over the past year, we have been evaluating and enhancing our talent management initiative. We’ve rolled out the first phase, which focused on employee learning and development, and recently moved into the more strategic phases. We believe talent management is critical to our business’s success; it will help recruit top talent, retain current talent, and increase performance, engagement, and results.


Janathri Nanayakkara
Director of Talent Acquisition • LeafLink

LeafLink is a wholesale ordering platform and B2B marketplace for the cannabis industry. Brands and distributors can use it to create orders and request samples.


What do your hiring plans look like this year?

Our hiring plans are very aggressive this year. We are well on our way to doubling and then some! We are growing across the board but we are more focused around our marketing, customer success, business development, engineering, product, and product design teams. Although we are growing at a rapid pace, we have been intentional about our approach to hiring by making sure that we are providing our new hires competitive and equitable compensation, benefits, growth opportunities, leadership and resources. We’re continuing to build our executive team, as we continue to empower cannabis brands and retailers to grow by building the technology and solutions they need to manage and scale their mission-critical operations.

We’re looking for people who are comfortable in ambiguity and thrive in a fast-paced environment; who have good communication skills, are reliable and dedicated to their work, and have the ability to build trusting and meaningful relationships both internally and externally. That’s what makes a great employee! 


What steps are you taking to making sure this period of rapid growth goes smoothly from an employee experience perspective?

In this period of rapid growth, our leadership team is continuing to evaluate our areas of opportunity as a business and as a people-first company. We are methodically building infrastructure, processes and policies around our teams so we can continue to support our existing and future employees. 

From our inclusive hiring practices to having a company culture that believes in radical transparency, we’re dedicated to constant growth and improvement. Additionally, our 100% virtual onboarding experience is designed to ensure that you are set up for success here at LeafLink.

We’re continuing to build out our employee resource groups and create space for our diversity, equity and inclusion council to help influence our teams as we continue to build a strong, inclusive community. Additionally, as a company, we continue to have monthly town halls and bi-monthly virtual hangouts.


What’s a project you’re really excited to tackle this year?

I’m most excited about continuing to build out talent acquisition as a strategic function rather than a reactionary entity. So when we bring people in, we’re thinking of an employee’s full life cycle and not just the current needs of the company. We are pushing each business line within LeafLink to think through what that looks like as they continue to refine their business strategy and headcount plans. Questions like, “What does growth look like for this role?” “ What does success look like?”  “How do we measure that success?” are cornerstones during the ideation process for new headcount planning. We are truly dedicated to setting up our fellow LeafLinkers for successful and fulfilling careers at the company.

Responses have been edited for length and clarity. Images via respective companies.

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