“We hit $50K MRR in only eight months and twelve months after the commercial launch we reached $1M ARR”

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An Interview with Spyros Magiatis, Co-Founder & CTO of Workable

Workable was founded in 2012 by Nikos Moraitakis and Spyros Magiatis.

Today, Workable is being used by over 6,000 companies worldwide, including Basecamp, Porsche, Kurt Geiger, and Sears. The company has raised over $84M so far and they are growing fast along with the last generation of the ATS, which is focusing on user-friendly, mobile-first, and opened to integration’s.

We had the honor of interviewing Workable’s Co-Founder & CTO, Spyros Magiatis, and heard first-hand about the hard decisions that had to be made, and their tremendous growth that came later.

Workable offices

Why did you start Workable? What was your inspiration?

“I always considered hiring as crucial to the success of teams and companies, and as an executive, I invested a lot of effort into that in my previous jobs. I had tried several hiring tools but none was good enough from the hiring manager perspective: most of them had a rigid workflow that forced you to change the way you worked. Also, candidate information was usually scattered, making it a challenge for the hiring manager to have a good overview of a requisition. These problems mattered to me so much that I decided to build a tool that would solve them. This gap in the market was a great business opportunity.”

What was the hardest part in the early stages of the company’s growth?

“The biggest challenge was adoption. The software looked fresh and simple, so many people were willing to give it a spin. Yet, to really succeed, you need users to be willing to move their data to your platform and use that platform for everything, not just as a side tool. In our case, the lifeblood of the system was job candidate profiles, so we had to ensure that we can bring in candidates with any possible method — job sites, recruiters, referrals, social media, etc.”

Do you still feel the same about it now as you did in the beginning?

“As a hiring manager, I thought that what mattered most was a workflow tool to optimize the process. But customers want a solution for the core problem which, in our business, is finding and evaluating candidates. It took us six months to realize that, and a couple of years to make the shift from a tool to a solution.”

How long did it take from initial idea to first revenue? How long from first revenue until reaching $50K in MRR? When did you reach $1M ARR?

“Four months to launch a beta, a year for the commercial launch. We hit $50K in eight months and reached $1MM ARR twelve months after the commercial launch.”

How do you manage your product & the tasks of your developing team? What tools are you using?

“We have 10 teams, organized in three groups, working on different parts of the product. Each team has dedicated resources for product management, UI design, development, and QA. They have an annual roadmap and they work in two-week sprints according to the scrum methodology. On top of that, we have regular meetings across teams to touch base and resolve dependencies. Each team delivers roughly one major feature every quarter.”

Our tools include Jira, Balsamiq, and Zeplin. We have also used Pivotal Tracker and Invision in the past. They are all great.

What is the process for prioritizing your for “new features”?

Requests for new features come from four different sources:

  • Our own vision about the product
  • Customer support, for improvements
  • Sales, for missing features
  • Competition

It is a constant battle to prioritize among those. There is no clear answer, so we use our intuition and dig into the data. The most useful advice I’ve heard about this is; “Do not listen to what your customers say/ See what they do”. Usage data can reveal a lot about what really matters to customers.”

What’s the hardest decision you’ve made so far?

“Four years ago, the software was lacking in features compared to the competition, but we decided not to focus on that. We kept the tool as simple as possible and put most of the R&D effort in building the technology that would let us realize our vision of automating recruiting processes. We lost some customers in the short run, but it eventually paid off by giving us a technological edge. We are now very close to that vision and our customers appreciate that because they already see glimpses of it in the product. Still, it took a lot of nerve to stick to that decision and see good customers walk away because of some missing features.”

What’s the most important thing you are working on at this time?   How are you making it happen?

We are completing the vision that I described above: to fully automate the initial steps of the recruiting process and deliver a vetted shortlist of candidates to the hiring manager. At later stages of recruiting, human interaction and human decisions cannot be replaced by machines, at least not in the foreseeable future. Still, machines can help people make educated decisions by gathering and processing all the necessary information.

Finally, what blogs or resources can you recommend for people who want to stay up-to-date on all the  HR-tech and startup news?

Resources.workable.com for HR and HR tech, of course. My favorite podcasts about technology are After On and a16z.

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