Keep Experimenting: The Story of KarmaHire’s Accidental Success

August 8, 2012

9:47 am

When KarmaHire’s virtual career fair opened at 11 a.m. on July 24, their servers immediately crashed – the website was down because too many people were trying to access it. How did the Vancouver startup go from have-not to hotshot in 6 months?

KarmaHire’s goal is to change the way companies hire employees. They were working on tools to screen candidates – programming tests and video interviews – plus tools to track and rank those candidates. When intern Max James suggested a virtual career fair, cofounder James Clift was enthusiastic: it fit with their core mission and it would help out other Vancouver tech companies.

Clift, a sales guy at heart, started doing what he does best: cold calling companies to join and local universities to advertise to their students. With the help of the Vancouver tech community and an article in the Vancity Buzz blog, the BC TechFair reached a tipping point: from then on, companies started calling them and other media came a-knocking. This all happened in the span of less than two months, while they continued to build out the original KarmaHire product.

When the day arrived and the servers crashed, Clift wasn’t surprised. “My goal as a marketer was to crash our servers,” he says. Fellow entrepreneurs at Launch Academy, the incubator where KarmaHire works, jumped out of their seats and got the site back up within minutes. The career fair went on to attract 2,500 job seekers in the first few days, browsing 40 company profiles such as HootSuite, Dell, GrowLab, and A Thinking Ape.

One of the keys to their success, says Clift, is that the BC TechFair wasn’t just an advertising stunt. Companies who signed up did get a free KarmaHire account, but they didn’t get barraged with emails about how awesome KarmaHire is. “When you do cool things, people start to notice,” says Clift, who co-founded the company with Thomas Zhou after working on a web agency together.

Now, KarmaHire is at a “crossroads,” with a cool side product that shows some promise. For the time being, they plan to organize at least two more virtual career fairs in different industries in Vancouver, and it may become part of their main offering. Their story is a reminder to always entertain new ideas, no matter where they come from.

Startups: to get a free KarmaHire account, email James at [email protected]

KarmaHire will be showcasing at the [email protected] party in Vancouver on August 22, where Tech Cocktail is a media sponsor. To get a $10 discount on tickets, use the code TechCocktail.

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Kira M. Newman is a Tech Cocktail writer interested in the harsh reality of entrepreneurship, work-life balance, and psychology. She is the founder of The Year of Happy and has been traveling around the world interviewing entrepreneurs in Asia, Europe, and North America since 2011. Follow her @kiramnewman or contact [email protected]

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