Year in review, 2017: Scaling AirCTO to Simplify Tech Hiring

9 min readJan 30, 2018

As we embarked upon 2018, we would like to take a moment to reflect on our journey in 2017.

At the beginning of 2017, we essentially aimed at making our ‘Technical Interviews’ product much more powerful. We introduced an automated interview scheduling process, giving access to customers to pick experts of their choice right from our platform, making interviewers’ web app better and built some more useful features to improve the overall technical interview process.

The Natural Pivot

In 2016, we had started off with Technical Interviews. As we acquired new customers and spoke with more recruiters we gained a broader perspective on the major challenges faced by them. We always knew that technical interviews are just one part of the hiring problem in tech, but we wanted to validate our interview model really well before covering other pain points in technical hiring. 2017 has indeed been enlightening in terms of growing our product line.

Some of the problems which we encountered in the hiring funnel are:

Problem #1: Screening resumes, manually

As we kept speaking with different customers, we noticed that most of them wanted us to do the initial screening of resumes to tell them if they are even worthy enough to go for a technical round of interview. Many expressed their concern after having spent a lot of money on interviewing unqualified candidates.

One of our clients, who is the head of recruitment with a leading startup, told us that they were getting around 50 resumes per week and many of them wouldn’t even fit into the basic job criteria.

That’s when we sensed the opportunity to offer an automated resume screening solution. After a few months of hard work, we were able to launch a trial version towards the end of March. You can read more about this: Introducing Filters to screen resumes

Check out AirCTO Scanner — our answer to manual resume screening problem.

Problem #2: Telephonic HR screening

Once a resume would successfully pass the screening test, a recruiter makes the first call to collect the basic information on the candidate’s skillsets, Notice period, experience in specific technologies, relocation, salary expectation and many more. Any of you who have been in this situation can definitely understand that calling candidates for gathering this basic information leads to a lot of waste of time and resources — it slows down the overall process.

And there it was, another difficult puzzle for us to solve.

We spent some time to re-think about this problem. The easiest way would have been to just offer Google Forms in order to collect this information.

But when 90% of the Internet users are on messengers be it Facebook, Skype, Whatsapp, Telegram, Slack etc which means we’re now more comfortable in messaging rather than taking up calls or sending emails. Messengers are becoming the default communication mode. So, shouldn’t the recruiter leverage on these tools to collect this information instead of relying on phone calls or some sort of long, uninteresting forms?

With these insights, we built Chatbot to address this problem in a faster & easier way. It not only collects the required information but also makes intelligent decisions like jumping questions or crafting a new one on the fly. We launched this in September. You may like to read more on this: why did we build HR Chatbots

Check out AirCTO Chatbot — our answer to the initial HR screening problem.

Problem #3: Sourcing qualified tech profiles.

This one was a very common pain point which we have been hearing for over a year from our prospects. Frankly, we ignored this, in the beginning, primarily to keep our focus on one thing which was basically to help companies screen the candidates. But then, the push from our customers and prospects was too much to miss out on this problem.

As you might already know, there are many ways to source candidates in the market. Some of them are traditional Recruitment agencies, AngelList, LinkedIn, and various job boards. They work for some positions, but when it comes to tech-hiring, they are not much of a help. Most of the candidates sourced by these solutions are broken in many ways.

For instance: Recruitment agencies can source a huge number of profiles for you; but if you look at the quality, most of them wouldn’t be at par with your job. Also, there are so many junk/fake profiles available on Naukri/LinkedIn that it’s an uphill task to look at these insane numbers of profiles and figuring out which one is good and which is not. AngelList did work for some of the people that we have spoken to, but then again, the conversion was not that great.

All these points stated by different prospects & customers suggested that there is a huge incentive to pick this problem and try to solve it in a better way. Therefore, we decided to take the plunge into sourcing quality developers to companies.

We tried to deploy a mix of the Inbound & Outbound hiring process along with our own extensive database of developers. We have acquired over a dozen customers in a span of 4–5 weeks and have been sourcing quite a lot of qualified engineers for them. From what we hear, many of them have been able to get a person on-board in less than 2 weeks.

Check out AirCTO Sourcing — our answer to sourcing qualified and relevant candidates problems.

One Story. One Brand. One Product.

As you can see, our solutions scaled to solve more & more problems within the Tech Hiring funnel. But, our product customer experience didn’t. This happened because we had initially designed our product primarily for Technical Interviews and then kept on adding patches (Sourcing, Scanner, Chatbot) to the existing products.

So, we took some time to re-think our product experience from a customer perspective and realized that there was too much of bottleneck for a customer (old & new both) to adopt new products. It wasn’t an easy job for us since it required us to redo most of the stuffs within our web application.

Product Challenges

As we spoke to our existing and new customers, we received great enthusiasm from these people on Scanner and Chatbot. They liked the demo and our approach towards the problem but they had a hard time using it all together and would give up very quickly. All our products were categories on different views which needed a customer to switch between these products to perform different operations on a particular set of candidates. It was leading us to 2 blockers:

  • The cumbersome process use different products which led to the least adaptation of new products.
  • We also had UX issues, our newly signed up customer would call us and ask how do I create a new job? A discouraging experience for our customers.

We re-thought the design from the Job First approach. (Thanks to Karthik Vijay for throwing some amazing ideas on this). We started thinking of bringing all the products together, in order to address all of the above problems. We built into THE ONE.

On January 8th, this year, we launched a new version of AirCTO. You may like to check out our website and try a live demo. — Thanks to our amazing engineering team for putting up all of these, all together.


The ProductHunt moment

In March 2017, we were on product hunt and it was an amazing experience. We also received over 500 upvotes and was the #2 Product Of the day. We received some great feedback from a lot of Product Hunters.

Tech Job Board for Job-seekers

As we dug deeper into the list of our website visitors, we noticed that there is a good number of job seekers who are visiting our website. Besides, we had a lot of prospects who were out there looking for quality talent. When we merged these two data-points, we wondered, why don’t we help both these parties find each other! That’s when we came up with the idea of having a dedicated job page for candidates. Here is the link to our job board.

The Fund Raising

It’s an open secret that raising funds is a daunting task. You ask any startup founders and they would tell you the same story. We happen to experience that first hand. And it was indeed stressful.

As we were approaching towards March, we understood the fact we got to raise money to sustain our dream. Our cash burns would take us hardly till July. Our friends like Siddharth Sharma, BG, Abhishek Nayak, Mayank Porwal, Sunil Mirapuri, Joylita Saldanha, Sunil Kanderi, Saurabh Nanda, Neeraj Jain, Pragathi Kant, Pratik Poddar, Ehab Bandar had been extremely supportive and showed us some meaningful direction. Their advice were brilliant, inspiring and very helpful for us to understand the fundraising process.

We started talking to a couple of VCs and understood quickly that we needed to do a lot more in terms of traction and product to get institutional funding. We quickly moved to the plan to raise Angel funding. Before I could talk to some Angel Investors. Francesco Cara, LaunchYard’s old customer and a good friend of mine who had been watching our progress on AirCTO very closely, generously offered to back us the moment we started to hunt for Angel investors.

It has been a proud moment for us to have him on our side of this journey. He comes with a vast experience in product and business development. He has led product efforts at Nokia in Finland for over 7 years and has worked with companies like SapientNitro in his previous avatar. Having him on our side and listening to his active advice on various things related to AirCTO is amazing. More than money, his inputs have been extremely helpful so far.

This is what Francesco has to say on our association:

We closed our Angel round of funding in July and that has given us fresh air to breathe and work towards our mission.

We kept getting more media coverage during this period. We appeared on some of these sites:

They have really been kind to us. We thank them for their support.

Customer acquisition & Marketing initiatives

We acquired some great customers like Wingify,, Zeomega, Nobroker and many more in 2017. We tried to understand the problem and served the best. Our customer base has been growing by 50% MOM. We acquired customers on different products. You may like to read some of our customer stories.

Some of the brands who love us! Find more on AirCTO Customers ->

We continued our efforts in content marketing in 2017. We took a couple of initiatives on the marketing side. We started Future of Work series and had an opportunity to interview some of the top industry leaders in recruitment. We interviewed some of the top developers in order to understand how to hire for different technical positions. We also took an initiative to curate Interview questions for the latest tech topics. We launched the first version of the AirCTO community which is a Q&A site related to tech hiring where Recruiters, Candidates and Technical experts can come together to collaborate and help each other.

Team & Moving forward in 2018

We continued with our thirst to hire great people to be part of our startup journey. We are gradually building an awesome engineering team. We recently had a few experienced sales professionals who have joined us to take our mission forward and help us reach out to potential customers. We’re getting better day by day in having people with great leadership skills as well as self-motivated individuals on our team.

This was taken when Francesco visited India to meet us in December 2017

2017 has been a year where we had acquired deeper insights into our customer’s pain points that have helped grow our product. We spent time to understand the recruitment industry and recruiters. We have a lot to do in 2018 and have got some exciting product launches ahead. Primarily, our focus this year would be to make our product simpler to use and to get more traction for AirCTO.

We look forward to 2018. And we wish you a very happy belated new year from all of us at AirCTO. :-)

It’s the struggle that teaches you, motivates you and pushes you forward towards your mission. Read our story of 2016.

Originally written by Atif Haider and published at on January 30, 2018.




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