Editor’s note: HireRabbit’s software solution makes social hiring simple. The startup is enjoying early success, due in part to mentoring through the Microsoft Accelerator for Windows Azure program in India. Startups selected for the program had to communicate to the judges how they would leverage the cloud as part of their final offering and had to focus on a product that solves real problems. In this interview, Pipalayan Nayak, HireRabbit’s co-founder, explains how the product drives business value for its customers, shares lessons learned in the product development time line, personal attributes that have been helpful in growing the company and other insights for startups.
SandHill.com: What happened earlier in your career that led to your founding HireRabbit?
Pipalayan Nayak: I have a background in SaaS and recruiting. I have worked with product development companies including Sterling Commerce and IBM Software Labs. Before founding HireRabbit, I had successfully built and launched BiggerRole.com, a platform to connect SMBs and startups with enthusiastic interns in India. Along with my co-founder Prafull Sharma, I grew BiggerRole from an idea to a community of students from more than 500 universities across India and 200 SMBs within six months of the launch.
While we were working on BiggerRole, we came up with the idea for HireRabbit. We realized that social media would have a profound impact on the recruitment landscape and there was a dire need for best-in-class tools for companies to utilize this new opportunity.
We chose a company name that reflects fun, freshness and energy while at the same time conveying our value proposition. We launched HireRabbit in October 2011 in Bangalore, India.
SandHill.com: How does your software recruiting solution drive business value for your customers?
Pipalayan Nayak: Harnessing the potential of social media for recruiting is hard. HireRabbit is a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) offering that provides companies with the right set of tools to effectively leverage social media for their recruiting needs. We provide cloud-based robust, scalable software to companies to streamline their recruiting activities across different social networks. Our software is based on proven social media best practices, which give our customers the maximum ROI on their social recruiting investments.
SandHill.com: What is your target market?
Pipalayan Nayak: We cater to companies of all sizes worldwide, right from startups with a few members to large corporations with thousands of employees.
SandHill.com: What is your product’s differentiator from competitors?
Pipalayan Nayak: Our key differentiator is our proprietary Facebook ad recommendation engine, which optimizes Facebook recruiting ads to maximize ROI. Employers can take their entire career center live on Facebook. A fully branded, beautiful employer presence can be created in minutes without writing a single line of code!
Companies can also use rich interactive media like videos and photos for better engagement with their audience. HireRabbit also enables job seekers to search and apply for job openings directly from inside a potential employer’s company Facebook page.
We also help companies tap into the referral potential of Facebook and Twitter. Our push-button approach to job distribution makes it effortless to spread jobs across social networks and multiple job boards seamlessly. We automatically generate social sharing elements on job postings, which helps spread word-of-mouth referrals.
Job description pages created by HireRabbit serve as perfect landing pages for Facebook ads, which can be utilized by companies to attract, engage and hire passive candidates from Facebook.
We are focused on less obvious but important stuff like performance, low latency and scalability in our software. We also strive to achieve a simple but highly intuitive UI to delight our customers.
SandHill.com: What is the biggest challenge your company has faced so far? How did you address the challenge?
Pipalayan Nayak: Our biggest challenge so far has been to reach out to the HR decision makers in western markets. We have tried to tackle this issue in a variety of creative ways. For instance, we got our Facebook recruiting infographic on Mashable, which helped us generate a lot of eyeballs.
SandHill.com: If you could go back and do it all over again, from the time you first began planning for your company, what would you do differently the second time around?
Pipalayan Nayak: The time-to-market race is like a cat-and-mouse game where you constantly try to master it but fail to do it perfectly. Getting the product in the hands of end customers really fast and then iterating it based on customer feedback is very important in the early days of a product life cycle. We took six to seven months to come up with our minimum viable product and ended up realizing that we had built a lot of extra features. In hindsight, I would change this aspect if I were to do it all over again.
SandHill.com: How has the recent four-month Microsoft Accelerator program helped your company? What mistakes/pitfalls has it helped you avoid?
Pipalayan Nayak: The opportunity with Microsoft Accelerator happened at the right time for us. It has facilitated our interaction with industry mentors and top-notch investors, helping us gain a lot of new perspectives. Our discussions with industry mentors have given us vital know-how into customer mindsets and behavior, which has helped us tremendously in getting our product-market fit right. This has drastically cut down on our time spent on lengthy product validation cycles.
SandHill.com: What non-software business or social leader has most influenced your approach to your personal life or your career?
Pipalayan Nayak: I have been greatly influenced by Mahatma Gandhi. His principles of tolerance, self-control and perseverance have played a great role in shaping my personality.
SandHill.com: Which of your personal attributes or personality traits has helped you the most in efforts to grow your company?
Pipalayan Nayak: Perseverance and a never-say-die attitude have helped me a lot in my startup journey. There was an instance just before our private beta launch when Facebook rehauled its UI, critically impacting our Facebook integration. This was a setback for us as it impacted our release dates.
But we did not meekly succumb to this situation. We redesigned our UI within three days and executed the changes in our software within two weeks. Keeping our spirits high and our never-say-die attitude helped us in tackling the situation effectively.
SandHill.com: If you could spend an afternoon this month with a top executive in a well-established software firm to learn some insights from the exec, who would you choose?
Pipalayan Nayak: I would like to meet Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook. It would be fascinating to learn and understand his perspective about social media.
SandHill.com: Where is your favorite place and why do you like it so much?
Pipalayan Nayak: My favorite place is Mussoorie, a hill station in northern India. The place provides some breathtaking views of the Himalayas and offers nature’s serene beauty at its best! It is away from the hustle-bustle of busy city life and rejuvenates one’s inner self. I would like to take a vacation and go trekking in the Himalayas!
SandHill.com: What is your favorite thing to read?
Pipalayan Nayak: I love to read historical novels. Recently I read “Fall of Giants” by Ken Follett.
SandHill.com: What do the next 12 months hold for your company?
Pipalayan Nayak: We will be continuously adding new functionality and features to our product. We intend to iterate our product fast, based on customer feedback, and become the de facto place for companies to manage their social recruiting activities. On the revenue front, we would like to hit $1M in revenues in the next 12 months.
SandHill.com: What is the most important advice you have for entrepreneurs?
Pipalayan Nayak: The startup journey is never a linear road; it is filled with highs and lows all the way. A setback is not a failure; in fact, it is a learning experience. Also, for me, setting time-based goals keeps me away from distractions and helps me focus on the task at hand.
Click here for more information about the Microsoft Accelerator for Windows Azure (India) program.
Pipalayan Nayak is co-founder of HireRabbit. He is passionate about technology and its potential to enrich day-to-day life. Before founding HireRabbit, he was co-founder and CTO at BiggerRole, a platform to connect SMBs and startups with enthusiastic interns in India.
Kathleen Goolsby is managing editor at SandHill.com.