Rob Hernandez, CEO, and founder of Pounse tells us how the career services platform helps schools to connect students to employers
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Rob Hernandez: Thank you for asking! We’re safe.
Tell us about you, your career, and how you founded Pounse.
Rob Hernandez: Pounse is my second startup. My first startup was a performance management tool to help small businesses bring coaching and feedback to an organization and replace the annual review, which was slow and costly. TriNet acquired it in 2013, and I saw my tool used by a large number of their 10K customers. I founded the idea for Pounse when I was helping people write their resumes during a layoff in 2010. It seemed so redundant to help everyone with the same questions, so I designed an idea to help more people with one tool. When I left Trinet in 2017, I was finally able to pursue the idea of Pounse and build a dynamic resume platform. But it didn’t stop there.
How does Pounse innovate?
Rob Hernandez: We showed our resume platform to recruiters who asked us, “How do we show THIS to our clients (hiring managers)” and that was our first innovation. We built a talent management tool that would help recruiters collaborate with candidates and present their profiles without a PDF attached to an email. Once recruiters saw how easy and effective it was, they were hooked.
We showed the resume platform and talent manager to Schools that saw great value in collaborating with their students and the companies who would advertise jobs to the graduating class. Then we built it out further for large companies to use Pounse to find talent in their own workforce. It was so logical and easy and turned a laborious task into an empowering and effortless campaign.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Rob Hernandez: The pandemic hit us hard. We lost a few agencies/customers at the beginning of 2020 because they were losing business themselves. Conversations with schools derailed because of the uncertainty. So it went pretty dark and quiet for us for 6 months in 2020. But then, schools came back to us because the tools they were using weren’t helping them accomplish what they wanted online. And Pounse was perfectly positioned to help them. So slowly, we started seeing interest in Pounse, which continues as we all see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Rob Hernandez: Every decision we make is difficult at this stage. We have a very tight budget, a limit on how much time we spend on each task, and the tough odds that we don’t get second chances at a first impression, so we’ve learned to make very cheap decisions, test it out, make our mistakes, and then learn and make better decisions that we invest more energy and time in. Mistakes are going to happen, so we might as well make them as cheaply as possible.
What specific tools, software, and management skills are you using to navigate this crisis?
Rob Hernandez: Zoom meetings have been our saving grace. From demos to customer support to investor calls, everything has been through Zoom.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Rob Hernandez: We have a lot of competition in the recruiting space, but we have made great partnerships with those competitors to give their clients more value by adding to our platform. A combination of tools gives the customers a better choice and better opportunity to succeed in their own business without having to compromise on ONE tool or the other. We aren’t letting the industry steer us in the direction “they” say, because oftentimes, the industry is lead by analysts who are in the pocket of technology… instead we only listen to customers, to the market, the users who benefit from our solutions to solve their day to day recruiting problems.
Your final thoughts?
Rob Hernandez: The pandemic has been tough for everyone, but it’s been an eye-opening experience that through collaboration with the right investors, the right customers, and the right partners, we can come out of this with better, more ethical technology.