In this episode, Brian Ardinger, Inside Outside Innovation Founder, talks with Swetha PB, Head of Product at Brilliant Hire, an SAP startup. They discuss hiring screening, SAP support, innovation talent, and building a startup within a large company.
Interview Transcript with Swetha PB, Head of Product at Brilliant Hire, an SAP startup
Brian Ardinger: Inside Outside Innovation is the podcast that brings you the best and the brightest in the world of startups and innovation. I’m your host Brian Ardinger, founder of Insideoutside.IO, a provider of research, events, and consulting services, that help innovators and entrepreneurs build better products, launch new ideas, and compete in a world of change and disruption.
Each week we’ll give you a front row seat to the latest thinking pools, tactics, and trends in collaborative innovation. Let’s get started. Welcome to another episode of Inside Outside Innovation. I’m your host Brian Ardinger and we have another amazing guest. Live today from the Fall Experiment conference in Milwaukee, Wisconsin with us today is Swetha PB from Brilliant hire. Welcome to the show.
Swetha PB: Hi everyone.
SAP’s Brilliant Hire
Brian Ardinger: Swetha thanks for coming out. You are with a company called Brilliant Hire, Head of Product, and Brilliant Hire is a startup, but it’s an interesting startup because it’s spun out of SAP, which is a large corporation. So we want to talk a little bit about that particular process, but before we dig into that, let’s talk a little bit about how you got involved in innovation in the first place.
Swetha PB: Yeah, definitely. So since college days innovation or problem solving and trying to figure out creative ways of doing things with something that interested me a lot and being part of SAP, there are a lot of opportunities being hackathons or a lot of different ways that we could explore that part of us. And I think that was what brought us together even to start this brilliant hire and what it is today.
Screening as a Service
Brian Ardinger: Tell the audience a little bit about what Brilliant Hire is all about.
Swetha PB: Brilliant Hire is a screening as a service. We provide a SaaS based software that helps reduce the time and effort involved in the hiring process in an unbiased manner. We all know that hiring is broken and we hear to solve the first part of it by, you know, what do using your time, effort involved in that.
Brian Ardinger: How did it come about that you wanted to try to solve this particular problem and how did SAP become involved in this?
Swetha PB: So that’s a very interesting part of our journey. It came out of what is called today in actual terminology, as user innovation. So I and my colleagues, the two other co founders of Brilliant Hire, would ask to take part in interviews. We were asked to scale a team from four to 40 all in a month. So that was a challenge for us. So we had to go on weekends. This is all back in India. Go on weekends, take interviews for these roles.
And what made us realize, though we were spending so much time interviewing candidates, only 30% were going into the next round of interviews. There’s a 70% rejection rate right there. So this kind of shocked us. We started one like, you know, explore, is this a problem just with us, just within our company or is it present over the, you know, all industries.
That’s what we tried to solve and we started on, we started to explore, we started talking to lot more recruiters. We did a lot of research and understood, yeah, this is a problem all around and hiring is clearly broken. And that got us excited and we’re like, okay, let’s see how we solve the problem. Inside SAP, there are a lot of hackathons that keep happening. And good for us that one of the hackathons hired smart HR as the topics.
So it was a great time for us to like, the problem that we faced, how do we solve it? And we went on to explore that space. We were all developers then, so our first thought process for this was, okay, if human is making so much time to, you know, interview candidates, why don’t we replace a human with a robot?
We did just that and we built our first product or solution to this problem, which is called HANA bot. Then, yeah, to take interviews, we said this robot would take interviews, talk to candidates, and have some basic communication with candidates. All of that. We were all excited and we were surrounded with people who were excited about this latest technology, and then we started testing.
We started, testing with candidates. That’s what we realized. That technology hasn’t grown back much to start having conversations with the candidate, and it was very difficult to ask drill down questions. That’s like an important part in interviews. Also, candidates hated it.
Brian Ardinger: That’s a big deal.
Swetha PB: That is the hiring space is so much candidate driven, so it is very important to see what is comfortable for them and how we can make that experience very delightful. That was our beginning. We realized that this whole thing is a failure. The problem exists. But then the solution that we thought off is not the right one.
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Brian Ardinger: So you mentioned SAP has an innovative culture from the standpoint they’re spinning up hackathons and giving employees an opportunity to raise their hand and say, here’s a problem, we think we can solve that. Talk a little bit about that first hackathon, or what was that experience like and what did you expect going in and what do you think SAP expected to come out of it?
SAP’s Innovative Ecosystem
Swetha PB: So,I think that SAP in itself has a very innovative ecosystem and ecosystem that helps you be very creative and innovative and part of your job. So when I said we built this whole robot and we tested it, and we actually participated in the hackathon. Won it at that time, and then we went into this program called intrepreneurship.
So SAP helps its employees to become entrepreneurs of their own. If they have great ideas, convert them to ventures of their own. So this is like a training and scouting program held worldwide. And we were part of that program. That is what actually helped us to make the mind shift change from just being developers to being entrepreneurs, to start thinking about the problem space itself, not looking at the solution.
And I think the biggest lesson that we as co-founders learned from there was like, marry your problem, not your solution. Though our robot that we built was our child, we had to drop it and start talking to a lot more stakeholders, understand the problem, talk to recruiters and hiring managers, see where all this is flawed and then understand the root cause of the problem and then try to solve it.
Brian Ardinger: So can you talk a little bit about how SAP either spun this out or what’s the structure of, once you have a new idea that can be a new product or service within SAP? How does that work to create the new startup?
SAP.io – New ideas from employees
Swetha PB: So inside SAP, there’s a business unit called SAP.io. Ideas come to SAP.io through two ways. One is the entrepreneurship program where employees can submit their ideas. About 20,000 ideas, or 20,000 employees participate in this worldwid every year. They do a lot of scouting for this through hackathons, events, et cetera. And then they get into multiple rounds of filtration until they have like a shark tank style, which, and then get into be funded by SAP itself.
Or the other route is EIR programs entrepreneur in residence. So you can be a student, come be in SAP.IO for like six months and then work on an idea.
Brian Ardinger: What were some of the obstacles? You know, you mentioned you were a product person and a developer, not necessarily thought of yourself as a founder or somebody who would jump into the entrepreneurship realm. What were some of the things that you were either taught or are you kind of learn along the way to say, Hey, I can do this. I can become an entrepreneur.
Obstacles to Entrepreneurship
Swetha PB: Oh yeah. There’s a lot of them. First of all is the mindset change. Just looking at the overall aspect, looking at the problem from the whole aspect. As a developer, I would say if I got a problem, I would like, okay, this is the solution for it. Go for it. Go build it. But as I started to go through this journey, I had that mindset change of looking at every aspect of it. How is it affecting, say, the market. And as entrepreneurs, you don multiple hats. So, you’re developing.
So I and the other two co founders all three of us did the first line of code while building this product. We also started to sell and we started to market the product. We started to thinking about the business model, how, what is the costing? Donning multiple hats. And that itself is so exciting. That’s something that you can learn through papers and like, you know, studies. But by doing it on the job, you’re learning.
Brian Ardinger: After you won the hackathon and you started building out this particular product, now it’s a real venture backed startup. So talk a little bit about the process of scaling that beyond the idea and beyond the first minimal viable product where you’re at now.
How to Scale
Swetha PB: The lesson we learned in the beginning of entrepreneurship itself like focus on the problem. We still continue to have that as our basis. Every time we have a request for a new feature or we’re exploding a new space, we truly try to work with customers to bring out the most innovative, creative ways to do that. I think that is definitely there, and in terms internally, we have expanded from being 3 person team to like 10-12 people now. That is also great. It’s a different experience. That’s where you have to start looking at your people management skills and all of that.
Brian Ardinger: Was that funded by SAP as far as how to build out that team or did you out for outside capital or how did that grow?
Swetha PB: So, it is all funded by SAP. They come into the system as SAP employees. So it’s like the best of both worlds. You are a corporate employee, but then you work like a startup. So we have sprints that are one week long. So you be shipping out features in every week, taking customer features in our feedbacks into consideration.
Brian Ardinger: So the next thing I want to talk about is you’re in the talent space, obviously with the startup itself. What are some of the things that you’ve seen as far as identifying innovators or some of this talent that’s required in this new world of work? Have you identified anything or seen anything in this when you’ve been exploring this world of talent that are either characteristics or things that you can identify to find those innovators within bigger companies or smaller companies?
Swetha PB: That’s a difficult question. It differs from company to company, I would say. But general characteristics, I think curiosity and the need to like solve problems, that could be just problems around you. Like just being alert and looking around. You can find 10 problems that need some attention and it would also be like even in your work or your personal life. How are you kind of getting work arounds done. How creative and curious are you about the different things. I think that is something I definitely look at when I’m talking to people.
Brian Ardinger: Well Swetha, thank you very much for being on Inside Outside Innovation. I really appreciate you telling us a little bit about what it takes to build a brand new company, in a big company, and I look forward to hearing more about it in the future. For people who want to find out more about yourself or about Brilliant Hire, what’s the best way to do that?
For More Information on Swetha PB and Brilliant Hire
Swetha PB: You can always visit our website, BrilliantHire.IO. Request to demo. We have an offer going on. It’s just $1 to try it out. So yeah, we have a lot of customers right now. We’ve piloted it in many places. SAP has used it at many places. So we’ve seen that we’ve reduced the time and effort by 50%. The delight is also that it’s all unbiased. So if anyone’s interested, we’re waiting to give you a demo. We’re all so excited about it.
Brian Ardinger: That’s it for another episode of Inside Outside Innovation. If you want to learn more about our team, our content, our services, check out Insideoutside.io. Or follow us on Twitter @theIOpodcast or at @Ardinger. Until next time, go out and innovate.
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