Click here for Part 1, Part 2 Building recruitment pathways between students and employers to improve hiring outcomes Matthew Longley is the CEO and co-founder of Visable, a hiring platform that helps companies better target and recruit college students. Visable was one of six startups AccelerateBaltimore, an annual business accelerator program, selected for its 2015 class. The company launched shortly after the program ended last spring. Offering services for students and recruiters alike, Visible aims to disrupt the job fair model of student employment by improving speed, searchability, and level of interaction for people on either side of the hiring process. The platform allows students to create profiles, identify their unique skills and experiences, and access an otherwise unreachable network of employment opportunities. EDWIN WARFIELD: You said that you and your co-founders were entrepreneurial, but not entrepreneurs by nature. Could you dig into that more? Do you feel like an entrepreneur now, after all you’ve gone through? MATTHEW LONGLEY: We always joke that on Monday we wake up and say, “No one is going to tell me what to do today, this is great,” and on Tuesday we wake up and we say, “Someone please tell me what to do today.” So it’s a mix of things. We have a profound personal investment in this business, because of our experience with students, our experience trying to hire people out of school, the anxiety we had when we were students trying to figure out if whatever professional avenues we were pursuing were going to be the right ones, and what that meant for our long term career. So, we’re very engaged in this from an industry point of view but also from the startup point of view. Charlie and I are both makers. I would rather make something than buy it, like a bench or whatever you want to say. I very much like to be hands-on and Charlie is the same way. It’s probably the reason why we get along so well. Consulting was fascinating because you got to work on so many different projects and were exposed to so much and different industries and different people that, you know, you essentially have 15 different carriers from what you’re exposed to but at the end of the day you’re still constructing an idea and then having someone else execute on it. I think the thing that really drove us to startup, the thing that really hit the tipping point for where we said we’re going to quit our full time jobs and we’re going to start this company is that we just wanted to get our hands dirty. That’s the thing about startups: every day is rewarding. Some days you’re making huge strategic decisions, some days you’re trying to pick out a printer—regardless of what you’re doing, you feel like you’re really making progress on something. And when you get to the end of the week you can look back and say, “I made these relationships, we changed this functionality, we’re getting customer feedback, we’re getting different responses to this thing that we’ve done,” and it’s a personal sort of impact that I never had really felt before professionally. How would you define what it is to be an “entrepreneur”? I am a voracious learner and I’ve always been. I’m also very ADD, which I think is part of that. I think that you cannot be an entrepreneur and be siloed. You can’t be an entrepreneur and be only interested in doing a specific type of work, because that just doesn’t work out. There’s too much to do. I like to joke with my friends who are in other fields, like “‘What do you do?’ I’m the CEO of a fake company.” I am the CEO of a company that’s on the precipice of becoming what you would consider a company, but at the moment it’s a team that’s trying to execute on a project. And I think that’s true for startups, really for the first couple of years of operation. You know, the CEO of a startup does everything that they can do on a given day to get something done. I don’t really have the luxury of saying “this is what I want to do today” or “this is the type of work that I’d like to do, that I find the most rewarding, so I’m going to focus on that.” It’s scheduling calls, doing sales, doing development management—it’s everything. I think that my biggest advantage from my childhood is just being interested in everything and having parents and family and friends that exposed me to everything that they could. And so, I feel like I’m a more flexible CEO as a result. How are you raising money for Visable? Or are you self-funded? We read [Eric Ries’ book] The Lean Startup when we first launched this business, and we maybe didn’t get all the agility stuff right right away but we got the lean stuff right right away. We’ve bootstrapped this business. We’ve been self-funded for the last year and half. I actually spent a year and half bartending at a great restaurant in Baltimore, which was a blast and a great way to get side money coming in when you’re trying to do something that isn’t going to pay you for a while, so we have almost no outside funding at the moment, but we’re starting to think about what that’s going to look like in the fall. We want to have some activity, we want to have a couple of months of really being live before we start having those conversations with the concrete goal of asking for money. It’s always a tough question, like any entrepreneur who says “I do not want to raise money right now,” what they mean is “I haven’t gotten the right offer yet.” We’re always thinking about it. When you’re running a business that is not at revenue stage yet it is something that you have to think about all the time, but it’s not necessarily on purpose—to be lucky enough when we’re planning out all of the last year and half—that we haven’t really needed funding yet.
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