Steve.sg, a Singapore-based artificial intelligence (AI) startup has launched a “hyper-personalized” jobs marketplace to solve global job woes, starting with Singapore.
The marketplace connects people to jobs through a personalised and inspiring way by leveraging machine learning and financial market dynamics.
The marketplace is designed as a jobs coach for job seekers and jobs assistant for businesses, tapping into today’s appetite for instantaneous personalised feedback.
I get to speak with Founder Ashwin Tiwari to learn more about Steve and how it all began.
1. Please share a bit about what you do.
As co-founder and CEO, I focus on people, strategy and execution. Getting others around me to be successful is crucial, challenging them to think and execute alongside me is what keeps us moving.
2. In one sentence, how would you describe what your product does?
Steve helps with jobs.
3. How does it work?
Steve listens to both job seekers and companies and efficiently connects them to one another.
4. What are the key benefits that your product bring to companies and candidates?
For businesses, it improves cost per hire and Time to hire metrics.
For candidates, Steve supports and coaches you to success – from application to interview.
5. Any existing local case study?
Ben & Jerry’s Dempsey was previously using social media and paid listings.
Apart from paying large sums for listings, it required about 2 hours of admin per interview, and it rarely produced results.
With Steve, their interview to offer rate now exceeds 75%, and their cost per hire is now totally aligned as a % of the role they hire for.
This is in addition to freeing up incredible amounts of time for managers to better serve their customers.
6. Who are your closest competitors?
Well, there is a wave of “blue collar” apps and then the dominant “PMET” incumbents.
Don’t think it is about being better or comparing, but we are more committed because we love our marketplace and want them to succeed.
There is a business opportunity but so was everything else I was doing before.
I’ve personally met all my clients and understand their business and challenges intimately.
I know the cost price of a cup of coffee, how much the cost of ingredients has gone up last 12 months, or the story behind most of their businesses. Not sure the others do.
Likewise chatting with hundreds if not thousands of job seekers as well, making them laugh or motivating them to perform well at the interview.
Steve does most of this now, but I switch off auto-pilot occasionally and get in the cockpit.
These are real people who need jobs to support families, put themselves thru schools and loans – not for a ski vacation or second Rolex =)
7. How has being in Asia/Singapore influence your product?
Language, behaviour, emotions are unique here, and our product is a reflection of that.
None of the off the shelf solutions can understand Singlish or broken Asian English =)
I personally speak multiple Asian languages so that helps of course.
Apart from being in Asia, and unlike most founders in SE Asia, I grew up without a silver spoon (rich daddy, powerful uncle to borrow a phrase from Jack Ma).
I know what the working class go through and am committed to have technology make their lives better in a way the top 20% have enjoyed.
8. How much does it cost?
Free for job seekers, its completely free.
For companies, it’s micro-fees and based on Steve actually performing. So no listing fees or listings expiring and all the headache that comes with that.
So no listing fees or listings expiring and all the headache that comes with that.
9. What’s your first pay check?
I was 11 years old in St Andrews Junior School and sold cassettes to my classmates which I had burned by borrowing CDs.
10. What were you doing before starting this business?
I supported the growth of LinkedIn Talent Solutions for the Asian offices of Fortune 500 companies, prior to that I was an energy derivatives broker at ICAP.
11. How did the idea for your business come about?
Listening to persistent client HR complaints and from my time on the trading floor at ICAP.
12. What sacrifices have you had to make to be an entrepreneur?
A life of great comfort and regret. Fair trade.
13. How did you get funded?
I hustled 23 ex-colleagues, ex-clients, friends and family into it.
14. How do you go about marketing your business?
Initially given my objective of getting people to love Steve, I simply walked directly into cafes, introduced myself and spoke to owners and got them to sign up.
15. Could you describe your first sale and how it came about?
One of our first revenues was earned when we got a Malaysian barista an interview with a popular cafe here.
She travelled from JB just for this interview – without physically speaking to anybody.
I realised I then had something special on my hands.
16. Describe/outline your typical work day?
I wake up to wish my wife good morning everyday.
We have a team “good morning” stand up at 1030am with folks in Asian hours.
And then I focus on whatever tasks I’ve set my 8 week focus to be.
If there’s recruitment coffee, it’s usually about 3pm.
Another quick stand up at 430pm with engineers. I leave large pockets of execution time to let myself go deep and execute well.
17. What has been your proudest moment in the history of your business?
There isn’t a proudest moment.
There was immense satisfaction from raising angel which lasted a few seconds and then a “lets get to work feeling”.
Generally speaking I’m proud everyday because I work with a great team of motivated folks from around the world, working hard to build stuff that actually solves problems.
Jobs give people meaning and purpose, its a core tenet of society and economies. To give that to somebody is priceless.
18. What was the lowest point for you in this business?
Generally I’m my harshest critic, if there was a low point it was self caused but there is also self-recovery.
19. What’s your revenue numbers over the past year?
In our first 100 days, customers have repeatedly transacted with no sign of slowing down, ticket size anywhere between $7 to $26.
What’s really important for us at this stage is that we are repeatedly solving problems and they are repeatedly finding it of value to pay Steve.
Whether its $1m or $100m at this point is really not important now because we will get there.
20. Who has influenced you most when it comes to how you approach your work?
Jack Ma and Vinod Khosla.
Great simplified thinkers who’s content and stories serve to inspire me into focus and trade offs.
With so much uncertainty and risks, it’s truly important to be focused on solving the right problems and focus on creating value. I think value once created can be captured.
I wish more of this approach finds its way into Singapore and SE Asia where this predictability of results seem to be important over value creation.
With all these models and projections, its a fine line from it being a thought exercise vs an anatomy measuring contest – I’m wondering why more in our part of the world don’t think more like Vinod Khosla – 30 hours spent building a model/matrix is 30 hours not spent building the business. Invest in people, the rest will take of itself because that’s ultimately the source of sustained results.
Invest in people, the rest will take of itself because that’s ultimately the source of sustained results.
21. If you could go back in time to speak to your 20-year-old self, what would you tell him?
I had an incredible life in the 20s despite my limited resources. Travelling, sports, entrepreneurship.
I would have told myself that going forward, to have more self-belief in what I think i deserve.
22. What’s a productivity tip you swear by?
23. Is there an app or tool you can’t live without?
24. What’s your business focus for this year?
Making sure Steve truly delights members of the marketplace.
Where can people find you online?