Venture Corner: Take the Interview
Take the Interview offers a cloud-based video interviewing Software as a Service (SaaS) solution for employers and candidates. We are a filter between the resume review and the in-person interview and facilitate asynchronous (not-live), under-5-minute video interviews that employers can review anytime, anywhere. We deliver an efficient solution to screen and select the right candidate to support the growth of an organization in today’s competitive market.
Are there competing products out there? How are you different?
There are very few competitors particularly in the SMB space. Take the Interview offers one of the only simple sign-up platforms for small and medium-sized businesses. We also have a product for large enterprises that is fully customizable for that organization. We offer a public button that can be embedded directly in major job posting sites, such as Craigslist and Monster, and allow candidates to “Take the Interview” directly from the job-posting site.
In addition, we have LinkedIn integration allowing candidates to populate their Take the Interview profile just by signing into their LinkedIn Account, as well as a candidate platform to allow candidates to practice mock interviews.
What significant milestones have you hit?
Take the Interview has had many exciting milestones in the last few months. In April, we were selected to participate in Dreamit Ventures’ Incubator Program in New York City this summer. In June, we presented at Launch: Silicon Valley to an audience of hundreds of attendees and showcased our product for the first time. Attendees included Bill Reichert, Guy Kawasaki, and Scott Case. In late June, we launched our Private Beta to over 50 companies. Today, we have nearly 200 companies using our product and we launched into public beta the last week in August. We are closing our Series AA financing round September 7th and are deploying to our first enterprise customer September 9th.
What is your next step in the venture process?
The next step in our venture process is business model validation and customer acquisition. In order to get to the next milestone, we need to figure out what our customer acquisition costs are. Additionally, we need to devote resources to integration with applicant tracking systems and successfully launch our mobile app.
What has been the best part of starting your own venture?
The best part is watching your executive summary turn into a real product. It has been really rewarding to watch customers, investors, followers, and press get excited about the product and see how receptive the market has been. I also really enjoy both active and passive feedback from my customers. Of course it’s great when your customer sends you an e-mail stating how cool the software is or how easy it is to use, but it’s even better when you can just review hard statistics. The stats are more telling than anything else. When you see companies creating multiple postings using our system, embedding our button on their site and hundreds of candidates completing interviews, that is tacit validation of what we have created.
What have been the biggest challenges, and what lessons have you learned so far in the process?
I think the biggest challenge with any early company is forming a team that is in sync. When you are working closely with people to execute a vision, often personalities may conflict and people may have different viewpoints on the necessary goals for the company. Keeping everyone aligned and inspired can be very hard, especially when there are ups and downs in the business.
I also think that managing the fundraising process and running the company simultaneously takes a toll on the entrepreneur. It is difficult to downplay the anxiety and stress related to raising capital in front of your team. But the most important thing is to not let it interfere with productivity and your team’s morale. A stressed-out CEO cannot let the anxiety pervade the company. This leads to unhappy workers.
I’ve learned the following things from this experience thus far:
*Know your competition, but don’t get upset that they exist. If your idea is good, other people will enter the market. Having a few competitors validates the opportunity. Just be smarter, more innovative, and better at execution. Meeting with them in-person isn’t always a bad idea either. See Xconomy article about me meeting Rodrigo of Ovia. (http://bit.ly/xconomyarticle)
*Read a lot of books written by people who are more experienced and smarter than you (Venture Deals by Brad Feld, Art of the Start by Guy Kawasaki, Rework by the 37 Signals founders) and seek out an advisory board. I would not have been able to get through some of the obstacles I encountered this summer without my mentors Richard Lavin and Tal Etshtein, as well as other key advisors.
*Put your employees first. You can’t build a real company by yourself, so don’t be afraid to give up some equity to other talented people. Always tell your employees that you would never “Eduardo Saverin” them, meaning that you’re not going to dilute them down to nothing. Reassure them that they will get options that will continue to incentivize them. Tell them these things and actually believe them and follow through.
*Under-promise and over-deliver with regards to everything in life.
When you have a question about entrepreneurship, where do you turn?
*Mark Suster and his brilliant blog, Both Sides of The Table
*Jeremy Lappin, CEO of Candex
*HBS Faculty, notably Tom Eisenmann, Mike Roberts and Janet Kraus
*Mentors, Richard Lavin, Founder of Tiger 21 and Leveraged Wisdom as well as Tal Etshtein, CEO of Mobile Methodology
*Jessica Bloomgarden, HBS ’12 and CEO of AfterSteps has provided a ton of support
How do you balance life at HBS with starting your own venture?
You don’t. I think it’s virtually impossible. I worked 80 hour weeks my second semester trying to get this off the ground and keep up with a full 5-class schedule. People keep telling me that it’s easier to manage during your second year, but I thought it was too risky to raise capital and still run the business while in school.
How can HBS encourage more entrepreneurship?
I think all of the recent initiatives such as the iLab encourage entrepreneurship in the community. People often start businesses after they decide who their business partner will be, so fostering collaboration among the schools and allowing people to connect is a good start.
I also started Take the Interview because of the Silicon Valley IXP. I think creating a program similar to this IXP and open to all members of the community would inspire more students to start companies.