With a resume that included time on Wall Street and a new MBA from Duke’s Fuqua College of Business, Muqassirsha (Muqa) Mohammed didn’t expect the many frustrations he experienced when searching for a new job post grad school.
He’d apply for jobs and never hear back. He’d apply for jobs and hear back six months later. He’d fly to different cities for interviews and never hear back. He also struggled to find career advice as he considered a move from wealth management technology into corporate finance.
Neither was there a platform for Mohammed to showcase his talents and knowledge beyond a typical resume and application.
His experience planted the seeds for AmazeTal, a platform launching this month to connect jobseekers interested in tech and data science careers with companies looking for their skills and experts that can vet those jobseekers and offer up career advice.
Here’s the lowdown:
Both natives of India, Muqa Mohammed and Mahesh Pappu met in sixth grade, went about their separate ways for college but ended up in the Triangle for graduate school—Mohammed at Duke and Pappu at NC State.
Mohammed worked at JP Morgan Chase and Goldman Sachs on wealth management technology and hedge fund services for about 11 years before moving to Durham in 2012 to get his MBA from Duke. He had a brief stint back at Goldman before quitting to begin work on AmazeTal.
Pappu had a bachelor’s in chemical engineering from a top college in India, but ended up working for a startup in data analytics for a couple years. That inspired him to pursue a master’s degree in analytics. He completed the program at NC State in 2008 and then worked for a series of financial services firms: Barclays, Discover Financial Services and most recently, Genworth Financial in Raleigh. He left there in May 2016 to join Mohammed as co-founder and chief data scientist.
The company is bootstrapped and based at American Underground. A key advisor is Thiru Arunachalam, founder of Peel.com, an app that turns a smartphone into a remote control. He raised more than $86 million and counts 150 million Peel.com users.
How it works:
AmazeTal has three target markets: candidates, companies and industry experts. Candidates set up a profile to get access to a database of jobs. Based on that profile, they are served with a variety of internal tests, which let the experts verify their knowledge on data science, software engineering or specific programming languages (dependent on job requirements) and then conduct interviews on behalf of the companies on the platform.
Passing the tests and completing the interviews makes the candidate profiles open to hiring companies, which can also use AmazeTal to connect with candidates and conduct interviews. Mohammed describes it as a way for hiring companies to avoid hiring a recruiter and/or save time sifting through resumes.
AmazeTal is always free for jobseekers (and the platform promises rewards if the candidate is hired through it), but it’s also free for employers up until they decide to post jobs or hire a candidate on the site. Eventually, there will be subscriptions available for companies.
AmazeTal bills itself as excellent at curating a job pool for a company using its expert analysis and algorithms. The founders decline to share the fees paid out after a match is made, but say they’re significantly less than a headhunter’s typical 25 to 30 percent fee (based on salary/compensation).
The men say 200 candidates are on the site at launch, as well as 15 experts and two local employers.
AmazeTal has two key competitors: Hired, which raised more than $100 million in venture capital for its platform for matching knowledge workers (tech and sales specific) with jobs, and Vettery, which raised $9 million last year to match candidates with tech and finance jobs at about 2,000 companies. In its assessment of HR technology startups last year, CB Insights counted 22 players in the recruiting marketplace and job search space.
But according to Mohammed, there’s no job search tool specific to data science, a field with headcount growing 8 percent a year. And AmazeTal is unique because it prides itself on being “candidate centric”, positioning candidates in the best light possible to potential employers, which then builds trust from those companies.
HR technology continues to be a hot field because companies still struggle to find, vet and keep the best employees, especially in the most in-demand fields—there’s a growing group of companies in this region working on the challenge.
A lot of testing and learning is still ahead for AmazeTal as it enters an increasingly crowded and well-funded space, but the opportunity to create a platform easy and effective for both sides of the job market seems to still be out there.
According to LinkedIn, third-party websites or job referral sites are still the second best way companies generate leads behind employee referrals. Companies spend about 30 percent of their recruiting budget on job boards and advertising.
Feedback so far:
Padmaja Gohil is trying out the site to help her find a job in data analytics when she finishes a master’s program at Duke University next year. Most appealing is the transparency AmazeTal offers candidates—they always know the status of their applications—and the access to experts to ask advice about various companies and career options.
Challenges during past job searches have been unclear job descriptions and roles and responsibilities, and the lack of feedback after an interview, Gohil says. AmazeTal seems to be solving some of those problems with its candidate-friendly platform, she adds.
The biggest drawback, however, is the small number of employers on the site so far—Gohil hasn’t yet been matched with a company.