Philipp Hoffmann

Research & Venture Scouting


Philipp's curiosity and interest in people has taken him from studying theology to working as a recruiting leader for specialized talent. While at Meta, he built the global recruiting team for emerging research talent in Augmented and Virtual Reality for Meta Reality Labs (Oculus) and led the creation of an Expert Talent Map to enable data-rich pipeline planning.

At Gigascale Capital, Philipp brings his love for understanding how things work as he partners with climate entrepreneurs in academia on their path to commercialization. Philipp holds a BA in biblical languages.


Helping Researchers Create Climate Solutions

Philipp discusses startup creation in academic labs, the unique problem-solving mindset of researchers, and the urgency driving people toward climate tech, in a conversation with Kristen, Gigascale’s Head of Communications.

How did you find your way into recruiting?

I’ve always loved business and attended a business-focused high school in Austria. I thought I would continue to study business at university, but I switched to theology, specifically ancient languages like Greek and Hebrew because I wanted to understand the original texts of the Bible, enjoy working closely with people, and saw myself as either becoming a pastor or teaching theology.

As part of my studies I moved to the U.S. because I was planning to take a gap year before starting additional theological studies. I subsequently started working at Amazon in Seattle as part of their German e-commerce team. At the time, my wife worked in recruiting at Microsoft, and that’s when I learned about it as a career. Honestly, everyone seemed to love their work so much that I decided to try it and joined Microsoft’s University Recruiting team. I’ve been intrigued by the talent acquisition space ever since, especially the science (and art) of recruiting hard-to-find talent. It’s a great way to contribute positively to people’s lives.

Tell me a bit more about your work at Meta and now at Gigascale.

Academic recruiting intrigued me because it wasn’t its own thing at most companies. They usually lumped it in with other stuff, like university recruiting, even though the people are very different. At Meta, I had the opportunity to help build a standalone Ph.D. recruiting team, which was unique at the time. Since we focused solely on academia, we could bring a fresh approach to the work and build something new, which I love.

Interestingly, most academic work is public, and all the research is technically indexable. I had this idea for building a knowledge base of who’s who in academia and their research focuses as they pertain to Meta. That way, when a job opening comes up, we already know who the best people are and have built relationships with them.

That’s what brings me to Gigascale today. I love working with Ph.D. students, postdocs, and faculty and am excited to find creative ways to identify who we can help spin out climate solutions.

Your excitement for working with Ph.D.s is infectious.

I love their mindset. They’re a unique breed. They go into something so hard, knowing it will take forever. It’s like five-plus years for a typical program in the U.S. They don’t know what the outcome will be but do it anyway out of pure curiosity and drive.

It’s so inspiring, and I generally see a lot of that same spirit in climate tech. People are jumping in, knowing nothing will be easy, but they do it anyway because it’s essential.

What’s unique about the Ph.D. journey from academia to business?

Academic and research advisors are critical. Think about it. Ph.D. students join a program not just because of the subject but because there’s a world-renowned expert they want to learn from. The advisor plays a crucial role in a Ph.D. student’s life, typically more important than their parents at that point. They tend to orient themselves around what their advisor wants.

That means you have a handful of labs where an advisor is heavily interested in startups and entrepreneurship, so all their Ph.D. students are exposed to that mindset. More commonly, though, advisors don’t have much experience with startups, so the path isn’t as obvious.

In academia, measures of success are the output of heavily cited research papers, and the amount of funding one’s work attracts. Commercialization of research via startup formation is rarely viewed on equal footing as a success metric for an academic lab. Few university ecosystems are set up to stimulate graduate-level entrepreneurship in physical sciences. There isn’t much integration among tech transfer offices, entrepreneurship centers, business schools, engineering departments, climate and energy institutes, or student clubs. This makes knowing about resources and having access to role models and opportunities difficult.

So now, I’m focused on helping students and their advisors understand that startups are a great option for applying their research toward climate solutions and having a scaled impact outside of the lab, which many are motivated by.

Is there anything about working in climate that feels different compared to previous roles?

It’s a combination of being at a startup firm like Gigascale and the mission-driven aspect of climate. With startups, there’s this rallying effect where everyone’s involved, and job descriptions are a bit blurry. The excitement and mission-driven thinking are very tangible. And then that’s multiplied because of the whole climate aspect. People have a sense of urgency and commitment to the greater good, which motivates me too. It’s not just another app; it’s work that impacts everyone.

What keeps you motivated and grounded while working on climate change?

It depends on the day. Things can feel pretty gloomy if you only think about what can go wrong, so I seek out stories about what’s working — the little things where people are making a difference or some solution that’s taking off. These things really do add up.

What keeps me grounded is having a lot of perspective. I’m European and was raised with more of a collective mindset than is perhaps common here in the U.S. where individualism ranks highly. There are pros and cons to both. I live in a rural area in Washington, but I work with people in the tech industry. That helps me stay objective, and I can see the many sides to everything.

Philipp’s Go To Resources

The Gigascale LinkedIn newsletter! I love that we’re bringing more attention to what’s working. I also keep up with the CTVC newsletter and My Climate Journey podcast.