First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Abby Verma: My family and I are taking all precautions necessary to contain the spread of COVID-19. This involves wearing a face mask in public, avoiding public spaces with high density, and regularly sanitizing our hands.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded SkillSoniq.
Abby Verma: I have 15 years of professional experience across Investment Banking, Consulting, and Entrepreneurship and have studied in 3 continents in Asia, North America, and Europe from schools like the University of Michigan, Indian School of Business, and the London School of Economics.
I have been an entrepreneur 3 times and started my first company at the age of 19 to sell paint jobs to homeowners in Detroit while studying full-time at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business. This was my first taste of entrepreneurship and got me hooked to the hustle required to get stuff done. I followed it up with a stint in Investment Banking, which taught me the meaning of perseverance and quality testing when I worked 100+ hours a week on multi-billion dollar Financing and M&A deals. I came across the idea of starting SkillSoniq when I was working with outsourced talent on a tech project a few years ago, where I was sitting in the United States and working with contractors in the Philippines. That experience was extremely excruciating as I worked odd hours to keep up with the time zone differences, and had difficulty communicating with the contractors. There was also a lot of concern about IP security and trust.
That experience put me in major depression, and I started looking for better alternatives to hire talent in the US quickly at affordable rates, but I found that the recruiting space in the US was broken. It takes 50+ days to hire on job portals, staffing agencies are too expensive, and the existing freelance marketplaces connect companies with outsourced, low-quality talent, most of which sit outside the US in a totally different time zone.
Thus, I started SkillSoniq, which is the world’s first AI-Powered recruiting app that connects companies with skilled domestic freelancers, giving companies the option to hire freelancers on their payroll. Our vision is to make hiring as simple as speaking into Voice-Enabled Devices like Apple Watch, Amazon Echo, or Google Home. We are currently operational in 5 cities across the US and Canada and will soon open up our platform to all cities across the US and Canada.
How does SkillSoniq innovate?
Abby Verma: is transforming the way recruitment has traditionally been done with the use of Artificial Intelligence, for both companies and job-seekers. On SkillSoniq, companies hire freelance talent with the click of a button, can try them out on a freelance basis for however long, and can then hire freelance talent on their payroll only once they are convinced that it’s the right fit.
Our proprietary matching algorithms use millions of data points to ensure that companies are matched up with the right talent in a way that minimizes their “time to hire.” This way, companies do not have to spend a ton of time and money on interviewing folks and hiring misfits on their payroll from day 1. For job-seekers, SkillSoniq is extremely easy to work with. They submit a 3-step profile in under 10 mins, and if our technology approves them, they just sit back and relax while our technology gets them interview and project offers. Then as they work on one or more projects, our technology automatically assesses their projects to get them more projects they love. SkillSoniq eliminates the need for job-seekers to apply to hundreds of jobs uselessly without ever hearing back from companies.
Most job portals do not collect recruiting data on whom companies interview, why they decline candidates, how much they pay employees, which functions newly hired employees are working in, how a company goes about hiring a sequence of people etc. Because of this, job portals are not personalized to the company or the job-seeker. SkillSoniq, on the other hand, collects essential data points throughout the recruiting lifecycle, which enables us to hyper-personalize the recruiting experience for both companies and job-seekers, in a way that companies are able to build teams quickly and job-seekers work on jobs they love.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Abby Verma: While many companies initially put their hiring efforts on a freeze due to COVID-19, they are now beginning to realize the importance of hiring flexible, remote talent and staying nimble. On SkillSoniq, they can do just that. This has provided huge tailwinds to our business, and many more companies are now using SkillSoniq to hire talent quickly and at affordable rates. Companies have been able to save 60%+ in recruiting costs by using SkillSoniq versus traditional recruitment channels.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Abby Verma: Since I started SkillSoniq, we have had to make tough professional decisions and choices at every step of the way. How much to focus on product versus educating the customer, whether to have a native app versus a web app optimized for the phone, what technology to use to power up our platform, and many other decisions we made have not been easy. The lessons learnt throughout all of these tough decisions is twofold:
1. Rely on data to minimize assumptions and intuition
2. Keep believing in your product and vision
How do you deal with stress and anxiety? How do you project yourself and SkillSoniq in the future?
Abby Verma: As a founder and third-time entrepreneur, I have found that the only way to deal with stress and anxiety is to keep your sense of humor alive, stay in touch with family and friends who love you, and to keep focused on the bigger vision you are working towards. Since our vision is to completely transform the way recruiting is done, it is better to accept that there will be plenty of bumps along the way. The faster one accepts this, the easier it gets for one to enjoy the journey.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Abby Verma: We are competing with Job portals, staffing agencies, and freelance websites. SkillSoniq has a clear differentiator from all three recruiting verticals, and we are currently working to sell to small and medium-sized companies. Our no. 1 defensible asset in the future will be the recruiting data we are collecting and analyzing on our platform, which is helping us improve our AI-based algorithms and personalize our marketplace to both companies and job-seekers in a way that it will become very hard for them to switch out of our platform.
Your final thoughts?
Abby Verma: We raised our first round of seed funding in April this year from 240 investors, many of whom were from companies like Amazon, Airbnb, and Goldman Sachs. This round was 200% over-subscribed and has helped us establish a Sales playbook that is working for us and invest further in essential Product features. We are now working to raise a much bigger seed round to help us accelerate growth in the US and Canada.
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