This week, the Startup Spotlight shines Kieran Snyder, Co-Founder and CEO of Textio.
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What is your background?
I have always lived at the intersection of language and math. I have a PhD in natural language processing, and spent about a decade leading engineering, product, and design teams at Microsoft and Amazon. Over that time, I noticed several instances of unconscious bias in the workplace – cases where people’s words didn’t convey their intended meaning.
To understand this further, I went back to my roots in linguistics and began looking at business documents, especially documents about people. I published findings about bias in everything from job listings to performance reviews to resumes.
My co-founder and CTO Jensen Harris was a music school kid and lifelong hacker who discovered a real passion for user experience over his long career at Microsoft. He led the design and implementation of Microsoft’s most critical enterprise software for consumers, including the first version of Outlook, the Office ribbon, and Windows.
Textio is an intersection of both of our backgrounds: we offer a new way to write these critical documents about people that anyone can use.
Tell us about the team you have built so far.
Our team is great! Our team includes includes full-stack developers, PhDs in signal processing, linguistics, and psychology, a former VC, and people who have built everything from the Amazon recommendations platform to tablet UI. And we are growing!
What financial support did you have to launch the business?
Initially, we did it on our own. Early into the life of Textio we raised a $1.5M seed round from some highly seasoned and supportive investors, and we recently closed an $8M Series A investment. We are really lucky with our investment team.
What problem are you trying to solve?
We started off with a premise: what if you could know how your business documents would perform before you ever published them? What if you could optimize them and remove bias before sending them out?
A little over a year ago we began collecting quantitative data about hiring docs. When you publish a job listing, who actually applies? When you email a candidate, do they respond? We started looking for patterns in the docs to see which language drives success with qualified and diverse candidates.
Then we use all this data to help you make your own document better, right as you’re working on it.
Describe the business, core products and services?
Textio is a subscription service that you can use to optimize and remove bias from job listings, email, and other key hiring docs. Subscribers can use Textio on as many docs as they want.
For enterprise subscribers, we also provide a data scientist and regular analytics reports to help with your success – you can see your company’s usage patterns, learn how your job listings and email stack up in your industry, and discover the specific language that works for (and undermines) your hiring success.
Who do you expect your customers and users to be at launch?
We have already launched at textio.com. Our customers include anyone who cares about hiring well, especially recruiters, diversity leaders, and hiring managers.
Where do you stand right now with regard to funding?
We recently closed a Series A round led by Emergence Capital and are doing a lot of hiring! We are avid Textio users ourselves these days.
What is the business AND revenue model? What is your strategy for profitability?
Textio is a subscription service. Across our customers, roles that go through Textio fill an average of 20% faster and attract between 12-14% more applicants from underrepresented groups to apply, so the ROI for companies quickly outpaces the subscription costs.
Did anyone tell you this wasn’t going to be successful?
Startups are hard in all kinds of ways that corporate jobs cannot prepare you for. [clickToTweet tweet=”RE: startups, Innate confidence in your ability to succeed is critical. via @KieranSnyder” quote=”Innate confidence in your ability to succeed is critical if you’re actually going to succeed.”] As an entrepreneur, you hear a range of feedback and you need to make adjustments along the way, but the feedback you get always hangs in balance with that innate confidence in yourself and what you’re doing.
How will you measure success 12 months from now?
We’ll look at how people are using Textio – how valuable they’re finding the experience and how much better their docs are performing. One thing we care a lot about is whether Textio users recommend us to others – and we’ve been fortunate there so far. On top of their own repeat usage, that’s the best indicator of success.