We were happy to hear of HiringScreen.com’s round of funding and wanted to find out more – this is Hiring Screen CEO and Co-Founder Richard Hanson’s journey from idea to seed funding.
In just over a year, Hiring Screen has grown to a ten person technology startup in one of Asia’s most prestigious accelerator programmes and secured funding from Angel Investors from Asia and Europe.
It would be nice to believe that this is a result of mine and my co-founder’s entrepreneurial dynamism, wisdom beyond our years, and impeccable timing. However, on reflection, it would appear we have followed a playbook that whilst certainly not dull, is pretty tried and tested!
Here’s the condensed Hiring Screen journey and a few tips for early-stage startup founders from my own experience.
Problem Solving: The ultimate foundation to build your startup dreams on. Whilst working as a recruitment consultant for some of the world’s largest banks, what stood between me and a sea of financial talent, would often be the task of screening hundreds of CVs on a daily basis. Solve your own problem: Check!
Realise Your Limitations: This could read, “Find a Co-founder”. Yes, you can be a lone ranger and succeed, but almost all conventional wisdom, plus my own experience tells me that highs are higher and the lows less low with a Co-founder. I had known my co-founder – Luke Byrne – for 5 years before starting Hiring Screen and instantly knew he would be the best person to team up with. Problem Shared: Check!
Operating: Set up company and get to work! We took a two-pronged approach of starting to build a prototype product that solved my initial problem of screening large volumes of CVs, whilst also going out to meet heads of Human Resources and Recruitment to find other pain points we could address. I’m sure there are different takes on how to prioritise building product v. talking to customers v. many other things to do, but as Marc Andreesen said, “In a startup, absolutely nothing happens unless you make it happen” so just get started. Pass Go: Check!
Bootstrapping: We decided to bootstrap as we wanted skin in the game and to get a proof of concept without having to dip into anyone else’s pockets. If you don’t have this luxury, then it makes the “Operating” part above even more important as you’ll feel more comfortable and confident securing funds from Friends and Family or even Angels if you have made measurable progress on product building, business development etc. In the Red: Check!
Accelerating: in July 2015, Hiring Screen started at the Blueprint Accelerator which is run by Swire Properties. This was definitely a great milestone for Hiring Screen and having 6 months of free office space plus access to the network of Swire companies and added media exposure was a huge boost for business and the team. Rocket Ship: Check!
Building A Team: Before joining Blueprint we had 3 full-time employees. At time of writing we are 8 full-time employees. Getting some early customer traction with your product, plus being part of an accelerator can really help you to sell the story of the company and its future prospects. The competition for talent amongst startups is huge, so having a compelling vision to tell prospective employees is a must. Same Boat: Check!
Interns: Do not overlook this awesome pool of smart, motivated talent. We took 4 interns from Hong Kong Universities for between 4 weeks and 3 months over the Summer. The quality of work they produced was excellent, not to mention the added enthusiasm and energy. Get on to university careers’ sites/portals, place free adverts and see the type of talent you can attract. Forever Young: Check!
Lead: More than anything else I’ve observed in the past 18 months, it’s the concept of a startup needing more leadership and less management that has struck home. What that means to me is spending less time micro managing – especially if you’ve done a good job in recruiting your team – and more time making decisions. Luke and I don’t always know the right answers to every problem, but between ourselves and through leaning on trusted advisors we will make as good a decision as possible in whatever circumstance. Even if with hindsight it turns out to be the wrong call, we’re more comfortable moving forward than standing still. Most founders will be too.
Investment: With proof of concept in one hand and a vision of global domination in the other we secured US$800k of investment from Angel investors from Asia and Europe. This process was all about doing homework -on ourselves! Company structure, traction, financials, vision – you must know them all. Treat each investor individually and expect them to focus on different parts of your business. A final tip – don’t BS. If you don’t know something, it’s ok to come back to them after the meeting or pitch with a figure/statistic etc. You’re looking for a partner – respect the relationship.
Take the first letter of each paragraph in this post and you’ll come up with a word that startups are led to fear – PROBABILITY.
You might be a glass half empty individual, in which case, yes, 90% of startups do fail. But if you’re like me, take some cheer from Dropbox found Drew Houston and “Don’t worry about failure, you only have to be right once”. So good luck with your respective startup journeys, finish your drink and move forward.
Hiring Screen CEO and Co-Founder Richard Hanson Recounts a Memorable Year – see his profile on Startbase.hk
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