How I evaluated Tenxhired as a startup idea
I recently wrote, The practical guide to evaluate your startup idea, where I discussed how you can use a flowchart to evaluate if your startup idea is with pursuing. In this blog post I discuss my journey of applying that same methodology to evaluating the idea behind Tenxhired, the startup I’m working on.
I had a startup idea, but was it worth pursuing?
I had a startup idea. Recruiting was inefficient and extremely costly. I was going to fix that.
Having built startups in the past, I knew the financial and emotional implications of pursuing a new startup idea.
If I were to stay at my job I’d probably make more money in the short-term. Plus, the emotional toll you pay as founder, whether you succeed or fail, is siginificant. Pursuing a new startup idea would mean more gray hairs.
I also knew the benefits. Despite the emotional toll, working on something I could call mine would be very fulfilling emotionally. On the financial side of things, if my startup worked out, my family’s lives could change for generations to come.
I needed to decide if the risk was worth the reward.
I decided to mitigate the risk as much as possible
What if I could mitigate the risk as much as possible? The biggest risk was leaving my job. I liked my job; I liked my boss; and I liked that it provided for my family. These are not things one should take for granted.
Could I validate the idea behind Tenxhired without leaving my job?
I would need to be able to carve enough time for Tenxhired while still fulfilling my professional responsibilities to my employer. Furthermore, I had responsibilities at home. I didn’t want to be an absentee father and husband.
Thankfully, my company had moved to remote-work because of COVID, which meant I did not have to waste time commuting. COVID also meant I wasn’t going to spend time on social activities like hanging out with friends. COVID, as horrible as it has been, provided an opportunity and I wanted to make the most out of it.
I decided I would wake up at 5am every morning and work from 5:15am to 8:00am (which is when my son woke up). During the day I would take care of my regular responsibilities at work and at home. Then I would work on Tenxhired again after my son went to bed at 7:45pm for another hour or so. I kept the same schedule on weekends as well, but I also added the 3 hours my son napped during the day to my learning schedule. This allowed me to carve up almost 35 hours a week.
35 hours a week is less than the 60-80 hours I could have spent if I would quit my job but it was sufficient. I may need to move a bit slower but since I was still making my full income I would have infinite runway.
There were still tolls to pay
I was very proud of myself for having figured out a plan that allowed me to mitigate the risk, but there were still tolls to pay.
The biggest personal cost was the opportunity cost. I would have to sacrifice idle activities: no watching Netflix or sports. I am woefully out of shape. For years my excuse for not exercising was my 2.5 hour per day commute. Now that I didn’t have to commute I could have used the time, energy and discipline I set aside for Tenxhired to finally start exercising. There were things I wanted to do, but as long as I could still be a good husband and father I was willing to sacrifice all other personal comforts and opportunities.
On the professional front I probably cost myself a much deserved promotion. I thought it would be dishonest to not share my intentions of pursuing a startup idea with my boss, Jake. I shared with him that I will be pursuing a startup idea and if it showed promise I would leave to pursue it full-time. Being the awesome person and boss that he is, he was very supportive, but he wasn’t about to promote someone who may leave in the relatively near future. A promotion would have been cool, but not as cool as having a successful startup.
I had mitigated the biggest risks and was happy to pay the personal and professional tolls I needed to pay.
Using a flowchart to evaluate Tenxhired as a startup idea
OK, but how was I going to evaluate the idea behind Tenxhired? The way I saw it an idea had to go through a set of tests and pass them to be worthy of being pursued. I decided to visualize these tests as a flowchart.
I explain how to approach each of the questions on the flowchart in The practical guide to evaluate your startup idea. In this blog post I discuss my personal journey of answering these questions for Tenxhired.
Question 1: Did I personally feel the pain?
Yes. Remember, I wanted to “solve” recruiting. I had built out a product team from scratch at Casetext where I was the director of product. I used my personal network, outside recruiters and platforms like Hired, Angellist and LinkedIn Recruiter to do so. No matter what existing solution I tried I was left disappointed.
I had also been on the other side of the fence looking for a job. That was an extremely unpleasant experience as well.
I felt like I had experienced the pain on both sides of the market.
Question 2: Was the pain acute?
Oh, yes. The rule of thumb I use to judge if a pain is acute is to look out for the word “hate” accompanied by profanity when describing the current status quo.
Both when I was looking for a job and when I was recruiting I had told others how much I hated both processes. I had also heard many others say “I fucking hate recruiting”. They did not dislike recruiting. They “fucking” hated it.
Ditto for looking for a job. I wish I had a penny for every time I heard someone say they “fucking” hated looking for a job.
Yoda says “Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” What Yoda fails to mention is hate can also lead to good startup ideas.
Question 3: Did lots of others feel the same way?
Most definitely. Annectodely, both sides of the market complained about recruiting endlessly. Quantitatively, recruiting is a $150 billion a year industry in the US.
Furthermore, new recruiting solutions were popping up every day. That meant a lot of others were feeling strongly that recruiting sucked; it sucked so bad that they were willing to stop everything and start a company to address the issue.
Question 4: Was there an opening in the market?
This was the tough question. It was a crowded market with thousands of solutions and new ones popping up daily. I intuitively knew there must be an opening in the market. Otherwise why would everyone complain endlessly about recruiting and why would new solutions keep popping up at such great volume.
What were all these solutions, new and old, missing about this market?
I’ll leave the details of how I went about analyzing the market and finding the opening in it to a different post and jump straight to my conclusion.
The answer was referrals. 7% of all job applications come from referrals, but that 7% accounts to 44% of all hires. With the exception of one, none of the existing solutions focused on referrals.
Question 5: Did I have the right skills?
No, not all of them. I had some of the right skills, but I was missing some crucial pieces. We have a guide that goes over what these skills are: The practical guide to the skills you need as an entrepreneur. I encourage you to read it, but I'll also provide a summary here:
In my opinion, you need to be able to design and build your product or service, analyze its performance and iterate, and be able to market and sell it to your first batch of users.
For each of those skills you can be in one of three levels: Noob, Generalist, Specialist. I think the founding team members, cumulatively, need to have all these skills at a generalist level or higher.
Here is how I visualized where I was.
Where do these skills come from: I had bootstrapped startups before. When you are bootstrapping you pretty much have to learn how to do everything. Plus, I had also worn many hats at Casetext, my current job. I had even stepped in as a sales manager and built our inside sales team and processes, growing ARR in our target segment from $200K to $4.5M.
I could do a lot, but the one thing I couldn’t do was code, which meant I couldn’t build or iterate. Not being able to code had come up a lot in my 10+ year entrepreneurial journey. I had paid dearly for it and I was sick of it being a shackle. So I decided I would learn coding.
It took a few months, but now I feel very comfortable building web apps. If you are curious, I discuss my decision and journey to learn coding here: How I taught myself how to code and launched an MVP. I’ve also put together a guide on how you can learn coding: The practical guide to learn coding.
Here is how I view my skills now after learning coding. I’ve met my own qualification criteria.
Question 6: Did I know the right people?
Nope. I did not. I had not taken networking seriously so far in my life. It was a mistake. It needed fixing.
I am currently addressing this issue. I'm happy to say it is going well. I’ll dedicate a separate guide on how to grow your network, but if you have not figured it out yet, part of my plan is to share my experiences publicly. So do keep on reading and feel free to contact me if my story and/or product interests you.
Question 7: Was I willing to move heaven and earth?
I hope the answer is self-evident by now, but just in case it isn't: Yes, I am willing to do whatever it takes to succeed.
The end-result: Tenxhired.com
Tenxhired passed my own criteria for pursuing a startup idea and I am pursuing it. Along the way I launched an MVP, pivoted and iterated on the new version.
Tenxhired helps underrepresented candidates get employee referrals to tech companies.
7% of all applicants, but 44% of all hires come from employee referrals. Underrepresented candidates usually don’t know as many people working in tech; therefore, they are less likely to get a referral and break into tech. And your average tech employee wants a more diverse workplace, but does not know enough underrepresented people they can refer. Tenxhired bridges this gap.
First, we let anyone apply for a referral to any tech job. Second, we use A.I. and human review to filter the applicants down to those who meet rigorous quality standards. Finally, we email current employees of that company profiles of high quality candidates that they can refer using your companies’ internal referral systems.
This fast, simple, streamlined approach ensures that more underrepresented people get a fair shot at landing a job in tech.
If you are looking for a job check out tenxhired here: https://tenxhired.com/. If you are in tech and want to help make tech more diverse sign up to receive candidates here: https://tenxhired.com/referrer.
Last but not least
Getting here required a huge time commitment. It would not have been possible without the understanding and support of my wife, my better half, Nicole. Love you, baby!!