Guiding Startup Founders with Daniel Morris

Meet Daniel Morris, VP People & Platform at NFX

Guild Talent has developed a deep network from years of working with and placing operations & finance executives. Our proprietary network is a valuable resource when clients are looking for top-tier talent for startup founders. Friends of the Firm shines a spotlight on members of Guild Talent’s influential network.

Man with crossed arms

Daniel leads NFX’s people team & talent investment initiatives, advising founders & executives on how to build scalable human capital infrastructure & compelling employer brands from the ground up. Inspired by NFX’s mission to transform the way innovators are funded, he champions NFX’s culture and values, as we build a venture firm that runs like a tech startup.

Prior to joining NFX, Daniel held HR executive roles at venture backed software companies. With industry experience ranging from online real estate to fin-tech to healthcare, he’s a startup junkie, compelled by altruistic organizations with a strong consumer engagement focus and progressive management philosophy. During his 20 years in leadership roles, Daniel has guided HR & Talent Acquisition teams through hyper growth, a successful IPO, and M&A.

Tell me about your relationship with Guild Talent. How did you meet Jamie and how have the two of you worked together?

I think the first time we met was before Guild Talent existed. Jamie was with a company called The Sorcery and I knew that he was very skilled at networking and had a community-building approach to recruitment. 

I reconnected with Jamie when he was considering the idea of branching out independently by leveraging the gigantic network of people that he had built. If you’re going to start a recruiting agency, it should be built on the network that you already have, which is very unique to Jamie.

I moved into a role at NFX which invests in early-stage startups. and together, Jamie and I created a partnership between Guild Talent and NFX. Guild Talent is a great agency for our founders to partner with because Jamie and the Guild Talent team understand what it is like to build a company from scratch. 

In addition to NFX, you were also an advisor at PeopleTech Partners. Tell me about that experience.

With PeopleTech Partners, I advised on new HR technology ideas that come into the market. It is a really interesting idea. We organize small cohorts that sit in on pitch-like meetings with people who are coming up with HR tech ideas. HR professionals have this great opportunity to provide feedback in real-time. 

At NFX, you work with and guide founders. What is that experience like?

I feel very fortunate to be at the frontline with an incredible wave of innovators. Many of these founders are just coming out of college. They are launching into this crazy industry with huge ideas and even bigger aspirations, but they do not have much real-world experience. Aside from needing money, these founders need a partnership with a venture firm that understands the journey they’re on and has the level of empathy that they need. They also need resources to build their company as fast as possible. I advise them as they tackle these real hurdles in the marketplace. Our founders need someone who understands the process.

You understand the process. What is your background?

I’ve been on founding teams and have always worked at early-stage startups. My role is in HR operations and recruiting. Someone like me is typically brought in a little later. I’ve been doing this now for 20 years and it takes a certain flexibility because the environment at an early-stage startup is so fluid. I have enough experience now to understand how to build a scalable organization and how to attract people that will survive in this type of environment. Along the way, I have written a lot of playbooks and implemented a ton of tools.

How do startups attract top talent?

I love this question. It’s a complex question to answer, but I can boil it down to one thing. You need to be able to sell the opportunity. You can have a pipeline of great people, but if they are not interested in what you are selling, it’s a waste of time recruiting them. It’s really important to spend the time to define who you are and what you want to be when you grow up. I define this as culture building. We want to bring in a team of people who will be future champions of the company.

We hear the term "company culture" a lot. What does it mean?

It does sound vague. Defining culture is a reflection of the founder. For example, take Player A. When you’re building a company from scratch, you need somebody that is highly skilled in a certain area, but they also need to be able to resolve problems outside of their scope. Player A is multifaceted. They have a high IQ and EQ. This means you need to be hiring other people on the same level as Player A. A-Players attract A-Players and B-Players attract C-Players. With that being said, you need a culture that is focused on high performance.

At the end of the day, a winner is successful. This means that you are raising capital and a customer base that’s willing to pay for whatever product you’re building.

Where do A-Players come from?

The themes that run throughout people’s lives are evidenced in their resumes. It is about the motivations for the decisions they’ve made as far back as high school. For example, why did a particular thing matter to them at a certain point in their life and how did that thing motivate their next move? It is a strategy that people may not have been fully conscious of at a young age. They had the drive to succeed, to fix things, to build something, and to make a difference. It is a personality type that’s willing to do whatever it takes to try to figure out a solution to something. They become experts and know what is useful. Some of the most successful people I know are the ones that have made so much money that they don’t have to work, but are still the ones that work harder than anyone else.

There’s a huge amount of pressure on a founder to increase their ability to just survive longer. This means they have to manage their cash. A huge percentage of any company’s cash is going to people. When I’m talking about a talent reset, it involves creating the right business strategy. When a founder is in survival mode, they need the right people on their team to achieve goals within that mode. But, the company might not be in survival mode in 3 months. This means that the founder needs to either repurpose people or transition them out. Then, they must focus on the talent deficit of their existing team to help them scale.

Does it happen often that a company refocuses on the type of talent they have on their team throughout their different growth stages?

Yes, but there’s also another dynamic going on here. Some people excel at a certain stage of a company’s growth. Some people are builders and love to build things from scratch. When a company gets to the point where they need to optimize its product’s features, a builder’s job completely changes, and a new skill set is needed. Those individuals need to think about where they can make a difference because it’s the feeling of accomplishment that keeps driving people forward. 

There is one last question that has nothing to do with work or startups. In your bio on the NFX website, it says that you make Mickey Mouse pancakes. Can you make any other characters?

I love the question. My 10-year-old is laughing in my ear right now. I’ve evolved from Mickey Mouse into the world of crepe making.


Guild Talent would like to extend a big thank you to Daniel for participating in Friends of the Firm.

Guild Talent is a boutique executive search and placement firm with a combined two decades of recruiting and operations experience in the tech industry.

For more information about Guild Talent’s proprietary network, contact us at

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