The first chapter of an entrepreneurial journey can be characterized by constant questioning. You question whether there is product-market fit, whether you have the right team, whether to raise venture capital and whom to raise it from, and in the most difficult sense, you question yourself and whether you have what it takes to ensure your startup is a success.
When I started my first company, Take the Interview, I had a vision for what it could become. In order to realize that vision, I developed my own definition of success as a way to survive the vicissitudes of startup life. It was a simple formula to help remind me why I had chosen this path. Success would be defined by three things: build something valuable for a meaningful purpose, choose great leaps over marginal improvements, and always give more than you receive. Specifically, I wanted to help shape the future of work which meant enabling Talent Acquisition teams to hire more optimally. Why? Because you can never really understand any business until you understand its people. Furthermore, helping organizations hire the right people enables better outcomes for candidates. A great job provides not only a livelihood, but also self-confidence and meaning. Thus, I have devoted my career to this mission as the CEO of ConveyIQ, a technology company designed to help companies communicate with and ultimately, hire the best employees.
It has been six years since our first product, Take the Interview was introduced to the market which was incorporated into ConveyIQ. Since inception, we have provided software solutions to over 200 companies, raised $20M in venture capital and employed 100+ people. The idea stemmed from a passion I had for improving how and why people are hired. I believe that the recruitment process remains incredibly inefficient, opaque and inherently, frustrating. It perplexes me that although our people define the success of our organization, companies have historically underinvested in this function. There is an enormous opportunity globally. If you do not invest in Talent Acquisition, your organization will ultimately fail. Driving ConveyIQ from conception to scale has taught me many valuable lessons but most importantly, it has taught me that for every lesson I have learned, there are a hundred more that I have yet to learn.
In the second chapter, we introduced the first post-apply Intelligent Candidate Engagement product, Convey, which improves and scales communication across the hiring process. The technology powers relevant and timely information to candidates such as updates on their status in the hiring process and information about the position and other job opportunities. The product also prepares and schedules candidates for interviews and will automatically screen candidates using natural language processing, which is a form of artificial intelligence. This is so disruptive that it will lead to higher quality hires and free up valuable time to source and build deeper relationships with managers and candidates. Thus, our mission of making the recruitment process more transparent, scalable and streamlined is largely achieved.
One of the things that I have loved most about building ConveyIQ, is working with amazing people both in our New York City and Belgrade offices. This experience has given me an opportunity to truly build an international business. Since the beginning, the company has employed a large engineering and product team in Belgrade. One of the things that building this office taught me was the importance of building connection. Today, you cannot be successful without bridging differences, and you must holistically understand people in order to lead them. Because of this, I have been to Serbia over thirty times and have even picked up the language. I have learned a great deal about the culture and how workplace customs differ. For example, in Serbia, when you get promoted, it is your duty to take the rest of the office out to lunch to celebrate because the belief is that you would not have been promoted if it were not for the support and teamwork of your colleagues. The journey to Eastern Europe has been a true and unexpected gift and one that has led me to embrace Nek ide život. The literal translation is “dive into life,” which is the Serbian version of carpe diem.
And now, the third chapter in this journey has come. In early 2019, ConveyIQ was at an inflection point, as we were on the verge of releasing our new platform out of Beta. Around this time, Jon Bischke, Entelo’s CEO, called me to discuss the potential of building the ultimate end-to-end Recruitment Automation Platform from source-to-hire. Having spent time with Jon throughout the years, I had a great deal of respect for him, but more importantly, I knew that if Entelo and ConveyIQ partnered, working with him would come naturally, as Jon and his team possess many of the values that I believe are necessary to build a successful enterprise. Throughout the acquisition process, this belief was validated as I met many of the Entelo leadership. Yasmin Zarabi, Elena Sigacheva, Joao Antunes, Trevor Fox, Swapna Savant, Sarah Barnes, Eddy Chen, Mariko Minamoto and Alejandro González de la Peña all embody leadership DNA and are so passionate about what they do, it’s impossible to not get excited about building this future company with them. And of course, a special thanks to Andy Schafer and Larry Murff, my “C-suite,” who have sacrificed so many hours to get us to this amazing milestone.
Entelo’s acquisition of ConveyIQ provides a foundation to expand my original vision for the company and bring to market the first fully-integrated Recruitment Automation Platform designed to help everyone hire more optimally. This product will enable recruiters by automating sourcing, outreach, screening, communications such as follow-ups and status updates, digital interviewing, scheduling, and engagement all in one system. The platform can either integrate with your ATS or you can use it standalone. It is important to provide that flexibility, so that every company has the same opportunity to improve its recruiting. It’s like a mini RPO in your pocket, but it is likely to work better than the traditional RPO, as the technology will become smarter over time as it understands who you hired, why you hired them, and how you were able to engage them from source to hire. There is no system currently that does this.
Why one platform? I am a big believer that less can be more, particularly when it comes to point solutions. One platform will always be far superior than multiple point solutions in the early stages of innovation, especially when those points don’t speak to one another. If you don’t agree, then it’s probably best to reference one of the godfathers of innovation theory, Clayton Christensen, and my former professor, Rory McDonald, who discuss the benefits of interdependence and integration to modularity before a technology has reached its maturity and sufficiently served its customers. The reality is that interdependent and connected systems provide tremendous benefits to the end customer. For one, shared analytics from source to employment has been historically difficult for companies to obtain. For example, if you’re looking to find talent for hard-to-fill positions, end-to-end analytics can help you understand the optimal communication and channels to engage candidates at all phases of the process from the initial outreach to offer. It’s delivering what e-commerce has leveraged for years directly to recruiters’ toolkits. Additionally, single sign-on and one interface to manage the entire recruitment automation process expedites the learning curve and provides one source-of-truth for Talent Acquisition leaders. It requires only one ATS integration and if we can avoid integrations, we’d all be better off! Furthermore, the candidate interface will be smarter, more personalized, and require fewer logins, as the system will know who the candidates are and help facilitate a smoother candidate journey.
This combination will also make both companies more pervasive and enable us to provide more resources to our clients. As a native New Yorker (yes, I say “caw-fee”) who built a NYC-headquartered company, I felt like we were building strong relationships with our local clients and throwing great events, but that we could do more for our clientele in the Pacific time zone. With the Entelo acquisition, we will now have a large west coast presence and can provide greater support locally. And of course, the incredible talent at Entelo will raise the bar for what we can accomplish together. In the role of President and Chief Product Officer in the combined organization, I will have the opportunity to learn from Jon Bischke, who has been an unofficial mentor to me for many years.
In “The School of Greatness” podcast, Lewis Howes asks his interviewees to state three truths that they have learned throughout their lives. My first truth is that entrepreneurship is really hard-even harder than I thought it would be. Not enough founders share their day-to-day realities and in order to run the marathon, and not the sprint (that’s for you, Andrew Paradise), you must truly believe that what you are building can positively impact the future you want to see. The second truth is that complacency breeds mediocracy. Never be OK with the status quo. Never. Always push boundaries and question why things are the way they are. You can never achieve success if you are complacent. Lastly, stay true to your “truths.” The values that I possess will always pervade everything that I do. I will always build things that I believe to be valuable and aim for great leaps and ground-shifting change and strive to give more than I receive. I would have never combined with another company if it conflicted with these values. At Entelo, we have an opportunity to make a real difference.
This next chapter will be a period of vibrant learning, burgeoning with new ideas and perspectives. It is an exciting springboard for everyone affiliated with ConveyIQ, as well as our clients, who will get an opportunity to see greater investment across every part of our business and witness an amazing innovation that helps with pre-apply engagement and sourcing. Let’s evolve and develop our “truths” together. Send me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com) and let me know what this acquisition means to you. Let’s take on this next chapter together. I will need inspiration to write the fourth chapter, so that we can continue to inspire others. Let’s build something worthwhile and meaningful and do that together as a member of the Entelo family.
Also check out this podcast that I did with Entelo CEO, Jon Bischke, to talk about the acquisition and what it means for Talent Acquisition.