HireArt takes the art of job hunting to the next level: It gives job seekers the opportunity to showcase their skills and select jobs they are interested in. In order to do that, they have to take the HireArt Challenge that will ask them all kinds of questions and also has them do work samples to make sure they are fit for the job. Employers can then decide if they want to contact this potential new employee or not. Elli Sharef, the founder of HireArt, has kindly agreed to answer all of our questions about her startup.
unternehmer.de: Tell us about yourself! Who are you?
Elli: My name is Elli. I actually grew up here in Nuernberg, went to the Hans Sachs Gymnasium and then left for college at Yale University. I'm the founder of HireArt, a tech start-up in New York that helps companies hire.
unternehmer.de: If you were a blog post, what 3 tags would you give yourself? :)
Elli: entrepreneur, entrepreneur, entrepreneur ;-)
unternehmer.de: What was your inspiration and when did you actually decide to found your own company?
Elli: I always wanted to start a company. But for a long time it just seemed like a pipe dream. I didn't have a good idea, I didn't have capital and I didn't have a co-founder. The real inspiration was starting to talk to Nick, my current co-founder. We were friends from college and in 2011 we started sharing entrepreneurial ideas. Soon after talking to him, it was clear to both of us that we'd make a great founder team together and the dream seemed doable. Then we applied to YCombinator's incubator with HireArt as the idea which solved the problem of having start-up capital. I realize now that with start-ups there is just one rule: If you want to do it, just do it. Don't wait.
unternehmer.de: You are actually from Germany. What made you decide to move to the U.S. and found your own company there (and not in Germany)?
Elli: I moved to the US to go to university over 10 years ago. I love Germany and I miss Nuernberg and my friends here. But the US has an amazing eco-system for entrepreneurs. When I was raising our round of financing, a few German investors approached us. But none were able to pay the valuations we were asking for. Silicon Valley is it's own world and though Germany has made tremendous progress, it's still fairly different.
unternehmer.de: Where did you work before?
Elli: I was in the Strategy team at Apollo Group, a for-profit education technology company.
unternehmer.de: How do you set yourself apart from your competition? What makes your company special?
Elli: I don't think there's any other company with quite the same approach, but there are many companies addressing similar problems. My advice is: Don't worry about the competition. Become their friend and learn from them.
unternehmer.de: What about your financial situation. How did that work out? Do/Did you have financial backup?
Elli: Yes, we raised a round of financing.
unternehmer.de: Back to the beginning: What are the biggest (business) mistakes you made?
Elli: Hmm, that's a tough one. I think we made mistakes early on figuring what we want to sell and how to price it. It's much harder to define your product than people assume. But that's not something we've completely figured out -- it's always a work in progress.
Unternehmer.de: Now, let's focus on the positive aspects! In retrospect, what are the things you are particularly proud of?
Elli: I am really proud of the team we've built. There are 7 of us now and I really think each team member is an amazing person and contributor.
unternehmer.de: What piece of advice would you give other startups?
Elli: As Paul Graham from YCombinator says, "Build your product and talk to users, that's it"…in other words, stay focused and make sure to get input from your customers. Even if you only have one customer when you start, listen closely.
unternehmer.de: Are there any things you still need (like an employee, an investor, …)?
Elli: Growth. It's the magic word. Like all start-ups, we need to keep growing to make it.
unternehmer.de: Where do you see yourselves in a year?
Elli: As a large recruiting platform that helps thousands of people find jobs.
unternehmer.de: Is there a funny story or a peculiar incident regarding your company you'd like to share with us?
Elli: One of our main clients is a large tech start-up in Silicon Valley. Before they started using us, I was introduced to all of the founders in different ways and each of them said they didn't want to try our service because it didn't fit their model. I gave up. But later that year I saw that the HR recruiter had signed up. Now the company loves us. It just shows: You can't take rejections personally and it doesn't always mean that the product is a bad fit. Keep selling, keep selling. Eventually, you'll close.
unternehmer.de: Short question – short answer: Are you planning a business exit strategy? Yes? No?
Elli: IPO eventually!
unternehmer.de: If you could choose any guest for a business lunch, no matter if real or fictional, alive or dead, who would it be? What would you like to talk about?
Elli: Steve Jobs. Review our product and critique it. Can the lunch take a few days or months?
unternehmer.de: Sure, why not. :-D Thank you for answering all of our questions!
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