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Startup Stories.

Every startup has a story.

SmartRank

Published:

December 22, 2022

Featuring:

Keith Hulen

Co-Founder and CEO

Learn more at:

Thanks for taking the time to sit with us to share your Startup Story with our readers. Can you start out by sharing a little bit about yourself and your company?

I'm a Colorado native. I've been in business for over two decades, with most of that time spent in leadership positions. My least favorite part of being a leader was hiring. I always felt it was extremely dysfunctional and wanted to understand more about why that was the case from the talent acquisition side. 2 1/2 years ago we started setting up meetings and asking talent acquisition teams what their biggest problems were, found some consistencies, and then worked down to the root causes of those problems. It turns out the root causes stemmed from recruiters not knowing EXACTLY what the hiring managers are looking for with each role. That root cause was further exacerbated by tools companies use every day in their hiring process such as job descriptions, résumés, and applicant tracking systems (ATSs). Using those tools creates a very inefficient, ineffective, biased, and expensive hiring process.

Every business has some sort of catalyst for getting started, or some inspiration. What was your "ah ha" moment?

My inspiration wasn't product driven, but rather company driven. I was a CEO at my last company before I left. The owner of the company was extremely greedy and selfish and I wanted to start my own company so I could do it the right way with ethical and hard working people. I figured I could either complain about my circumstances or change them, and so I chose the latter.

With a million business ideas out there, what makes your business unique?

We are the only solution that I know of that enables a company to screen and qualify a job applicant without that applicant needing to submit a résumé.

We are also the only company that I know of that identifies exactly what the hiring managers are looking for in a particular role, and then shows them exactly how every applicant ranks per those qualifications.

Launching a business is hard. Do you have a team, or a people that have helped you get to this point? And, can you share a little bit about that?

There are too many people to name here, but I'll mention just a few. It starts with my Co-Founder & CTO, Ed Posnak. He is brilliant, ethical, extremely hard-working, and everything you would want in someone you work with. Our Principal Developer, Alfie, is amazing and our product wouldn't be where it is without him. Daniel is our Product & QA Manager and his detail skills are unrivaled. Jeanne is our CSM and Office Administrator and has customer service running through her veins. Micah is our Project Manager and she could build a cruise ship from a sketch of a boat on a napkin. Yuri is our DevOps savant. And Meg is about as tenacious of a salesperson as you'll find.

In addition to our core team, our investors make this dream possible. Almost every investor we have are people Ed and I have worked with. They are not only our investors, but our friends.

Lastly, all the friends and business colleagues I've called favors into over the years. They've provided introductions, connections, advice, and occasionally just some badly needed encouragement.

People love an inside scoop. What is something most people might not know about you or your company?

My co-founder and I both lived in Indonesia for many years as kids. I think this experience broadened our minds in a way that we are only now able to fully appreciate. I wish every American child could live internationally, especially in a developing country.

Every business hits that wall, or hurdle. What is a major hurdle your business is facing? And how can our readers help, or get involved?

Our challenges always come back to two major hurdles, time and money. With enough money we can extend our time. That money comes in two ways, revenue and investment capital. Readers can always help us with introductions to companies looking to improve their hiring process and investors looking to invest in game-changing technology.

Starting and running a business is a major learning experience. Up until this point, what is the biggest lesson you have learned, personally, about running your business and the field you are in?

Unfortunately I have to say that the biggest lesson I've learned is how critical capital is to success. I think I was a bit naïve that with an important problem you're solving, a great product, and a great market, you can succeed no matter what. I've had to learn a hard lesson that even with all those factors in place, it's hard to win without capital. Some of the best ideas, products, and companies never get fully realized because they ran out of money. On the flip side, sometimes very average companies find success because they had enough money, that bought them time, to figure out how to be successful.

For our readers first learning about your business, could you share three key take away's that you believe our readers should know about you, your business or your product/solution?

First, our solution can literally save 30% - 50% of a recruiter's time because we've automated the entire applicant screening process. All parties are held accountable but all parties are happy because they're all benefitting in different ways.

Second, we actually allow companies to put their money where their mouth is with regards to Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DE&I). 100% of applicants get a fair & equitable chance at an interview, we can mask applicant data that typically creates unconscious bias, and we can even provide a stack-ranked list of the most diverse applicants.

Third, the data we gather completely changes the conversation between recruiters and hiring managers from an anecdotal to a data-driven discussion.

For that person learning about your business, why would they sign up for, or use your company or solution?

Because traditional applicant tracking systems don't screen applicants. As a result, recruiters at companies are literally going through each applicant one-by-one matching keywords on a résumé to a job description. This is the most inefficient and ineffective way to screen talent. It's also the most biased because people make judgements based on names, colleges attended (or not attended), years of graduation, and other ridiculous reasons. In the process they're missing some of the best talented people. Hiring managers are universally frustrated with the hiring process. And 75% of Americans are dissatisfied with the job-hunting process. So basically every stakeholder involved in the hiring process thinks it sucks, and they're right!

We are the only company that is solving all these problems at the root.

Are you currently seeking funding, co-founders or building out your team? If so, how can our readers help out?

Yes, we are going to raise our second round of funding on February 1st and would love any introductions to potential investors. Once we raise this next round of funding we'll be hiring salespeople, SDRs, and someone to lead our marketing efforts.

Well, it has been wonderful sitting with you today to learn more about you and your company. How can people find out more about what you guys are up to?

There are a lot of ways but I'll just mention a few below:
Website: www.smartrank.ai
YouTube: www.youtube.com/@smartrank
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/company/smartrankai

Thank you for taking the time today to sit with us and share your Startup Story.

Thank you for the opportunity to share our story and helping to promote the Colorado startup ecosystem.

Startup Stories.

Every startup has a story.

ABOUT TECH ALLEY STARTUP STORIES

The start up ecosystem is in a constant state of re-invention. Startups are born from inspiration unique to the many founders and circumstances that led to their "ah ha" moment. Too often, these stories are buried in an about section, forgotten, or never shared, due to the natural churn of the startup ecosystem.

Tech Alley's to "strengthen communities by bringing people together, fostering a creative class, and creating an inclusive, diverse, and innovative technology and startup culture."

One of the best ways to accomplish this, is to simply tell the stories of the founders that make up this community.

Tech Alley "Startup Stories" would like to share the story of as many startups as possible.

Because every startup has a story.

And we want to share yours.

Joseph Haecker
Denver Chapter Organizer

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