Sramana: What was the process for getting companies to start using your platform?
Adeyemi Ajao: I was lucky enough to have made a lot of connections at startups over the years. Brendan was the one who took the main responsibility of bringing companies to our platform. He brought on big companies like McKinsey, Google, and Disney.
Sramana: Did they pay for access to your platform, or was it a free service?
Adeyemi Ajao: It started as a free service. Some of the companies that wanted more functionality then paid services fees. At that point, however, we were more interested in determining the service that we should build to link those types of companies to students.
We launched in October, and after four months use was high at both the schools we had launched and the companies that had signed on to use us. That got a lot of attention in the investor community which helped us close deals. We brought in an additional $4 million of funding from high-profile angels and investors in 2010.
Sramana: What kind of traffic were you able to generate on both sides of the spectrum?
Adeyemi Ajao: We were not very focused on growth numbers. We were invitation only, and we launched at smaller schools. We targeted juniors and seniors at those schools as well as some grad students. After launching on a campus we would get anywhere from 30% to 80% of the senior engineering class. We had around 300 companies using our platform.
Sramana: What was your next step or discovery?
Adeyemi Ajao: I found that we had a lot of user engagement when people were looking for a job, but little engagement after that. It was hard to build a model based on company engagement. I have heard that for every minute a person spends on LinkedIn, he or she spends 300 minutes on Facebook. I did not want to replicate that.
I started focusing on how we could create a more rapid feedback model. I found that games had the highest feedback loop. One of the things that I learned is that games are all about psychology. People have a goal and set objectives to win the game, so there is a defined feedback loop. I started to think about how I could apply that mentality to our environment. I looked at how Nike had done something similar with MapMyRun.
That challenge was to build a similar feedback loop for people to manage their careers. We started looking at where people who studied at Harvard and Princeton went after two years. We saw where people who worked at McKinsey went after two years. We knew those answers better than the institutions themselves. We discovered some curious facts. Berkeley engineers are more likely to have VPs of engineering and CTOs than Stanford, but Stanford is more likely to have entrepreneurs and CEOs.
We use that type of information in our search algorithms which are shown to companies. It is almost like we are attaching SEO attributes to people. We did what we could with the big data elements and crunched the background information of all types of career paths. We took what we had and we put it out there in September and October 2010.