I grew up in Israel, where military service is the typical path after high school. Being an officer gave me an opportunity to be a leader at a young age. I learned how to connect with people and help them get the best out of themselves. Performance had little to do with pedigree; it was about grit, effort and tenacity – lessons I’ll never forget.
Shortly after my military service, I moved to Australia, put myself through law school and spent years working in banking. Somewhere in the middle, I spent two years with Red Cross, coordinating emergency response efforts.
David Weinberg, my co-founder at Vervoe, took a completely different path. He spent most of his career in technology as a cloud architecture and cyber security expert. But much like me, David had an unconventional experience that shaped his thinking. He bought a pastry business, which he grew from two to 40 employees. As a small business owner, he saw how difficult it was to hire and retain loyal staff, and learned which character traits matter the most.
Prior to Vervoe, we both led teams in large corporations. That’s when we saw firsthand how rigged the game was. People with fancy résumés and brands to back them had an advantage. Too often, however, it was the ones without pedigree, at least on paper, that excelled. They were hungrier, more curious, more dedicated and more resourceful.
Performance in the workplace is like sport. Once you cross the white line, it doesn’t matter where you were picked in the draft – only what you do on the field.
And yet, companies continue to hire based on background. They use résumés to decide who to interview, then try to validate what people did in the past. Meanwhile, too many great people get left out because they don’t look good enough on paper.
It was the straw the broke the camel’s back for us. But ironically, it’s our unconventional experiences – my time in the military and later at Red Cross, and David’s days running a bakery – that influenced us the most. They taught us that there is more to people than what a piece of paper says. Performance is what we do, not what we say. People thrive when given the opportunity, no matter what their background is.
That’s what drove us to reinvent the recruiting experience and start Vervoe.
We didn’t want to just fix the hiring process; we wanted to reinvent it altogether. We wanted to give employers a way to stop screening people out and instead interview everyone before writing them off. In addition, we recognized that many hiring managers don’t know which questions to ask, even though they won’t always admit it.
We built a platform that lets candidates prove their skills by doing tasks; and these tasks, which we call simulations, are written by experts. Instead of worrying about what people did in the past, Vervoe helps employers predict how people will perform and behave in the future. Ironically, Vervoe means “the real you." That’s exactly what we’re showing employers – who their candidates really are and what they can do.
We funded everything ourselves prior to our capital raising in 2017. We started off by building something basic, with minimal feedback from the market. We guessed a lot. We thought we had something great.
How hard could it be? People would love it for sure. Everyone would start using it straight away. Right?
The first few months were brutal. Nobody understood what our product did, and we weren’t good enough at explaining it. Our marketing strategy wasn’t working, and we didn’t have an audience. Our product wasn’t intuitive enough. But almost everybody loved the concept. We knew that if we could execute better, and get the product into the right hands, things would click.
Our belief was unwavering, and we continued to experiment until we found a way forward. We learned the hard way, but quickly. There aren’t many things we do today that we knew how to do before we launched our startup. We set out to reinvent hiring, but we had to completely reinvent ourselves first.
One by one, we got customers. Sure, there was much we had to improve; but we discovered that the right customers didn’t care. They loved the our products and believed in our concept so much that they were prepared to put up with quite a lot.
Then the feedback started pouring in. Customers told us they were hiring people they never would have considered if it wasn’t for Vervoe. We were changing mindsets, and people began to refer us to friends. That’s when we knew we were onto something big, and it felt incredible.
Now, we're growing at a rate of knots. In August 2017, we announced our first funding round of $1 million. In October 2017, we grew more than we had in total since we launched. In November, the exact same thing happened again. We have more than 3,000 customers now, and we’re just getting started. But it didn’t happen overnight, and there was no magic pill. We worked extremely hard, we experimented, we had a lot of help and, perhaps most importantly, we never gave up.
From all corners of the earth, our people overcome time zones and cultural differences and help each other. They work together, cover for each other and learn from each other. In the last two months, nobody has slept much. It has been relentless, but there's no turning back now. We're building a company we can be proud of, and we love every minute of it.
About the author: Omer Molad is the co-founder and CEO of Vervoe, a platform that helps companies hire based on merit, not background.
Edited for brevity and clarity by Sammi Caramela.