We Interviewed Andrea About Speak_ & Their Journey To Raising Funding, Finding Product Market Fit

Speak_

Raised $1 Million Seed Funding Round In 3 Months

Industry: HR Software

Speak Case Study

Full Interview Transcription

Steve:

Hello, and welcome back. I am Steve, and I am here today with Andrea Guendelman, the co-founder of Speak. Andrea, how are you?

Andrea Guendelman:

Very good, thank you.

Steve:

Glad to hear that. It is lovely to have you. And as I said, you are Speak's co-founder. Before we get into it, I just wanted to ask really quickly, could you tell us what Speak does, and a little bit about what you do in your capacity as co-founder there?

Andrea Guendelman:

Yes, we run the cohorts and recruit talent and get talent prepared for passing interviews at top tech companies. You know, 98%, 89%, sorry, of underrepresented talent is rejected at the top of the hiring panel.

Steve:

Wow.

Andrea Guendelman:

Why is that? Because the talent either disqualifies themselves or they're not given the opportunity to even take a technical interview or when they take the technical interview, they don't pass it, because they haven't been given that many opportunities. So we are giving the talent, the opportunity to practice and fail within a safe environment so they can get the skills to actually pass the interview. The more you can fail practicing, the better your chances. If you're not given the opportunity or you're not told, what are you going to be asked? Other people are given that information because they get it from friends and referrals, blah, blah, blah. And so, we are telling them, let's do this in a more humane way, inclusive way, and that's our methodology.

Steve:

Can you tell me a little bit about your background? How did you end up in this business?

Andrea Guendelman:

My background, I'm a lawyer, and I was always interested in social change. That's why I became a lawyer. But really I moved to the United States from Chile, and I always consider myself to be maybe an international person, like an immigrant of sorts, but not really with the same type of problems that a typical immigrant has. But then I moved to New Mexico, after years of living on the east coast, I moved to New Mexico with my family.

Andrea Guendelman:

I kind of became very much what I would say, Latina. I identify as Latina in the United States, finally. I was able to meet people, Latinos at every level of the society. In New Mexico you would find them, they were owners and the bosses, they were in charge of the politics, they also were the immigrants. They were also the middle class. So I finally felt like a reality that Latinos are not only there with immigrants. It's just a lot of different people.

Andrea Guendelman:

Many of the Latinos that I met were starting to go to college, families were, the middle class and, sort of emerging. I met a lot of young women and I would ask them, have you considered another university in addition to UNM, which is the local university. And they always said, no, because my family's here and I want to be close to my family and variations on that answer. And that kind of led me to realize at that point, that in the US, not all the high level talent, was going to end up in the Ivy leagues, that cultural reasons make other communities want to stay closer to a parent, and I felt many of the people in these schools, and the environment I was moving in, didn't understand that. But when I moved to Boulder, Colorado, and I kind of got immersed in the innovation economy and I saw there were no Latinos whatsoever involved in that, I realized there was a mismatch of opportunities and talent that the world wanted to know where was the standard. That really started me on my entrepreneurial journey of creating communities and such.

Steve:

You've had a unique perspective of what you're doing now from a couple of different angles. That's cool. How does that make Speak unique, and how would you say that Speak is different from traditional hiring methods?

Andrea Guendelman:

We source talent, like any recruiter, right? But we prepare them to back the interview. What we've seen is that many of the underrepresented talent go through these problems with imposter syndrome basically. And so that's where we come in at different stages in the process and work on the topic of imposter syndrome.

Steve:

It sounds like your focus is really on developing people who may be qualified, but may not feel qualified, to help them go out there and get those positions. Am I right about that?

Andrea Guendelman:

Yeah, exactly.

Steve:

I understand that you've been raising money recently. Do you have any updates to share about your fundraising efforts?

Andrea Guendelman:

Yeah, we raised around a million dollars, so that was exciting. And now we're going to start raising again, because this never ends.

Steve:

Yeah, fair enough.

Andrea Guendelman:

It was successful. We closed a lot of customers, and so we had an early kind of success with our product. And because of that, we've been growing and now we're finding new things that are important, et cetera, so that's what we're doing. We were basically funded by Precursive Ventures, which is Charles Hudson and the Venture Collective, Cat Hernandez and Nick Shekerdemian. And also we're receiving investments from Isaac Saldana, the founder of SendGrid, which was my co-founder of Wallbreakers.

Steve:

Cool.

Andrea Guendelman:

We've received investments from Gagan Biyani, the founder of Udemy. We're receiving investments from Katelin Holloway, she was the head of human resources at Reddit, and is now leading 776 Ventures. Allen Lefkowitz, formerly from Compass, and now Untappd, and from the founder of Sapir as well. So a lot of great people.

Steve:

Cool. So my next question was what are a few big accomplishments in your company's history that you're really proud of so far? When you look at how Speak has evolved, what are a few, a few accomplishments that make you feel proud?

Andrea Guendelman:

Well, I think the most important accomplishment is, every day hearing from some candidate about how this program changed their life in some way or another. Staying true to our mission of helping candidates and maintaining a free program, and basically, when we make a customer happy, I'm very happy about that. So I think everything that we're doing is an innovation and I'm proud of it and it's difficult and all of the above.

Steve:

You mentioned that this is entirely free for candidates, is that correct?

Andrea Guendelman:

That's correct, yes. We get paid by customers and they invest, they invest in the vocation of our candidates, and I think that's the way it should be. It's like we are preparing candidates for an interview, you would never charge someone to interview at your company, so that experience for them has to be a thing.

Steve:

That makes sense. I want to talk now about your marketing efforts. I'm curious, how did you approach marketing initially at Speak and how did that change when you got in touch with Paul, and we advertised your business?

Andrea Guendelman:

Yes. I've been marketing for a while, been marketing at greater communities and all sorts of things. So I have a lot of experience marketing, but I always work with marketers, with new marketing techniques, new funnels, new ways of reaching out to audiences, et cetera. Basically I was looking for... He sent me an email and I found his valuable position compelling, and I got him and I trusted him, and that's how we started to work with him. One of the things that worked out really well was at the beginning when we were raising money because of his campaign, I was able to find someone from the hundreds of emails I sent and that person sent me a list of emails of investors. And because of that, I was able to close, having my brand.

Steve:

Oh, okay. So this was helping you with fundraising? Not, just with going out and getting customers.

Andrea Guendelman:

Yes.

Steve:

Okay. Wow. Very cool. Can you describe your company's approach to marketing now? What are you guys doing and what has been successful for you and in finding new people?

Andrea Guendelman:

It's a lot of trial and error, these totally different things that we do all the time. We have a LinkedIn campaign running with Paul, but then we have other campaigns and events. It's a lot of experimentation to find the things that works.

Steve:

I think really my last question is just what is in store for you in 2022?

Andrea Guendelman:

Fundraising, finding the right clients for us, getting more candidates and exploding that. So a lot of things. My ideal client is a fast growing company, could be a startup or a big company that needs a lot of talent, that has prioritized diversity, and is willing to experiment and try new things. It's a lot of challenges, but exciting.

Steve:

Yeah. Thank you, Andrea. Thank thanks for answering all these questions. My last question is just if people want to learn and more about Speak or, speak to you more about it, where can they find you?

Andrea Guendelman:

Andrea@speak.careers

Steve:

All right. Yeah. Andrea, thank you so much. It really was lovely hearing about all this. Best of luck to you. Go get them in the next round of fundraising and it was a pleasure to speak with you.

Andrea Guendelman:

Thank you so much.