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Finding Your Focus with Adam Gellert

Finding Your Focus with Adam Gellert

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It would be easy to dismiss a market dominated by industry giants like Monster, Indeed, and LinkedIn as oversaturated. But large marketplaces eventually reach an inflection point where, on their quest for scope, they start missing the details that some industries and users require for a positive experience— like human interaction. It’s here that the doors open for marketplaces to niche down and offer a curated, white-glove experience for a specific user. 

Enter Adam Gellert and his online recruiting marketplace, HiredHippo, now rebranded as Hipo.

Adam saw how online job marketplaces provided companies with large volumes of potential candidates, but there was no guarantee of quality, and companies would still have to do the heavy lifting of finding the perfect match. Through Hipo, he would give users a streamlined hiring experience via an exclusive, hands-on marketplace that connects coveted positions with the highest quality candidates. 

Hiring: How Hipo solves a common problem in a unique way

The problem Hipo solves is not unique, but the way Hipo solves it is. Adam’s marketplace competes with the most popular job marketplaces in online recruiting. Technically, Indeed and LinkedIn Jobs serve the same end as Hipo. They all connect hiring companies with a pool of candidates. However, Hipo differentiates itself by selling quality, not volume. 

“We want to be the opposite of the experience that both companies and candidates get on LinkedIn, Indeed, job boards, and even recruiting agencies where it's a volume game and where everyone can apply from around the world if you post a job.”

By maintaining a narrow scope, Hipo offers its participants something other marketplaces do not: guaranteed quality, a precise match, and an exclusive, premier experience.

“Our mission is to remove friction in hiring and do it at speed with quality. So, if I could get you a hire in 30 seconds, that's our goal.”

Three tactics Hipo used to successfully carve out its niche 

To fulfill its mission to guarantee quality and create an efficient hiring experience, Hipo does three things differently than other recruiting marketplaces:

1. Offering exclusivity

Hipo uses strict criteria for both the candidates and companies participating on its marketplace. It is so exclusive that it only accepts 10% of the applicants it gets through its product. A stringent selection process and a hyper-specific subset of talent and opportunities allow Hipo to uphold its promise to deliver high-quality jobs and candidates quickly.

“We don’t want to be the right product for everyone,” Adam says. “We offered engineers on our product at one point. And although we were successful, we had to remove that [subset]. We also focus on SMBs and startups. Although I would love to work with a bigger company, as I care about their success as well, we say ‘no’ to them, just like we tell candidates ‘no.’ I think everyone on the product really appreciates that.”

Hipo’s exclusivity also builds trust with its users because they know they’re only getting connected with the highest-quality job seekers and positions.

2. Ongoing quality control

Unlike LinkedIn and Indeed, Hipo’s candidates are invite-only. Most are referred by founders, HR heads, and high-performing teams, and they undergo extensive ongoing vetting and verification.

“[Candidates] might be with one company, show up, never ghost them, and be great. But then they might show up with another company and treat them very poorly. And vice versa. We have unique insights 24-7 on how candidates show up.”

To participate on Hipo, candidates must continually prove themselves to be quality, trustworthy hires. If they don’t, they’re out.

3. Maintaining a human element

Being an exclusive, highly curated marketplace means Hipo takes a hands-on, white-glove approach to recruitment. Hipo’s team meets with every candidate and employer. Extending its service outside its ecommerce site helps Hipo stand out from other job marketplaces, which rely on algorithms to sort candidates and jobs. 

“We've actually combined a lot of human into our marketplace, which might not get us the amount of speed and scale that's possible, but it really contributes to what we care about most, which is quality.”

How Hipo's focus fuels growth

While being a niche marketplace is intrinsic to Hipo’s value proposition, Adam has had moments when deviating from the course was tempting. 

“The problem that we typically have is there are a lot of these shiny objects that we like to chase. I think the hardest part is niching down and saying no. It's a big struggle because I'd like to follow some paths where people ask me, “Hey, can you help out with this?” But we have to say no.”

Adam has good reason for keeping his single-minded focus: Saying no to some requests means saying yes to his existing customers — and saying yes to growth.

“My agency runs on one KPI, which is repeat business. Like we're going to just care more than anyone else. It's not about this first hire. It's about the second one. The second one is about the third one, right? We try to keep lasting relationships with clients I've had for 15 years.”

Hipo has tapped into a bottomless well of marketplace demand within its niche by striking a balance between carving out a focus and monetizing within it. Adam also believes that being ruthlessly focused has protected Hipo. While other companies grow fast and fail because they didn’t complete their first mission, Hipo’s ability to stay its course has allowed it to lead its corner of the market. 

Advice to other marketplace operators: Think about failure

Adam believes that to succeed, marketplace operators should think about failure daily. 

“I think everyone kind of sugarcoats things and says, ‘Hey, be positive, think about success, but thinking about the failures and where you can actually lose is the most important thing.”

He encourages entrepreneurs to use failure to create their luck. Identifying and embracing failures helps you to stay on your toes and keep an agile business mentality. 

“I saw this thing on Mark Cuban where he said the business plan is something you write down, but it's never the same. You're not going to use it. So don't think about the business plan. You need to keep moving forward.”

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Niklas: Can you explain a little bit to the audience for why? You care so much about niching down and focusing down?

Adam: I care because it's the one thing that I think is critical to being successful. The problem that we typically have is there are a lot of these shiny objects that we'd like to chase and we like to, you know, feel good about people saying yes, and we hate saying no.

It's just like, you know, it's in our kind of, DNA. And so I think the hardest part is niching down and saying, no, we need to love the customers that we have and we need to listen to their needs and we can't service everyone. It just becomes a lot more difficult. Although we want to deliver speed, value and quality to our customers, we need to make sure that we're slow.

We understand the market. We understand where the, the, the certain triggers are, you know, from a marketplace and niche perspective, I think that's. The most important thing.

Niklas: Welcome to Operation Marketplace, a series [00:01:00] where we talk to the people behind marketplaces. We dive into their mission, how they found success, and talk about the hurdles that they faced along the way.

I'm your host, Niklas Hallusa, co founder and CEO of Nautical Commerce.

Hello and welcome to Operation Marketplace. Today I'm here with Adam Gellert, founder of Hired Hippo, which is a recruiting marketplace. Adam, tell us a little bit about yourself and, uh, and the story of Hired Hippo.

Adam: Yeah. Thanks a lot, Nicholas, for having me. Uh, yeah. So I've been in the recruiting space for the last two decades. Um, and I run a. Recruitment tech marketplace, uh, uh, basically a tech forward agency, uh, called hired hippo. We're actually just in the process of, of rebranding. We could talk about that in a short bit and why, uh, but essentially it comes from the word hypo, which is high potential. Um, and we focus on alignment, which is like the most important part [00:02:00] within recruiting.

We figure out what are the skills, experience, and interests of key, high potential top performers, and we match them up with, with companies. Um, similar, the easiest way to explain it is like a dating app. We just totally understand who, uh, are the, the right candidates and, and talent available for companies.

Niklas: You actually run two companies at the same time, if I understand that right. You're a recruiting veteran from Linkus as well as Hired Hippo. Maybe can you share a little bit more about this vetting, this matching problem, what you saw in your previous lives and what makes it hard to hire?

Adam: Yeah, absolutely.

I think that's where I'm uniquely positioned to Um, scale and run and, and, you know, put this company out here because, you know, I, I, I'm obsessed with recruiting. I'm obsessed with, uh, the, the problems and the issues that we need to address, uh, to really make a very difficult process. It's much, much [00:03:00] easier for both candidates and companies.

It's this fine balance. It takes two to tango. And a lot of the problem is that people tend to overcomplicate hiring. They tend to overcomplicate themselves as a, as a, as a candidate. So that's why it's just such a unique sort of marketplace, especially for this, this, this pod that we're on, right. And talking about.

Um, that, that both sides have to have to come together at the exact same time. And it has to be, you know, driven by key indicators, um, not just serendipity. 

So I started off my career in recruiting. I started off actually recruiting for professional engineers, uh, within the automotive and oil and gas sectors.

I was, you know, closely paying attention to how recruiters operated, um, in that space and in general. And it was honestly a lot of, uh, just kind of driving against the wall, kind of, you know, [00:04:00] going to a client, kind of throwing spaghetti at the wall and not really concentrating on what's tomorrow going to look like.

Um, you know, is this candidate going to be there for the next 10 years? Is this company going to get, you know, massive amount of value from this? This particular candidate that they're hiring and will that candidate double and triple and quadruple their value by bringing in more great people, great people attract great people.

And so, um, you know, I really wanted to start, uh, an agency on my own. Um, you know, for that reason, uh, just kind of do things differently. A lot of my friends were starting businesses at that time and, uh, you know, they kind of asked me for help. It just made sense. Uh, as we kind of, you know, kept building that company up called Linkus group, where we focused primarily on startups and SMBs.

Uh, they go from one to 100 people, help them get from kind of bootstrap to exit. Uh, what we found is that we kind of maxed ourselves out from the human capacity point of view. So there's only so [00:05:00] much that a recruiter can do. Uh, they have to sleep. They have to, you know, this is for all the talk of, of AI and obviously technology and why you build it comes into play.

Uh, and so I tried to look at other solutions for ourselves to make us more efficient and I couldn't find anything, um, that really made sense. Um, and so what I wanted to do was create our own product and that's how higher to go was, was born, uh, that, you know, we wanted to make sure that we created a marketplace of just the high quality talent, just the high quality companies.

And so they would like a great private dinner. They'd be able to come together. Um, and, and just move very quickly, have a lot of quality and a lot of speed. That's what. You know, hiring is essentially about.

Niklas: So I'm pretty militant about the only thing that matters for companies as people. So, um, this, this, this speaks quite a lot to, to, to what I worry about from a [00:06:00] day to day basis, but the matching quality.

You know, to quality question feels like it's the hard problem here from a marketplace perspective, right? Which is how do you keep, first of all, how do you keep that bar up? How do you make sure that your supply keeps matching that quality bar, right? Knowing that you have to turn probably a lot of people away or, you know, give them maybe You know, have them maybe not be, be, be, be as successful with what they're trying to sell themselves for as, as, as they might, might, might think they deserve.

Um, and, uh, and how do you stand out on the, on, on, on the flip side, uh, uh, to any, to any of your, or your customers to prove that you actually have this quality supply?

Adam: Yeah, it's a great question. I mean, uh, you know, companies. Like I mentioned, they, uh, and founders like yourself, they, they care about [00:07:00] quality and speed, but quality means something different to you than it does to someone else.

And even the quality of the company needs something different to one candidate versus the other, right? So there's no kind of lid for every pot. It's, it's, you know, up to interpretation, which makes it very, very difficult. Um, you can even see that in some of the very technical roles that you recruit for.

As an example. So if you're recruiting for a very technical role, you can see that all on their profile. They've done this. You can test them on those things. But when you kind of move over to what we call soft skills, which, you know, those aren't really soft skills. They're very important skills, uh, that that people should have, you know, it tends to be a matter of, What do you think?

Right? And who is the person that is verifying this quality in terms of being able to maximize that quality? So you make a lot of good points. It's been one of the major challenges in terms of creating our [00:08:00] product. But I think from a marketplace point of view, you have to kind of like own one. Uh, you know, kind of stick to stand on.

Right. Um, and put a line in the sand. And so for our niche, it's, it's that we want to be the opposite of the experience that both companies and candidates get on LinkedIn and indeed and job boards. And even recruiting agencies where it's a volume game, right? It's, um, you know, everyone can apply from around the world if you post a job.

And so for us, quality means that, uh, we have a very closed network that you have to, um, continually. prove that your quality, right? So, uh, a lot of the, the things that, that come into play in terms of our, our quality and vetting for that is how the candidate essentially shows up throughout the process over and over again.

So they might be with one company, [00:09:00] show up, never ghost them, be great, but then they might show up with another company and, you know, treat them very poorly, right? And vice versa. And so we have unique insights 24 seven on how candidates show up. Um, we also get most of our candidates through word of mouth.

And we get them mostly through referrals from other founders, other heads of HR, um, other individuals that, you know, have high performing teams. And so, just the quality of candidates that come through our product are already a lot more verified and vetted from a quality standpoint. Uh, we only accept 10 percent of the, the applications that we do get, um, on our product, which really.

Sets apart the experience. And so you, you kind of mentioned like, how do you know the quality? And, uh, you know, it's difficult to tell. Well, here, here's the thing that's, that's kind of unique is that nobody really knows the quality until they start using the product. And that's been one [00:10:00] of the hard things with our marketplace is that, you know, getting someone to try something different than they're used to.

Now they try something different and they see, they can compare the between what they're getting on LinkedIn. And hired hippo. And then they can truly see, and then they hire the person, they see how aligned they are, how, how long that they stay, you know, the impact that they make in the organization. Uh, and then the quality really comes through.

Niklas: Speaking of people trying something new and the proof being in the pudding is you commit to some pretty daring success metrics on your website about the speed at which you can find a, a product. I don't remember if it's a first candidate or hire in a week, you know, that you can cut down the hiring process from several months to maybe several weeks for a lot of roles.

What is the big lever there? Is it the, the fact that you have, you know, a ready to go warmed up supply of people who are strong or is the, is the [00:11:00] bigger input there? The, the fact that you, you are so good at matching now.

Adam: Yeah, it's, it's both of those things. Uh, we are really, really good at matching because Not only have we done decades worth of research on, you know, what, uh, how do you, how do you align interests, skills, and experience of a candidate with skills, interests, experience of the company.

Um, and so how we weight those, you know, wants and needs. to form a great match, uh, really, you know, and in some ways sets us apart for like, you know, to win, right. Uh, our mission is to remove friction and hiring and to do it at speed with quality. So if I could get you a hire in 30 seconds, that's sort of our goal.

Right. Um, I kind of think about it like Jeff Bezos wants to get things to you really, really fast and keep doing that. Yeah. Yeah, we're doing it in a week now. Can we do it in, you know, six days tomorrow? You know, I really think that and just keep going down. [00:12:00] And I think it's just continuing to refine that process of the matching and the quality of funnel or candidates that we have in our marketplace and how we Uh, you know, peak their interest because we tend to have hidden jobs, great jobs, jobs that, you know, aren't necessarily available. So they pay attention. Uh, so those are just some of the ways. 

Niklas: Yeah. Was the AI part of it always part of the strategy? Because I realize you're a little earlier than the, the beginning of the great AI boom of the 2020s. You started a little bit earlier. Um, was that always part of the strategy or something that was really accelerated by By let's call it outside factors.

Adam: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, uh, we, we kind of started it as an AI tool. I mean, the original sort of like concept, um, before even got involved was that it would, it was, you know, primarily a little bit of a chatbot where candidates would kind of, uh, [00:13:00] say what kind of jobs they're looking for, what experience that they have, and it would spit them back jobs.

Right. And we kind of evolved from there. Um, we call it kind of smart matching right now because, you know, Uh, we find that with AI, um, it's going to slow you down unless you have millions and millions of data, uh, points. And, um, we found that the speed and the speed at which we could iterate, um, made much more sense to just focus on, uh, product and kind of the, the smart matching and the ability to, uh, qualify candidates.

And here's a really important part, Nicholas, that I think, Um, you know, a lot of people are unaware of that. I, I really feel that, um, within hiring because it's so personal, you can't just kind of keep applying tech to the whole thing, right? Um, you know, in fact, a huge part of great hiring is gut feeling.

And so, um, and, you know, a lot of founders do, and, and hiring managers make other decisions based on gut, right? And so you can't have the whole process, right? [00:14:00] Um, driven by AI. So we're, we're very much a recruiting tech forward company. Um, but we do meet with every candidate. Uh, we have conversations with every candidate.

We talk to our employers. Uh, on our platform directly. Um, and I feel like that also uniquely sets us up to build a very high quality marketplace. Um, because we don't, uh, necessarily just say, Hey, you go off and figure it out on your own. Um, like you're doing on other products like LinkedIn and Indeed.

We've actually combined a lot of human, um, to our marketplace, which might not get us, uh, the amount of speed and scale that's possible, but it really contributes to what we care about most, which is quality.

Niklas: Which speaks to a little bit of what you said earlier around the fact that the one. bottleneck at Linkus was just the amount of heads recruited per recruiter, right?

Or the amount of effectively, yeah, heads per recruiter, I assume is, is, [00:15:00] is maybe the, the, the, not the right way of saying it, but the concept. Um, and, uh, and so right now, the way you think about it is really just a way of augmenting a recruiter. Is that the right way of thinking about it? Is that this is sort of tech enabled, high quality headhunting that looks and feels like a marketplace and has some of the same properties, but.

But isn't totally trying to just be a tech platform.

Adam: Absolutely. Yeah. It's making a great recruiting engine, you know, even better by using technology that will replace a lot of the. Mundane task that actually tech can do a lot better. I mean, I have to go to sleep, unfortunately, right? And, and, uh, you know, so do my recruiters.

And so if, uh, you know, our product can take a. Uh, job. Um, right. That, [00:16:00] that, uh, the company actually puts in themselves. We don't scrape any data. So, um, they, they, they, you know, put it in to align themselves to the right candidates and the candidates also do that so that it's real in time. Live data, uh, that is, that is kind of like a truth, right?

So, so it can send that off to candidates in the middle of the night and the morning, because everyone has a different schedule. People are at different time zones, right? So those that's just one of kind of like the, the, the, the speed, right. In terms of the ability to be able to, to move forward.

Niklas: That makes sense. And then on the candidate side, And I realized that actually a lot of the way that you are positioning your, your storytelling on your website, for example, is very much on the hiring side. And I get that, right? Because demand is a weird place where demand maybe trumps supply to an extent. And part because you can bootstrap it as well through, through [00:17:00] Linkus, right?

You could, you could do a little bit of that ahead of time and you have a captured pool of candidates. You know, what are the dynamics of the candidates? Are you typically the main place, for example, that they look for, for jobs in? You know, what part, how much are you involved in the candidates process?

Adam: Yeah, it's a good question. I mean, The unique thing is candidates have options, right? We, we, we do have a bit of a cult following, um, in terms of, uh, candidates loving the product that we have. Um, they've been hired multiple times, um, through Hired Hippo because either that, that company's closed or, uh, that company just, you know, You know, uh, needed to have layoffs, right?

But we are in this kind of unique situation where we do, uh, speak to our, our, our talent, our talent pool, right? It's not just the technology. It's a combination of both. And so for us, um, you know, just understanding where [00:18:00] candidates are at any given point, what their salary expectations are, if they want it in office or remote or what their, you know, interests are, uh, we, we know in real time.

Niklas: And how much pushback do you get on the candidate side from not, let's say, accepting them into your program, you know, the 90 percent that you don't take? Because it's very personal, right? To be told that maybe you're not good enough to be part of this pool. It was very personal to say, hey, you're not, you know, you're not doing this right.

Uh, you're not acting properly. You know, how do you manage that personal relationship with that, that sort of very, very, you know, You know, ego hurting risk of your candidates.

Adam: Yeah, it's a great question. I mean, that was definitely a tough decision for us. We, you know, we would love to be able to help everyone, right?

You know, we're solving a really big problem. Everyone either wants to get hired or hire at some point in their career. Uh, we would obviously love to be able to help everyone, but we can't. And I think, you know, the [00:19:00] tough part about being a founder and running a business and, um, just kind of building something is you kind of have to decide.

Right. For us, it's, we don't want to be a product for everyone. Um, because there are options for that already. Right. Um, there are those other products out there, uh, that, um, that, that are, that are available. Okay. Um, so for us to deliver at speed and high quality, we have to kind of, you know, make sure that we are focused on a subset group of talent.

And we even from niching down point of view, I mean, we've continued to niche down our product. We offered engineers on our product at one point. And although we were successful, um, you know, in, in several cases, uh, we just felt like our product had to be niched out and we had to kind of remove that. So even, you know, just based on the type of role or company, um, we say no to the other thing I [00:20:00] should mention is that we also focus on SMBs and startups.

So although I would love to work with a bigger company, Um, and I care about their success as well. Uh, you know, we say no to them. So if you're a company that's over 500 people, you're not a fit for us. Um, just like we tell candidates and I think everyone, um, you know, on the, on the product kind of, you know, really appreciates that.

And I think the candidates that. And the companies that aren't accepted, I mean, there will be a time, but let us figure this out.

Niklas: Now you're saying a couple of things that are music to my ears. First one is, is, is niching down, focusing down. And the second one is being careful, if I read between the lines about not growing too fast or knowing that you're, you're, you're strong where you are at first.

Now, not everybody may take that as a given. That that's something you should do. People talk about time and growth rates and trying to become as big as possible, as quickly as possible, especially in the venture backed world. Can you explain a little bit to the audience for why you care so much [00:21:00] about niching down and focusing down?

Adam: I care because it's, it's the one thing that I think is critical to being successful. Uh, I think that. The problem that we typically have is there are a lot of these shiny objects that we like to chase, uh, and we like to, uh, you know, feel good about people saying yes. And we hate saying no, it's just like, you know, it's in our kind of DNA and, and, and nature.

And so I think the hardest part is niching down and saying no. And I think it's a very big struggle because I'd like to kind of, Follow some paths where people ask me, Hey, can you help out with this? Can you help out with this? I'm struggling with this. And, uh, we would love to do it, but we have to say no.

And the reason we have to say no is because we need to love the customers that we have, and we need to listen [00:22:00] to their needs and we can't service. Everyone, it just becomes a lot more difficult and, uh, from a speed perspective, um, although we want to deliver speed, value, and quality to our customers, we need to make sure that we're slow.

We understand the market. We understand where the, the, the certain triggers are. And so from, from, uh, from a niche perspective, uh, it's, it, you know, from a marketplace and niche perspective, I think that's the most important thing, um, that I found and, and what I kind of. Basically tell other people

the flip side of the niche is you know, you say no you you you manage your growth, right?

Niklas: You're very you're very intentional about when you expand. How do you know or how have you know in the past? How will you know? When you're ready to start to, let's say, expand to another category of hiring, or [00:23:00] expand to another jurisdiction, or, or something like this, what are you looking for to know that you're ready?

Adam: Mm hmm. It's a good question. You know, I've kind of thought about it that It's when the market demand is so large, uh, that there's just so many people contacting us at once that they want to, they, they, they need this and we've kind of completely satisfied, uh, the current market that we're in in terms of, it is really sort of humming and moving along that even if we were to take one foot off.

the gas or, you know, move one step to the right, then it would still run very smoothly. Right? I feel like if you, uh, you don't want to ruin a good thing. And so if you can think about yourself stepping out of that sort of, you know, sphere, and it's still doing really well, then I think that that is a good time to potentially [00:24:00] And I think that what I've seen in terms of other companies that have grown really fast and failed, I think that's what I hear and, uh, a lot of, you know, our circles that, um, they didn't complete the task before moving on.

Um, they kind of. Went too fast or had some, you know, unclear expectation. I know you think, you know, Starbucks like went into China and they didn't realize something about the benefits. And then, you know, there's just a lot of work and they had to, you know, pull out really fast, like just kind of those kinds of things, you know, are a bit of the, you know, some of the indicators, so that, that's kind of how I think about it.

Niklas: That makes sense. And it's certainly something that I've seen the same of, right. And one of the biggest failures, for example, in the last. Not the last couple of years, but maybe the 10 years before that was the failure to take seriously uni economics or operating [00:25:00] leverage before trying to go and scale and saying, ah, we'll deal with that problem once we've kind of kicked it, kick the can down the road, we'll deal with it later.

We'll raise our series F series G series H or whatever, you know, the alphabet nowadays, before we deal with that problem. And what you become is fragile, right? You, you, you, you end up having the problem that any strong wind can come blow you over because you have nothing to fall back on. No, no, you know, solid, clear, successful growing business.

Um, uh, that you can fall back on in the harder times or, or, or make profitable, whatever else. Now, from my understanding. Switching tacks a little bit by. Your background is not technical, is that right?

Adam: Yeah, my background is not technical, although I love the technical aspect of it, because I'm just curious. But, uh, no, that is correct.

Niklas: So, so, so how did you as a non technical founder, figure out how to solve this AI problem, [00:26:00] solve this tech marketplace problem, um, and become in effect, also the founder of a very technical business.

Adam: Yeah, that's a good question. I would say that I just, uh, had pure determination and perseverance and I just asked a lot of questions and kind of figured it out. And you know, it also comes down to team. I mean, originally, uh, the, the, the individual that we had in the, in the company, um, they were data scientists that was kind of building the AI from scratch. And when we realized that we kind of didn't need that to move forward. Um, because what we're doing isn't, you know, I would say overly complicated.

It just requires a lot of slow, small iterations, uh, to, to continue to finesse, um, that quality and speed. And so, yeah, we just kind of, you know, moved in [00:27:00] another direction and just being able to kind of see potential in people, hire the right people. And, you know, back to your point, it's all about the people, right?

Like. Uh, there is something about team and having the right people in play for your particular business at that particular time is, is, is very important.

Niklas: So here's a question. If it go, comes down to people and you're a recruiting expert and a matching expert, what do you, what do you look for?

Adam: Three things. Typically it is, uh, trust, attitude, and passion. I don't think you can go to war with someone. I don't think you'd get a relationship with anyone, period. I can't get into a relationship with my customers or anyone. They can't get in a relationship with me. It's trust on the table. So same thing for my employees.

Um, and you know, I actually don't consider them employees or me, their boss. Uh, I tell them I don't like when they call me their boss. I just [00:28:00] like, uh, us talking about being equal, um, because we're. Equally on this mission, um, to, to, to change the world of recruiting. And, um, so that's where the passion comes in.

I mean, uh, if, if you don't, if you don't have this innate passion and drive to make these changes, um, especially in a startup and especially the rollercoaster of recruiting and. The, the customers that we have also change all the time, you know, uh, their needs change, uh, rapidly. And so if you don't have that, uh, you know, passion for the industry, then you'll kind of falter.

And then attitude, uh, you know, to me is just table stakes. It is, um, something that you kind of just naturally have and you kind of got to bring to the table.

Niklas: And how much of that, of those characteristics, attitude, trust, passion, you know, are you [00:29:00] able then to track over the lifetime of a candidate? For example, are you particularly, are you, you know, do you learn anything from a post hiring process? How involved are you there?

Adam: Yeah. So we are very involved. It's a recruiting is quite interesting because once we kind of make the introduction and the, and, and, you know, that person starts, we have little, if any control over what happens next. Uh, but obviously our product. is the success of that candidate, right?

So, uh, as an example, uh, one of my clients, I sent them a candidate at 10 o'clock at night. Um, we had been searching on the roll for several weeks. They like needed this person really badly. And that person ended up starting 70, 000 salary and ending up at 400, 000 with an exit. So, you know, [00:30:00] Uh, and then they, they went on to build another business together.

So it's just like those type of stories and people that is our goal and our end goal with our customers. We want you to delete us like hinge, right? We, we don't want you to have to use this again and, and, and, and make sure. Yeah, my agency runs on, on, you know, one KPI, which is repeat business. Like we're going to just care more than anyone else.

It's not about this first hire. It's about the second one. The second one is about the third one, right? Uh, before that even becomes, uh, an open job. And so I think if you come with that attitude, um, you're just going to, to, to, to make sure. So to answer your question directly, I mean. We, you know, try to keep lasting relationships with my clients, uh, that I've had for 15 years.

And I just basically have questions, conversations with them. How's this person working out? And if they didn't work out, what happened? What were the factors? What came up in the interview process? How can we change that next time? What should you be looking for? You know, why didn't this come up in a reference?

Why [00:31:00] wasn't that question asked? So I think that there's a lot of things you could do. I think people overcomplicate again, the process of hiring. Uh, and I think that if you simplify it a little bit more by looking for the problems and finding solutions. then you can actually make really good matches that, that, that last a long time.

Niklas: Now on a, on a different direction again, um, in the next five years, given that you're sort of earlier stage today, what do you see the biggest change being for, for Hired Hippo?

Adam: So we're, we're kind of on this, this rebrand. Um, I mean, that, that's going to be a big change. Uh, we're moving from Hired Hippo to Hipo, which is, high potential.

Um, and the reason is because we want to showcase our premium offering that this is more of a high potential pre vetted exclusive marketplace. Um, and so that's going to be important, but other than that, [00:32:00] and, uh, we haven't rebranded yet. So by the time this, this, this podcast is out, uh, we'll, we'll, we'll rebrand it.

Uh, I hope anyways. And, um, from, from our perspective, I mean, really just driving towards our, our, our mission to create a frictionless hiring process, um, for both candidates and companies. I think it requires a unique amount of balance. And it's, it's funny because the biggest thing that I've learned building this marketplace in this business is that what candidates and companies want are typically polar opposites.

And you have to kind of bring these two people together, right? Like, an employer is going to say, Hey, you know, I want this person working 24 7. I, uh, you know, potentially don't want to pay them a lot of money so that, that we can survive and operate. Um, and the candidate obviously wants the opposite of that.

They want to make a million dollars. They want the opposite, right? And so you got to bring people together realistically. Um, and, and what works for, [00:33:00] for both business and candidate, and that's sort of the alignment and longevity of it. So to me, the future is, uh, hiring needs more alignment. It needs to, you know, swiftly understand, uh, who the, the, the, the, who, who is the best person to change my business?

I don't believe that recruiting will actually be a thing. I don't think that we need to source and recruit and vet, and I think that, uh, that is just, that is part of the process that I think technology can get rid of, and just quickly matching so that you interview high quality talent. Is where I see, uh, the future, especially us delivering, um, I see a resume less worlds.

I don't, you know, I don't think that resumes are, uh, a good way to assess a candidate's [00:34:00] potential and, uh, great, great talent don't typically have time to put together a resume. So those are a couple of things that I see hopefully going away in five years. It just depends on if, if other people are ready to play in that sandbox.

Niklas: Makes sense. And, and naturally, we think about a lot of this from a software perspective. Um, What did you have to, how much did you build to be able to get to, you know, the, the hired hippo you have today? Um, uh, did you manage to figure out, you know, how to do this off the shelf or, or, or, or did you have to build all that technology?

Adam: Oh, we, we built and rebuilt and built again. Uh, I think, so for us, we definitely made a lot of mistakes. Uh, we, we thought we were building certain things and then. Got stuck. We really want it to move too far into the future. I think the, like the, the problem that we made and [00:35:00] that I find that a lot of other companies make is think too far in the future where we just needed to think kind of 1 percent better than what was available.

And so we, we didn't even allow candidates to upload a resume at one point. And we got so much pushback from. Both employers and candidates. And we were like, no, no, no, no. We, we, we, we know that this is the future. This is what you're going to be doing in five years. Right. So, um, I think, you know, those kinds of things, uh, we had, we should, we had kind of listened to earlier.

Um, and then for building what I found from marketplaces, like. Just juggling the, you know, like I said, the polar opposites, the needs and wants of, of employers and, and candidates, right. Candidates wanted to be able to just basically press a button and, and, and get an interview, poof, right. And employers want candidates to go through this long application process and figure out and make sure that they've kind of dotted their eyes and crossed their T's.

So just trying to maneuver those [00:36:00] sides. I think we've made a lot of mistakes and there was a lot of, Building and rebuilding and also service. Uh, there was a lot of companies that came before us that have had tried this and kind of failed in a way. So just to make sure that we were rowing in the right direction, uh, we kind of had to step back.

And I think why we're in such a really good position right now is because we have kind of simplified things and removed code and removed features. And when someone approaches us and says, Hey, can you build this for me? Or, uh, we would love if you could help us with references and, and those kinds of checks, can you build it into your product?

We say, no, right. We're just focused on the, the, the matching side.

Niklas: I take great pride in and somewhat pleasure in removing features. I think it's the, it's the skillset that is one of the hardest, one of the toughest for, [00:37:00] for keeping customers happy. But one of the most important things to be able to do, if you want to make sure, especially as a smaller company, that you, that you do the core stuff that you have to do well, well, because you can't do everything and you can't, you can't be something for everybody.

Um, speaking of being something, what do you think of yourself as nowadays? It's something I ask everybody. Do you think of yourself as a, as a recruiting company or as a technology company, or as a marketplace, as an AI company? You know, what's your DNA?

Adam: Oh, I haven't been asked this before. And I love the question.

Uh, and the reason is because we used to think of ourselves as a marketplace and a technology. And now we think of ourselves as a recruiting agency with that, that's tech forward. And, uh, the reason is that it's because that's where our customers have kind of driven us to, uh, to, to be, and that's what's made it most [00:38:00] successful.

Um, you know, at the end of the day, what we're building is, is, is very human. And so to completely be sort of a tech product hands off, uh, although it was a wish and eventually we will keep removing human elements of it. Um, I think that there is a very big component. So we decided to go to the other side, uh, to, uh, you know, consider ourselves very much a service business that can deliver faster and higher quality than anyone else because we have this technology.

It is. Uh, you know, enabler kind of like, you know, the service is getting you to the moon, right? But like the technology is, is, is obviously the rocket ship. That's kind of how we see it.

Niklas: Yeah. That makes sense. Now there's, there's a few things that I think a lot of people can learn from in our conversation today.

The, the, the, the, the focus you have on focusing, niching, cutting. Uh, I often see those as [00:39:00] also the signs of somebody who's been around the block a few times. seeing, you know, what's the term, you know, seeing the movie, read the book, uh, uh, of what it takes to build one of these things. Um, what else would you, would you give as advice to people who are, who are, who, you know, want to build.

a company, want to build a marketplace, um, uh, you know, want to see a little bit of the success that you've had.

Adam: Yeah. I would say, I mean, you know, uh, think, think about failure. I mean, I think everyone kind of sugarcoats things and say, Hey, like be positive, think about success, but you know, thinking about the failures and where you can actually lose.

is the most important thing. It's kind of like, you know, I really love and follow what Kobe really did. Um, you know, he showed up, he did a lot of work and I, that's table stakes with what you have to do with building a business. If you're not willing to put in the work and show up before other people, then, you know, it's, [00:40:00] you know, going to be more a matter of luck than anything.

Right. And so then, then, then creating your own luck. Um, but if you don't go and kind of review the tape and look at the falters and admit that you're wrong and be very humble, Hey, I originally thought that our product would be tacky and it would be focused and this is where we come from and now I think we, you know, it needs to be this and just kind of admitting, um, you know, maybe the way that you were thinking about things previously, um, might be different today.

I think that's really important. And I think it's true to companies that scale. Oftentimes you'll see that the talent on the team that has taken the company from zero to series A or B isn't the same talent that's going to take them from series. A to C and all the letters of the alphabet that you mentioned.

And so it's the same thing with like starting and building, right? Um, [00:41:00] kind of your expectations aren't what they used to be. I saw this thing on Mark Cuban where he said, you know, the business plan is something you kind of write down, but it's never the same. You're not going to use it, right? You need to keep moving forward.

Don't think about the business plan. And I, that really resonates with me personally.

Niklas: It's really nice hearing about you and hearing about Hired Hippo. Um, if some of the listeners want to reach out to you and want to, want to, to get in contact, maybe learn about Hired Hippo, maybe become a customer, a candidate, where do they find you?

Adam: Yeah, thanks so much. This is great. Um, chat with you as well. And, uh, I have a personal website. It's, uh, recruiteradam. com. Also, uh, you can find us at linkisgroup. com. Uh, we are currently in hirepippo. ai, but very shortly we will be hire. Hipo, H I P O H I R E H I P O dot com.

Niklas: Really appreciate you coming on, Adam.

Um, and best of [00:42:00] luck. Thank you very much. Appreciate it. Thanks for tuning in to operation marketplace. This show is brought to you by nautical commerce, the end to end marketplace platform. If you have any questions about optimizing or starting a marketplace, hit the link in the description. We hope you enjoyed the show.

See you next time.