“Don’t think of scale at all when building your business, value is the only factor that will matter for the survival of your startup — nobody will care if many things on the back end are being done manually as long as you have happy customers. If you have an amazing technology that automates everything in your business but your customers keep leaving you, you don’t have a business.”
I had the pleasure of interviewing Liran Kotzer, Founder and CEO of Woo. Woo is using AI to enable job seekers and recruiting companies to find extremely accurate matches, making the entire process faster and more efficient.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?
I’m a Techie by nature. I am a graduate of the IDF’s computer academy where I was involved in many amazing projects that gave me a solid base for what I know today. I’ve always been passionate about how technology can be used in order to make people’s lives easier.
One of the companies I founded in Israel, back in 2009 after the recession, was a tech agency specializing in startups, it became the largest agency in Israel and gave me a deep insight into the recruiting space and its many challenges. One of the things that kept bothering me was the number of talented people around me who had a lot of big ideas about what they wanted to do next career-wise (technologies, new industries, getting promoted, relocation) but most of them stayed out of the market because they didn’t want to go through the hassle of looking for another job, it takes a lot of effort. We decided that we wanted to totally change the job search experience by enabling people to discreetly search for opportunities that best match what they really want, all while continuing to do what they do in the meantime.
Today, Woo has 40,000 software engineers in San Francisco, New York and Israel that currently use our platform. We’ve found that 85% of our users keep reviewing opportunities they get from companies even after 2 years in the system. We have long-term relationships built on trust with our users and have managed to change job consumption from a one time experience to an ALL time experience.
From the hiring company side, we provide them with a powerful tool that allows access to an exclusive pool of talent who are discreetly looking for opportunities. And the conversion today from introductions made between a company and talent on Woo to move to the next phase is 40%! I’m really proud that we’ve been able to make a difference for so many talented people.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
When I started toying with the idea of Woo, I met with and investor in a bar, after he heard about the vision he asked the bartender to start asking people if they would use such a service. After 10 mins, there was a group of people standing behind us asking how they could register to the service — that was one of the best validations I could think of :)
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Our focus is on talent and the long-term loyalty we gain by providing them with a new job consumption experience, together with the AI matching technology we’ve built over the past 2 years. Woo is also fully committed to using technology to eliminate gender, ethnicity, disability, age, etc. biases that unfortunately still exist today in the recruitment process. We use machine learning to eliminate bias in the matching process — hiring companies can view a diverse group of engaged candidates and need to decide how to proceed from that point based on the candidates profile.
Are you working on any new or exciting projects now?
We’re always thinking about how we can add more value to our users and continue to improve the experience of managing your career, we are now working on new tool that will help our users to get amazing insights based on our data and technology that will help them to understand their options when they’re thinking about their next step, stay tuned!
What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive?
Always be clear about the company vision and challenges, people want to hear the good things and the bad things, trust your team that they can handle the challenges, and show them the plan to be able to deal with those challenges. Every startup faces challenges, if there is a culture that encourages people to discuss those challenges and failures, it creates a more collaborative environment where people can thrive.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are?
My co-founder, Ami Dudu, Is not just a partner he is a true friend of mine for the past 15 years. We’ve stuck together through a few ventures and it amazes me how through it all he continues to show me how to look at things from a fresh vantage point, to inspire me and to still be one of my greatest friends.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I always tell my team that the more we succeed, the more we’re able to help people reach their full potential and get to the right work environment for them. The workplace is where people spend 60% of their waking hours, so if we can help people reach the workplace that is best for them, it will make their overall quality of life better and that’s a great mission to be a part of.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became CEO” and why.
- Don’t think of scale at all when building your business, value is the only factor that will matter for the survival of your startup — nobody will care if many things on the back end are being done manually as long as you have happy customers. If you have an amazing technology that automates everything in your business but your customers keep leaving you, you don’t have a business.
- Have mentors — if you are a first time entrepreneur, make sure you build a team of advisors/mentors in every business aspect that can help you plan and strategize and avoid mistakes
- Make sure you always have a direct channel to your customers — they will give you the most authentic feedback about your business value
- Trust your team — don’t think that your ideas are always the right ones. A startup is a combination of many experiments being conducted all the time, some of them fail and some of them work great — make sure that everyone aligns with the vision and strategy and then let them work on some of the experiments, they will learn from their successes and also their failures.
- Take vacations!
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”?
“Live your dream and share your passion”
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this :-)
I would be glad to sit for a lunch with Jeff Bezos, I believe that once you figure out your market value, execution becomes a key factor in your success, and Mr. Bezos is definitely one of the top executors. His ability to understand the market and come with a winning play book is brilliant. I would definitely would be happy to have his 2 cents, if he read this, we can meet for a coffee in Whole Foods :)