The U-turn of our startup

“I have a background in Business. I’m looking for a technical co-founder.”

This was me four years ago, freshly out of college, ready to start my own startup.

It was tough. Six months went by and I couldn’t find my counterpart. I joined a few hands-on programs like Startup Weekend and 3DayStartup and visited tons of co-working spaces. But that person was nowhere to be seen. We did, however, win the weekend competition ;-).

The winning team of 3DayStartup at Delf Technical University. ‘Co-park’ never seen daylight…

Was I too picky? Well, when you consider the amount of time you will spend together, it’s fair to say that finding a co-founder is a bit like finding a life partner. There are ups and downs on a daily basis. In the words of Paul Graham in one of his essays:

“It’s like we’re married, but we’re not fucking.” — Paul Graham

Then I stumbled upon Founder2be and met Pawel. The guy has a background in programming for over eight years. He had just posted a request to brainstorm a new idea. After a Skype talk, Pawel jumped into his car and drove ten hours to visit me in Noordwijk. When he drove back three days later, it was clear that we had passed the first date test. We decided to give it a shot by setting up a remote working structure for our project.

Here we go

It felt a bit strange at the beginning. If your first date was weird, image how each of us felt after deciding to set up a company with a complete stranger. Still we moved on.

We spent about two months developing the first product: GeoRun. It’s a location-based game that allows users to pick up virtual items with their smartphones and trade them with other people. We aimed to use this real-time interactive game for commercial activation campaigns.

www.georun.com was our first project — a location-based gaming company.

Pawel set up the development team in Poznan. I was responsible for sales in the Netherlands. Our first campaign in October 2012 gave us the numbers we were hoping for. We decided to continue and set up a formal business structure. Within a year, we were able to roll out different types of game scenarios for clients like de Bijenkorf, ING, and Samsung. Mobile app development with a focus on activation games was what we turned out to be good at.

After about two years, we sat down — via Skype — with our team for some brainstorming. Like being on a red couch, we asked our inner selves if we liked the current direction of our company.

It turned out that most of us didn’t.

We started GeoRun with the idea of creating a scalable product. Along the way, it had transformed into an agency that worked for clients. And if scalable technology is what you like, an agency is not a good fit.

The inevitable U-turn

We created a ‘criteria list’ of how our ideal tech company would be like. From our own experience with GeoRun, we wrote down five requirements that would fit our idea of a great software company.

For me, they were “Can be sold online” and “Can grow into a global company with a team of max ten people.”

What are your criteria of a scalable company?

During the next two months, we brainstormed new concepts and threw away every idea that didn’t make the cut. Then, just like Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson illustrate in their book Reworkable, we decided to take a look at our own needs.

Everyone who has been through the process of hiring new staff members would remember how crazy the process can be. Mailboxes full of motivation letters, Excel files full of candidates, and agendas jam-packed with interviews. Complex. Time-consuming.

We faced these issues ourselves. So we started searching for online solutions to help simplify the process. We found several handy tools, but none of them offered the overview we were looking for. As we found out, the idea of an Applicant Tracking System was anything but new. But can it be executed better? Can it be stripped down and become intuitive? Our fingers started to itch. Can we?

We accepted the challenge, and off we went developing our own tool. From day one, we’ve focused on creating the tool that we would use. Simple, but efficient. We named it Recruitee.

In February 2015, we moved into the Rockstart Accelerator office in Amsterdam. It’s an accelerator program with workspace available for startups that like to be part of an ecosystem of tech companies. Many of them agree with us on the complexity of hiring team members. Our mission now is to create the recruitment tool that streamlines the whole recruitment process.

It’s been long enough to look back. Here are some dots I’ve connected along the way:

  • Find out the skills that you lack to know which counterpart you need.
  • Your partner could be anywhere. Both nearby and faraway.
  • Be open to pivoting your business. The most important thing is, what do you really like to work on?
Our current startup is a cloud recruitment tool. Within two years, we have 500+ users in 38 countries.

See what we’ve built for Recruitee after two years. More feature updates and inside stories coming soon. Feel free to share some thoughts.