AirCTO in 2016: From MVP to Paying Customers

6 min readJan 27, 2017

As 2016 has come to an end, it’s time to look back and reflect upon how our journey has been in 2016.

Towards the end of December 2015, we were tinkering with our idea of AirCTO, where companies can get their candidates interviewed with our curated network of technical experts.

For those who are wondering what AirCTO is: AirCTO is a Human and AI-powered hiring platform.

Ideation and the First Paying customer

To start with, we put up a static website and a blog as part of our content marketing strategy. We started sending cold emails to our potential prospects who were hiring in India. Meanwhile, I got my close friends Vivek Pathania and Dhaval Trivedi to interview candidates. They are very strong in iOS and Front-end development respectively. In early January, we got as our very first customer. We offered them a free trial and they agreed. We were delighted to conduct our first-ever interview. And by the end of January, we had our first paying customer.

Over the next 5 months, we were conducting 8–10 interviews in a month on an average. We sent a lot of emails (>1000) with dozens of marketing strategy iterations with different customer segments. There was a series of cold emails after cold emails. We had a very tough time as a team. We debated, argued, planned, iterated and eventually executed. We had a tough time explaining our product to potential customers since no one had heard about something like this before. Thus, we had to improve our product pitch, the way we communicated and presented AirCTO.

Oh! Did I tell you? All this while, we were managing companies and our technical experts on Trello Boards, Emails, Spreadsheet, and Text messages. We did everything manual which was unscalable. We used to call our experts to know their availability to do the interviews then call the candidates to see if they are available at the scheduled time and send emails manually to the companies and the experts.

Email which we used to send manually to our technical experts about the interview schedule and details

Trello board to manage companies — Our MVP for Aircto.

During this period, we invested our time in building the product. We built the first version of the API in Golang and a web application in React/Redux which consumed those backend APIs. The decision to built the API from the beginning is turning out to be good one since now our expert’s focused web application can use the same API.

We on-boarded some more talented experts in our network to make sure that the supply flow is good enough. We went through their profiles, codes (available online), had phone calls etc. Every expert we picked, we made sure that we’re a part of the first conversation between the expert and the candidate. We rated them internally. And now, the experts are actually enjoying the fact that they get paid for doing interviews. They had always done it for free for their friends but now they get paid for this skill which they have acquired over 8–10 years of their hard work.

The Push

The real magic happened when we got featured on in July. We saw decent traffic to our website and some potential signups. We closed a few interesting deals. And we did exactly 50 interviews in August. Boom!

A good half century. 😎

- aircto (@aircto) August 31, 2016

And from there on, this has been a consistent flow of interviews till December 2016. We also got featured on Outlook Business in August.

Interviews conducted statistics

Business and Product iteration

We iterated our product. We added essential features as we moved forward. In fact, most of the features which we have in our system has been a result of our customers’ necessity. We did it manually first which was unscalable. Until recently, we conducted all the interviews by putting the expert and the candidates on a conference call (initiated manually from the phone). We streamlined the interview process and tried to automate some key processes. In the last 2 months, we did two major product releases. You can check more details on these articles:

On the marketing side, we ran ads & social media campaigns, improved our content strategy. We got some guest authors to contribute to our blog. We launched a new version of the blog in November. You may like to subscribe to this blog if you’re interested in recruitment tips. We built an internal CRM (we call it Gaffer, btw) for our customer success team to manage interviews. We added small and big enhancements to our product. We got a website for the experts (the full version of the web app is in the making). We also exhibited AirCTO at Techsparks. It was very intriguing to talk to the people in-person about AirCTO at TechSparks.

Customer response and market validation

After working with over 25 companies, the message we received was that recruiters really need AirCTO. Almost everyday companies are uploading new resumes to our system to interview their candidates. Most of our customers are spending a good amount of time on AirCTO web app on a daily basis. Now all they have to do is to look at the Good fits and take the candidates further into their hiring funnel. Our customers are able to save 68% of their engineering team’s time which could have been easily wasted on interviewing those unqualified candidates (the bad fits). This makes the whole hiring process super fast and effective. You may like to read some of our customers’ case study:

I recently met one of our customers — Hardik Dedhia and he mentioned that he was really amazed to know that a service like Aircto exists. He further added that almost 90% of hiring he has done for the Bangalore office was through AirCTO. My team and I were totally delighted to hear that.

It’s me (L) with Hardik Dedhia (R)

The Team

Over the last 1 year, we had seen terrible times as a team. We had to slog, spend sleepless nights to get the product working. We had to see our colleagues go and we needed to let some go. We faced some moments of despair, doubts, and pain. Not an ideal situation for anyone to be in. But all these things have only made us stronger and smarter than ever. I always tell my team that this was never meant to be an easy journey. We introduced by-weekly knowledge sharing sessions across all the teams (We’re a team of 10 people now) to share insights on different domains. One of the amazing things is, every team member believes in what we’re doing and that makes us super strong to take on new challenges while building AirCTO.

2016 has been a transition year for us from services to product and validation of our idea. This makes 2017 very promising and exciting for us. We look forward to it. :)

Btw, we sent out a custom hand-written thank you note with a small gift-wrapped inside to our customers on the year eve.

Originally written by Atif Haider and published at on January 27, 2017.




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