Vocate Blog

Unlocking Human Potential

I believe in solving (literal) pain points. In each company I’ve built, there has been a point where I’ve started slamming my head against the table involuntarily because something was so idiotic that I couldn’t contain myself. My last company, Funding Circle USA, built a billion-dollar business on the back of tremendous value from entry-level and intern hires. But, despite hiring over a hundred of them, we never were able to create a flywheel that made it easy to do. It seemed that it only got harder, not easier. It makes no sense why schools made it so difficult.


On September 4, 2013, I was still leading Funding Circle and judging a startup competition hosted by a major venture capital firm. At the BBQ following the event, the lead Partner introduced me to the head of the career center from the school where we did most of our recruiting. I told him all about how we’ve hired over 100 students from his school, that we had so many problems in recruiting people and had to work outside of the formal process to get it done (we actually had to use a closet for interviews at one point). I told him I wanted to bring a wheelbarrow and cart students into jobs at our venture-backed company. He said all the right things and I was encouraged that our world would get easier. Then, silence. No responses to our inquiries, no additional assistance finding students. Just more of the same – paperwork, red-tape, students who weren’t really interested, money, time. Finally, we heard from them – we were being admonished because we had given a student only two weeks to make a decision about a job offer. [Insert Alex’s head hitting the table]


The problem is it still made sense for us to hire! In the early days, we didn’t have enough money to pay experienced hires and our technology wasn’t automated enough to cover holes where we needed manpower. We had entry-level and interns who were smart, hungry, and flexible figuring things out on the fly. They were really valuable. As we grew, we were able to identify certain parts of the business where they could plug in and own. Inside sales and customer service in particular were great because those jobs had high churn and our alternative was a lower caliber resource who would probably not stay long anyway. I even had (and still have) an entry-level person who works directly with me and gives me enormous leverage. They brought great energy/culture to the team and we identified true long-term superstars who are still leading the company today.


We tried everything we could to make our sourcing process more standardized, but it always came down to the fact that if I wasn’t personally pushing it, the program would atrophy. That meant active posting, peppering contacts on individual campuses, going to career fairs, several interview days, countless phone screens, final interviews and getting others on the team involved. Hundreds of resumes later, we did a cost estimate that it was more than $10K in time/resources to recruit an entry-level hire, and it was still worth it based on productivity.


After leaving Funding Circle and thinking about what to do next, this pain point stuck with me. I thought there had to be an easier way for employers to go about their entry-level hiring. So many employers have given me “the look of shame” when I ask them about their entry-level hiring. They know it’s valuable and they “should” be doing it, they’re just too distracted or busy. They describe how they typically hire washouts with 1-2 years of experience from places like Wells Fargo, that they pay a recruiting fee to do so, and that the success rate is abysmal.


So that’s why we created Vocate. We were sick of dealing with ineffective career centers or weeding through hundreds of kids simply fishing for any possible opportunity. I just got done talking to my fellow row-mate on a United flight about how I felt like a prisoner. That’s how I felt about entry-level hiring. Thus, Vocate provides employers with a “menu” from which they can order what they want and get it, immediately, and exactly. We get the challenges and annoyances because we’ve been there. Our brand promise is to fast-forward you to the final round interviews, using technology to guide and screen students, and ultimately saving cost and time. We believe employers should be able to reap the immense value of entry-level talent, but without the distraction and headache that goes along with it.


Alex Tonelli

Alex Tonelli is the Founder and CEO of Vocate. After stumbling through many of the challenges expressed here, he’s founded three successful companies and is an active investor.