This post is part of the “Small Business, Big Ideas” series, in which business leaders, entrepreneurs, and innovators share their stories of overcoming obstacles and achieving success. “Small Business, Big Ideas” is sponsored by Chase.
Starting a business is fundamentally about taking a risk, making a bet on an idea that you’re not sure on, and leaving it up to the market. But what do you do if you’re wrong?
Being able to read those signs quickly and rapidly pivot is one of the most important things a founder or business owner can do.
TalentBin’s Peter Kazanjy and his co-founder and co-CEO Jason Heidena — former employees of VMWare and eBay, respectively — first started their business as Honestly.com, “essentially a Yelp for business professionals,” Kazanjy told Business Insider.
It’s an idea that made sense as a concept, that a great way to get more information about job candidates would be to create a place where people can sift through and contribute reviews about people they’ve worked with. The site debuted as Unvarnished.com in 2010, and allowed people to submit anonymous reviews of current or former coworkers.
One problem: People are kind of lazy. “What we ended up with was realising that it was hard enough for people to update their LinkedIn profile, so it was even more challenging to get people to care enough to do that about other folks,” Kazanjy says.
That raised the question: If you can’t get people to give you the information, where can you get it?
Instead of trying to stick with a core concept that didn’t work, or just giving up, they tried to answer that question. That led to a transition pair’s current startup, TalentBin. “We thought maybe this information already exists in other places,” Kazanjy says,”just not in a very structured format, and maybe we can get access to that.”
The transition to TalentBin happened in the spring of 2012. The site’s an effort to bring big data — all of the various information people leave as they interact with others on the Internet — to the recruiting world.
An engineer might not note that they work with Apple software in their LinkedIn profile, but they probably talk with friends about it on social networks, or otherwise leave a trail on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or on places like Meetup, Quora, GitHub, and Stack Exchange.
The company uses that data to build detailed and searchable profiles of potential candidates for tech jobs that you wouldn’t find in a Google or LinkedIn search as part of a product for recruiters. That’s especially important in an incredibly competitive market where most people aren’t actively searching.
Clients include companies like Box, Groupon, Facebook, and Intuit. It focuses on the tech world because that’s where the highest demand is.
Kazanjy has some advice for business owners who start to realise there’s a problem with their idea. “The key is to ensure you’re still focused on the problem and that the problem is still one that is painful to people, and valuable to solve,” he says. “As my friend Dan Greenberg, CEO of Sharethrough, says, ‘fall in love with the problem, not your solution.'”
Tech recruiters are a smaller market than the entire professional world. But it’s a potentially lucrative one. In refocusing, they followed an important piece of startup advice — pick one thing and do it really, really well.
Trying to get data from people who use and participate in a product or network, which is called a consumer-social enterprise, can be a wildly successful business. Just look at LinkedIn and Facebook.
But you have to have truly compelling content and lots of people, and that’s tremendously difficult to build. A better alternative, especially for a startup, is to start in an area of expertise, in this case recruiting, take what’s already out there, and build something useful and easy to use.
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