Back in May 2013, I stepped away from running a profitable recruiting startup with my amazing cofounder Adam Sherwin. We had an incredible adventure runing the company and here's part of the story (the part I can blog about).
GitSET's hipster tagline was something like 'a full-service recruiting firm that turns code and social data into resumes and referrals'. What it really was were some badass code and repository metadata parsers, parallel web scrapers, a search engine, and two very frazzled data scientists working phone / email relentlessly to stay afloat bootstrapped, proof the concept, and try to get bought!
I remember back in the day when Adam had actually been thrown out of a job interview at LinkedIn for proposing the heretical notion of cutting out the middleman and replacing the need for recruiters. Makes a lot of sense on the business plan --- agency fees and recruiter salaries are ridiculous, and they provide sort of a commodity service that companies like Hired.com (then developer auction) and some of the talent-matching boutiques were showing wasn't always needed. Our vision for GitSET was to build the technology at the nucleus of the best talent-matching engine on the planet, then integrate with an established social network to build a jobs product to crush the established players. And Github's data was the perfect place to start---there's no better source of job skill data on the planet, and the tech recruiting sector is and was white hot and jammed with cash.
Execution-wise, we made a good run of it---most of the core technology and data assets were in place by January 2013, and we took a few months to explore the full-service recruiting model. Getting meetings wasn't hard---startups were desperate for quality engineers, and so we were able to meet with an impressive array of HR people across San Francisco, and snagged a few clients despite our high agency fees. But actually, physically working phones and email was sort of our Achilles heel --- recruiting without opt-in signals from users, or really any relationship with them at all since we were cold-calling, was a pain in the ass, and we had only limited success as a result.
We had some high level meetings regarding acquisition with a few companies, only one of which was interesting to us. Ultimately the integration with an existing social site was received as a bit of a risky pitch. Social networks tend to be leery of spammy content in general which can include being solicited by poachers and we were told we were gonna have to build a v2 ourselves if we wanted to try it.
By that time, it was clear we needed to pivot into something we hadn't planned on building if we wanted to make progress on the original goal... meantime, bootstrapping via smiling and dialing was becoming an increasing burden for both founders. We made the choice to move on, but I definitely look at some of our competitors with a little gleam in my eye.