One of the categories that continue to see a lot of players is the HR tech space. With most of the companies focusing on different parts of the problem, it’s interesting to see how each of them manages to carve a niche for themselves. Talview is one such startup that focuses on hiring candidates by following what it calls an Instahiring methodology. Started in 2017, the startup has raised over $21million in total for this purpose. We got an opportunity to talk to its co-founder and CEO Sanjoe Tom Jose to ask about his journey, the evolution of Talview, and what’s next.
PS: the interview has been edited for the sake of brevity.
1) Before we talk about Talview, could you share your journey into the world of SaaS?
I’ve been an entrepreneur for close to 12 years now. I started my entrepreneurship journey in the consumer space, where my first startup was in the pre-owned automobile marketplace space. So once we had an exit, even though it was not a great success, we were looking at what problems we wanted to solve.
And the enterprise space and SaaS were chosen because I felt that a lot of problems, which we had a perspective on and had personal experiences was during our tenure with the organizations that you are a part of. I’ve been a leader before and been involved in a lot of distributed hiring, and hiring people. Back in 2012-2013, hiring people in a distributed environment when smartphones or the internet, or even platforms like Zoom, weren’t available to everyone, it was a big challenge. That’s a problem we wanted to solve. We started a company called Interview Master that led to getting deeper into the HR tech space. After we exited Interview Master in 2017, we decided to start a larger, horizontal play in the talent measurement space which is where we are. So we started with the problem-first approach and SaaS was the way to solve that.
SaaS has also evolved significantly over the past few years with cloud-based, consumption-based purchase of software we believe aligns long-term with the benefits of the users. And that’s what’s exciting about software-as-a-service.
2) What gaps did you see in the market before launching Talview?
In 2017, when we started out, we saw that the way organizations work, the way people learn was already changing – everything was getting digitized. But this digitization was being done with a piecemeal approach. The core processes were being digitized, but there was significant inefficiency in the way in which this was run. So we saw an opportunity to build what we call an orchestration layer, which would allow organizations to do the hiring, a graduate program, admissions, certifications, learning, and development, or exams… all of those talent measurement processes in a more seamless and efficient manner with a significantly better experience. The orchestration layer would automate a lot of the routine tasks associated with it, ensuring that there is seamless data flow from one system to another, which also meant that people don’t need to interact with five different systems as a part of their user journey. So that’s the core of Talview. We also saw that once we have the orchestration layer and we are able to capture all this data, because now everything is digital, it’s also allowing us to build an intelligence layer, which helps organize efficiencies to derive insights. This helps in improving the effectiveness of the organization’s decision-making as a part of the talent measurement, whether it’s hiring or promotions or certification or any of that.
So that’s the opportunity we saw. We noticed that it’s a large space with the potential to build a large organization, but we also saw that it also has a very strong mission. By building a platform, which is digital and which is objective because of all the data which we are capturing, we also help enable everyone to have equal access to opportunities, whether it’s geographical or demographic restrictions. That’s another value proposition of the platform, as the decisions are more objective and unbiased and give everyone an equal opportunity.
3) How has Talview evolved since its inception in 2017?
When we started, we knew that we could impact what we internally call the talent lifecycle. So right from the time someone applies to a graduate program and goes through the admission process to getting hired, getting promoted, internal transfers, getting certified, learning and development, or they end their life cycle with interviews and exams – that’s the core of what we facilitate on the Talview platform. But the early focus was on hiring as a use case where we started working with organizations in the high volume hiring space. We have a lot of success, especially in the technology space, especially in the IT-enabled services space.
We work with most of the large services providers from Accenture to Cognizant, and then PwC. We use our platform today to manage talent acquisition. That’s how we started. Then, over a period of time, we expanded to additional segments, especially in different hiring spaces with a lot of retail, hospitality, or field-hiring use cases on the platform. That’s how the platform expanded.
Last year we did make our first foray outside the hiring use case to go into the certification use case. We saw that with the pandemic, there are significant challenges that organizations are facing in certifying professionals. And in many geographies, especially in North America and Europe, certification is a critical requirement for a legal, finance, or safety professional to provide their service to their customers or users. This process was a wreck because the pandemic brought everything to a standstill. We saw an opportunity to enable these organizations to deliver their certification process online using our platform and today, we work with organizations like Facebook, and Cambridge University. We also work with some of the largest certification providers in this space as well. So that’s how the business outlook has evolved and we’re starting to expand our focus into other use cases as well driven by market demand. A lot of focus is on internal talent mobility and the talent measurement process. And that’s something which we’re looking forward to in 2022.
From an organization standpoint, we’re headquartered in the US and have our R&D center in Bangalore in India. Over a period of time, we’ve expanded our presence to Singapore, and recently to the UK and European region. So we’ve been growing from a geography percent standpoint and in line with the growth trajectory of Talview.
4) How many customers do you have now? Are there any specific types of companies that use Talview or it’s being used across industries?
We’re still largely focused on high-volume hiring and high-stake credentialing or certification use cases. That means, we work with a lot of manufacturing companies or sectors where hiring doesn’t happen in small numbers. Because we are an orchestration and intelligence platform, the more data, and more transactions they need to process, the more intelligent data we can deliver. So we have purposefully focused on high-volume use cases today, but we do plan to expand to additional industries in the near future. From a customer base standpoint, we have close to 130 enterprise customers. These are all large, and mostly include Fortune 500 and Fortune 2000 customers.
5) Which are the biggest markets for Talview?
In terms of geography, the United States is our largest market. In fact, more than 70 percent of our revenue is from the US. The remaining is equally split between Europe, Asia Pacific (primarily India).
6) The hiring software space is quite competitive, so how does Talview stand out?
So traditionally the space has been very fragmented with a lot of pinpoint solutions. Some providers focus on assessment, while others on interview platforms, some focus on chatbots, and so on. I think Talview was the first platform provider in the space with a focus on orchestration and intelligence, which is more holistic and resonates well with enterprise customers who have faced significant challenges in managing multiple systems, while trying to integrate them and manage the user experience across multiple systems, both on the user side, as well as on the candidate side.
This still continues to be our unique value proposition, because it helps organizations to deliver significant efficiency as it’s a single platform that orchestrates their entire talent measurement process. But the kind of data which we capture and the intelligence which we are providing are difficult to replicate because today we are collecting end-to-end holistic datasets.
7) Could you shed a light on your marketing strategy?
It has evolved over the years. So in the beginning, being an early-stage organization, we were content-driven. At that time, we were building credibility, so the focus has been on driving thought leadership and content around what we are, and providing value to our customers. So we’ve largely focused on thought-leadership driven, inbound campaigns that our customers used to find with a specific problem and they were looking for solutions.
But now, we have built significant momentum. We also have channel partnerships today, and we work very closely with the organizations like Microsoft, and SuccessFactors SAP who work with most of the Fortune 2000 customers. And because we have complementary nature of services, they are a significant part of our go-to-market strategy today. We also do traditional marketing in terms of events and campaigns, which are driving awareness and interest for the solution.
Within the first few quarters itself, organizations just had the digital or remote work and learning very well and so we have witnessed an exponential increase in the consumption on the platform. Organizations who were already using us, but only for some part of their hiring or other processes started relying on us more. While there were several new organizations looking for solutions.
We’ve seen an exponential increase in terms of platform adoption. For most organizations, the first phase was to look at Microsoft Teams or Zoom, and then try them for interviews and assessments, but then they started looking for a holistic solution. And most standalone solutions in the space don’t allow people to create the kind of experience which they want to deliver to their users, organizations are choosing Talview. We solve all the efficiency and experience aspects beyond just digitization, which is very exciting for organizations.
9) What’s next for Talview? Any new features that users should look forward to?
This year, a lot of our focus is on experience. We are aiming to create a device-agnostic, platform-agnostic, and geography-agnostic experiences on the platform where we’d be able to allow our customers to create and curate the kind of experiences that they want for the candidates to go through as a part of their talent measurement journey. In the process, the candidates can also learn more about the company or the culture, thus creating experiences that help it stand out from the other companies looking to hire the same talent. Additionally, with remote work becoming prevalent, a lot of focus is on engagement – how can every interaction, which a prospective employee or an existing employer professional has for the organization? How can they engage them better?
We are also focusing on intelligence. We have made investments in helping organizations use data to make objective and effective decisions using feedback loops. Whether it’s an interviewer or an evaluator who is doing the talent measurement, their interviewing techniques, their evaluation techniques are in line with industry best practices, and where they’re not, they get feedback in an automated fashion through Talview. Wherever automation isn’t possible, there’s a coaching aspect embedded, and all of this is done with the help of natural language processing and computer vision.
10) What are your favorite SaaS software out there?
The space is evolving so fast that your favorite software today, may not be your favorite tool tomorrow. But if I had to pick my favorites right now, it’ll be productivity tools like Asana as it offers a simple and intuitive experience, which is enabling people to organize themselves better, especially in a remote working environment. The second is ServiceNow. When there’s a lot of transition and there’s a significant disruption in the way we do things, we need digital systems which can be easily adopted for creating specific workflows, tracking, reporting, and all of that.