This week we speak with Matt Wickstrand, founder of Kareer.me, an online platform to create personalised and sophisticated resumes. He tells us why he decided to learn to develop the technical side of his business himself and the applications he has found most useful along the way.
How would you describe your business?
Kareer.me is a service to help job seekers get more interviews and increase their chances of getting hired. While most job sites are optimized for employers and recruiters, Kareer.me is focused on helping job seekers; something that will always remain our focus. We’re a small team striving to make an impact in the way people find jobs.
How did you come up with the idea?
After hitting the wall on a previous startup, I was faced with two options; look for a job, or start another company. I considered both for a period of time, but was really frustrated at the lack of options that I had to create a professional online resume that allowed me to display myself in a more personal fashion. I’m not a great writer, but I knew that I had a compelling story to tell recruiters and employers through video and work samples. Kareer.me was born out of personal frustration and a burning desire to start another company. It wasn’t long before I was spending 80% of my time developing a plan and a vision for Kareer.me and 20% on my job search.
How long did it take you to get Kareer off the ground?
That’s an interesting story. While the idea for Kareer.me came to me in March 2011, I was actually faced with a larger obstacle at the time that really prevented me from a full-blown pursuit of the development of the site. I wasn’t a developer and I didn’t have enough capital left after the previous startup to continue to outsource the development effort. I was quickly forced into a single option: to become my own tech co-founder. I spent about six weeks learning to develop using different development frameworks and I was able to build a rough draft of Kareer.me during that time. I later re-built the site from scratch using all the knowledge I had acquired the first time around. I would estimate the build time to have taken ten weeks before I opened the site up for private beta.
What applications or tools do you find most useful for your business? Why?
I could honestly go on for days about the tools that have helped me grow and develop Kareer.me to this point. I’ll mention a few that have been indispensable as tools or resources for any tech founder:
Stackoverflow.com – If you’re a developer, then you know what I’m talking about. If you’re not, then this is a great place to start searching for answers to your technical questions.
Google – Google, you are awesome. Google makes running your small business super easy with its Google for business accounts. And it’s free. Host you email and get access to docs, spreadsheets, and everything else you need; all hosted in the cloud.
Rackspace.com – An affordable cloud serves. The near-zero overhead business is now a reality with services like Rackspace which also allows you to scale your site with ease.
ThisWeekInStartups.com – Hosted by Santa Monica entrepreneur, Jason Calacanis, this site hosts hundreds of interviews with high profile tech entrepreneurs. It gets you as close to a free MBA in tech startups as you’re going to get and is an awesome resource.
NetTuts.com – Tons of great tutorials for web development. If you’re interested in learning to develop your own site, start here.
There are a lot of other great paid resources, but these recommendations will give you a great start.
Can you tell our readers a bit about your business model?
Kareer.me works a bit different from other online resume services. In its simplest form, Kareer.me allows job seekers to create personalized web resumes for each job that they apply to. Each online resume is given a unique URL that you can share via email, online application form, twitter, linkedin, facebook, job boards, etc. Since each resume is unique, you’ll get feedback when your resume has been viewed by its intended recipient, so that you’ll know exactly when to follow up for an interview. Job seekers are given an opportunity to try the service and build and share three resumes completely free, and can upgrade their plan to create more resumes at a nominal monthly fee. Eventually, this service cost may be subsidized by other revenue streams, but I prefer to keep advertising to a minimum.
What is your growth strategy?
Kareer.me is a great fit for candidates with little-to-no work history and I think students are a prime example of this. While graduating, college-level students may not have a lot of work history but they have spent a lot of effort writing papers, researching, and working on various other projects. Since Kareer.me allows job seekers to show their personality and work portfolio, we’re focusing on developing and growing in this target market.
How are you promoting your company?
While it would be nice to throw a lot of money at SEM or other forms of paid advertising, it’s really not in the cards for a lot of new startups. Promotion for Kareer.me is a combination of both offline and online strategies. We’ve started conversation with several university career services centres to offer special services to their students and have worked diligently to get placement in several online blogs. Both have been great strategies, but it’s still too early to tell which method is best.
What’s been the most difficult aspect of setting up your business?
Learning to develop the site myself has definitely been one of the largest challenges, but also one of the most rewarding. I would say for any business, going-to-market is generally one of the most difficult challenges. Startups have a limited amount of time they can distribute across business functions and it’s difficult to track and understand where you are getting the most value.
What have you learned along the way?
For any new entrepreneur it’s important to understand one thing: everything takes at least three times longer than you think! Even if you can build the product quickly, there is still a learning curve to understand your customers and adjust your product to fulfil their needs. I recommend having at least a year of runway, but 18 months is ideal. Always keep an eye on your market and the subtle trends that are occurring so that you can be the first to capitalize.
What piece of advice would you give to someone setting up their own startup?
For me, it’s been extremely important to have a deep technical understanding of the product. I wouldn’t recommend building a tech company without either having a technical co-founder or being able to develop yourself. I’ve done both and having the ability to develop the site within your team makes decision making and development much faster.