Startup Advice From Candidate Broker’s Co-Founder

Words to the wise from White Plains’ Scott Kera, who just sold his tech startup for an undisclosed number of millions.

Scott Kera, middle, is the founder of Candidate Broker, the “next iteration in hiring.”

It’s 2010 and Scott Kera is a molecular research associate at Regeneron Pharmaceuticals in Tarrytown. A position opens up on his transgenic research team, and the hiring motions begin. You know them well: The position description is finalized, HR liaises with an outside recruiting agency to solicit applicants, the recruiter nails down a few worthy candidates and sends them back to HR, who then sends them on to Kera’s manager. Manager prints stacks on stacks of candidates’ resumes and distributes them to each member of Kera’s team to review. Kera, puzzled by what seems like an antiquated and laborious hiring process (especially at the thought of printing stacks of resumes in this digital day and age), births the idea for Candidate Broker, an online, “start-to-finish” hiring tool designed to streamline the application and candidate-vetting process onto one user friendly website. Kera’s long-time friend, Alex Funaro, signs on as co-founder, and the pair ventures off into the treacherous but potentially fruitful abyss of tech startups.

How fruitful it would become. Kera, a 28-year-old White Plains resident and Hastings High School grad, bills Candidate Broker as the “next iteration in hiring” because it goes beyond the traditional submit-your-resume-and-cover-letter application process, allowing recruiters to use evaluation tools like video questionnaires and timed, written responses. DataViz, the Milford, Connecticut-based maker of Documents to Go, must be in agreement that Candidate Broker is the future of online hiring—the company acquired Candidate Broker in May for an undisclosed number of million. Yes, millions. (Kera is not at liberty to discuss the terms of the sale.)

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Here’s how Candidate Broker works: An employer or a recruiter pays to list a job opening on the site—from $25 for a single, one-month posting to $190 for 10 postings; anything above is “enterprise” and negotiated on a case-by-case basis. Then, the position is automatically syndicated to more than 50 job boards across the Internet. Applicants create an account or “profile” and complete the application, which, as mentioned, can include any number of digital evaluation tools. Candidate Broker then allows its users to mange the selection process: Instead of passing resumes back and forth via email or paper, every member of the hiring team can create a Candidate Broker profile to vet candidates virtually (and paperlessly, efficiently, etc.). For hiring managers, the process can remain as open or as closed as they like. “When candidates are coming in,” Kera says, “you have control over them unless you choose to share them with other team members.”

Building the site took almost three years. “I can’t tell you how many times we almost gave up,” Kera says. Jeffrey Woodrow, the third partner, joined in early 2013 and the website went live in June of that year. Needless to say, spending three years building the site, raising money, and courting clients was not easy. So here’s how he did it:

“If you’re going to [launch a website], you have to be extremely persistent,” Kera says. “It could take many years.” Indeed, it took Kera, Funaro, and Woodrow almost three, with multiple iterations of the site. Over the course of its lifetime, Candidate Broker was reinvented at least twice, evolving in concept and function (the website was redesigned from scratch more than once) as the trio became more familiar with the market they were serving. Recruiters, as opposed to corporations, became Candidate Broker’s primary market—they are hungrier for applicants because they usually work off commission.

But none of the reinventions would have been possible without a team that had the wherewithal to withstand them. “You need people who will be with you your entire journey, someone who won’t lose interest when after a few months you’re still losing money,” Kera says. And don’t limit yourself geographically, he advsies, especially if talent can be applied virtually, as is the case in building a website. “Make your team search international. When it comes to engineers and graphic designers, don’t be local—there is so much talent out there.”

You’ve probably heard this before, but Kera says he didn’t do it for the money. “You have to build your business because you think it’s really cool,” says Kera. “Don’t get me wrong, you’d eventually like to return money to investors and your team, but that will come in time. It’ll turn into a successful business if you’re fascinated by it. “

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Finally, your investors are everything. “Be careful about choosing your investors,” he warns. “Investors can make your life hell and ruin the product. Things take time. You need investors who understand that.” To illustrate just how important this point is, listen to this: DataViz was one of Candidate Broker’s largest investors—and look how that turned out.

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