[Interview] How a Korean Startup Revolutionized Silicon Valley’s HR System

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If you are in the B2B sector, you may want to keep an eye on this startup.

This startup, purely for fun, participated in a hackathon where they were able to naturally network with corporate officials to introduce their service. Launched in January, the startup already has 15 customer corporations – all of which are unicorns such as Airbnb, Stripe, and Box.

Etch Mobile, developer of GoodTime, is the troubleshooter for Silicon Valley HR managers, who handle thousands of interviews every day, by organizing interview schedules.

* The following is an interview conducted by Platum with Ahryun Moon, CEO of Etch Mobile.

 

Please tell us about your startup and what you do.

I am Ahryun Moon of Etch Mobile, service provider of corporate interview schedule automation system GoodTime. In big companies in the US, there is a person in charge of scheduling each employment interviews. This work is manually maneuvered with multiple tools like Excel, calendar, and email displayed on the screen at the same time. GoodTime automates this process. We currently have 15 corporate clients using our system – Airbnb, Stripe, and Yelp, to name a few.

Your service maximized efficiency in interview scheduling by combining intelligence with calendar.

The assumption we formulated at the time of development stage was “scheduling through calendar is foolish.” All it did was adding information and nothing more. Typical calendars do not contain an individual’s information, thus creating additional work for HR to schedule interviews. By combining the individual’s information and calendar to allow systematic management of the schedule, we were able to facilitate a smarter employment process.

Typically, an HR manager of a US corporation interviews seven to eight candidates per day, who are all screened to meet the needs of each department. The HR managers sort out the interviewees based on their own standards and then go over the scheduling process. It can take up to a couple of hours to create a single schedule. GoodTime collects and distributes interview candidates who meet the company’s requirements. Then we combine the selected interviewees’ information and the schedule. We let the interviewer and the interviewees select the best time for the interview. This entire process is automated.

It seems more suitable for big companies.

Correct. In fact, we only introduce our service to companies with more than 500 employees. The system is designed for big companies. We also plan to develop a system for smaller companies in the future.

It’s not a familiar service.

Actually, there are people who don’t understand our service, even in the Silicon Valley. Yet participants in the employment process including HR managers thank us. Although our service may be niched, we are certain about the strong need for our service.

What makes you confident about the marketability?

The US has a very big labor market – about $2.5 billion (₩2.821 trillion). Although we are currently targeting the labor market, I believe we can expand to other sectors. With some modifications, we can apply our service to connecting to customers through sales scheduling.

What about the marketability in Korea?

To my knowledge, Korea is more centered around open employment. Modifying the current system to reflect the Korean market situation would make it possible. However, targeting a market requires a deep understanding of the market. We believe understanding and localization as a must for market expansion. We are currently in the process of expansion to Europe.

I heard you had zero HR experience prior to developing this service. How was it to develop a professional product being a non-professional in that field?

I used to be a financial analyst. After working for some time in the finance industry, I became dubious of my job because it was different from what I had imagined. While contemplating about my career goals, I started learning Python as part of self-development. Based on what I learned, I developed an automation software for work and was able to save significant time with it. The company adopted my software and employed it for internal use. This was my turning point.

Later on, I wanted to do something by myself, so I quit my job and moved from Austin to San Francisco. I buried myself in coding for the next three years. I even coded in my dream. During that time, I participated in three hackathons with my co-founder and husband and won all three. Together we could do anything.

As I did in my previous workplace, I was mostly concerned about productivity and efficiency. For the same reason I was developing apps. And then in a hackathon I got to know a corporate HR manager. He said he spent more than 50% of his time and energy in scheduling. I could relate to his concerns. GoodTime is a product of that experience.

Incidentally, I had no understanding whatsoever regarding employment at the time of planning GoodTime. So I worked as an unpaid intern at a corporation and learned how the HR system works.

It is not easy for a lesser-known third-party provider to be used at a big-size company.

The first company to implement our service was Yelp. I met the person in charge at a hackathon. I said I’ll provide our service for free for Yelp to use and shared it with their HR team. It got great reviews. That was the beginning of our business, and we eventually got connected to Airbnb and Stripe.

A B2B service requires a long time for marketing and implementation. There are many employees who will be using the system, and all of them need training. We have our manager spend a week together with the client to provide careful feedback and guidance. If the company is satisfied with our service after a month of pilot period, we sign the contract.

This would not have happened without networking.

Networking is crucial at Silicon Valley. “Who do you know?” is a common phrase of socializing. Networking is especially important when you set your foot here, as we began our business through a person we met through networking. Marketing and sales are also done through connection in many cases, though now we’ve established our own sales registry and conduct business in a more conventional way.

Speaking of sales and marketing, tell us more about your approach.

In the field of B2B, offline approach is more effective than online approach. We send handwritten letters to companies to make our products stand out. They thought the idea was novel. We also invite them to a small but elegant banquet, which was also very well-received. As such, we maintain a close tie with our clients by forming a community, rather than a mere partnership. Most of our phone inquiries indicate they learned about us through reference by our existing clients.

Investment of ₩200 million ($178,000) last year, and ₩2 billion ($1.78 million) this year. How are they being used?

Mostly to expand market options, stabilize our services, and develop a service for smaller companies. The last one will take time. We are still verifying the system.

Are you also employing from Korea?

We are employing in different regions outside of Silicon Valley. Korea is our biggest interest. There are many quality engineers who also speak English in Korea. We’re looking for people to spend several months in Korea and join us in Silicon Valley eventually. We aim to innovate scheduling, and hope to meet someone who can share our dream.

Please tell us three things on your bucket list.

Developing our engineering team by hiring the right people. Together, we will be able to reach ₩1.5 billion (about $1.33 million) as soon as possible. Last but not least, we’re aiming to become a Fortune 500 company. Keep an eye on us.

Inspired by Platum

Image source: Platum

 

Max is an LL.M. Candidate at Georgetown University Law Center. He is interested in the social impacts made by startup companies, and longs to contribute to the betterment of emerging companies. Max can be reached at hankuhm.lee@techforkorea.com.

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