Caitlyn Ngu speaks with confidence, citing facts, figures and anecdotes at a blistering pace.
Mind you, this is someone who has pitched in front of big-time investors on Dragons’ Den.
She’s also pursuing a path in the male-dominated tech world.
“Being a solo founder, being a woman, being a minority, without a technical background and trying to build a marketplace, it’s like you have to prove yourself that much more,” she says. “The truth is, most investment dollars go to men. It’s pretty well-documented.”
Caitlyn is the founder of HireUp, a web-based platform that aims to simplify and streamline the hiring process. HireUp, a Futurpreneur-supported business, has a centralized database of video resumes, and is set up with an algorithm that matches people and companies based on their shared values.
“Hiring hasn’t changed in a very long time, and I think if you’re not happy in your place of work, there should be a way to explore your options without having to call in sick, take vacation days, or sneak around,” she says. “It’s 2019. Everything else is quick and automated.”
Her idea started to germinate during a talk at MaRS in 2015. At the time, she says, she was unhappy at work. As she was listening to an inspiring business leader, she thought, “I wish she knew I was looking for something else. I wish I could just pitch her on hiring me.”
That’s when it clicked.
“HireUp is trying to provide people with the tools to leave a job if they’re not happy and for employers to find the best employees they can afford,” Caitlyn says.
Caitlyn says she spent a year doing research and talking to as many employers as she could, from solo founders to huge players like 1-800-GOT-JUNK.
She was also still working full time. “I was doing dev calls at 5 in the morning, then going to my 9 to 5, and going to networking events in the evenings,” she says.
Caitlyn made the decision to build a solid product first, from bootstrap funding, and then seek out investment dollars. She says she made the decision in large part because, as a woman, she needed to bring even more to the table.
“I didn’t feel comfortable just going in with a deck and asking people for money. I wanted to be able to present working software that showed how powerful this platform can be for both employers and job seekers,”she says. “The truth is, when I go to an event and introduce myself as a founder, people assume I’m a co-founder or an employee—they don’t believe it.”
Today, Caitlyn is in the process of onboarding more than 100 companies into HireUp’s database. Once that’s done, she plans to aggressively market the platform to job seekers. She’s also continuing to seek new investment partners.
Part of Caitlyn’s success comes from putting herself in a position to learn from others in her field. “Once I knew I wanted to start this company, I started taking jobs at successful tech companies. Sometimes I took a pay cut, but I looked at it more like a paid internship,” she says. “I got to see their technology, their processes, what they do well, what they do poorly. I learned from their mistakes,” she says.
Caitlyn also says she owes a lot of her success to simply being driven, a characteristic every aspiring entrepreneur needs.
“I talk to a lot of people who want to be entrepreneurs and I tell them to start by doing something simple for one hour a week, like writing a blog, to see if they can keep it up for six weeks straight. Most people can’t,” she says. “If you want to be successful, you have to have the discipline to put in the hours. You really have to want it.”
Find out more about HireUp on their website hire-up.io