The startup:RolePoint, an enterprise-level social-recruitment platform that helps companies find new talent through recommendations from current employees. The startup graduated in May 2012 from San Francisco accelerator AngelPad, which works mainly with web technology companies. AngelPad runs two sessions per year and accepts about 12 startups to each; the most recent program drew some 2,000 applicants.
What it is: While working for a large investment bank in London, Chris Le Breton received an e-mail from a colleague seeking referrals for a new hire. Numerous messages on the subject went around internally, sparking Le Breton's "aha" moment: Companies aren't efficiently leveraging their own employee networks to fill job openings.
"Referrals are valued beyond any other hire in companies, and really not much work has been done around that to help the process or help people internally hire for their companies," says Le Breton, who now serves as RolePoint's CEO.
With RolePoint, companies circumvent time-consuming or expensive methods like recruitment agencies or traditional direct hiring. Instead, the online platform taps a company's employees to find candidates within their professional networks and refer them to the hiring manager.
Getting in: AngelPad was intrigued by RolePoint's technology and capacity for strong leadership among its four U.K.-based founders, but in large part the startup was accepted for what wasn't there. "We saw an incredible raw potential, and a big part of what was missing was this understanding of how to focus on building a really large company," says Thomas Korte, the AngelPad founder who mentored the RolePoint team. "Oftentimes for companies that have come from anywhere but Silicon Valley, business is very different. In the U.K., for example, there's a big focus on revenue very early, so it doesn't help founders look at the really big picture. [With RolePoint] we saw that if we help them see what they can do with this, it can be so much bigger."
The goods: AngelPad's 10-week program focuses on product development and market fit prior to launch, as well as fundraising. The small program's attention to detail was a draw for RolePoint. Le Breton appreciated the "focus on the quality rather than quantity," adding that many accelerators just push a gaggle of companies through and hope one takes off.
Lessons learned: Make sure your concept or company aims to solve a well-defined need or problem. "Be very clear on the value you're adding from day one," says Kes Thygesen, co-founder and head of product for RolePoint, which has relocated to Silicon Valley since completing the AngelPad program. "Really understand why a company would pay money for this; then you can concentrate on building a solution and validating that solution."
Adds Le Breton: "Demonstrate traction in the early stages, even if it's on a very small scale, and then let the investors extrapolate that."
Looking ahead: RolePoint closed a large seed round from Silicon Valley investors last October, and is working on scaling up the team and product.