Alumnus Andrea Bonaceto set up HiredGrad, a recruitment platform, after graduating from the Business School MSc Finance programme in 2014. The idea behind the business is to match top UK talent with local start ups and international companies for internships and graduate jobs. In this Q&A he discusses how he started the business and the challenges he faced.
What gave you the idea for your business?
I set up HiredGrad straight after graduation with fellow alumnus, Krishna Venkata (MSc Finance 2014). As recent graduates, we directly experienced the challenges of accessing opportunities within fast-growing companies. Hence, we decided to solve this problem, by connecting such companies with the bureaucracy-free and engaged network of student societies and their members.
We are now expanding the business to Asia providing companies in the region with fresh UK talent interested in undertaking international job opportunities.
How did it feel when your business launched?
The team was excited because we immediately focused on establishing a strong offline presence via events to get HiredGrad’s brand out. We were happy about the launch and at the same time conscious about the hard work we would need to put in to be successful.
What was the greatest challenge you faced in starting out?
With the realisation that recruiting is a very competitive industry, building a network of investors and clients from scratch required us to have a clear differentiator from the beginning. As clichéd as it sounds, bringing the right people on-board is also a serious challenge because in particular in the early days one can’t afford to make the wrong hires, since such hires handle critical processes or customer-facing functions of the business.
What have been the key lessons learned from the whole process?
Realising that all the variables are not under your control, the team needs be able to quickly adapt to change and focus on its strengths. Our 10-people strong team is spread between Bangalore (India) and London, and even though such a dispersed team was perceived as more risky by investors, we managed to leverage this organisational structure to support Asian companies in accessing top UK students, graduates and professors. What might look like a weakness initially, could turn out to be your main strength if you look close enough.
What advice do you have for other budding entrepreneurs?
There is never a perfect time to start a business and it always involves a high amount of risk. Initially, it is a continuous flow of trial and error. So, one should be able to endure that process till a viable and scalable business model is found. This requires tremendous degree of patience and if you are more interested in short term gains, it would not be advisable to start a business.
In our experience, starting a company successfully means having a high tolerance for pain with a problem solving and pragmatic attitude to keep moving forward even when things are not going as expected.
Did you face any big learning curves during the process?
It’s always funny to recollect how naïve we were when starting the company. We had a meeting with a Venture Capital (VC) while still studying at the Business School and we were under the impression we could secure funding during the first meeting itself.
At the same time, we were quite concerned about sharing our idea with a stranger so we stepped into the meeting with a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) and asked the VC executive to sign the agreement. He of course didn’t sign it and advised us to either leave the room or start pitching. We of course chose the latter (but didn’t raise any investment since we were too early stage for a VC at the time).
How did your time at the Business School prepare you for setting up your own business?
The main support has been the network of talent and investors we could access via the Imperial College network. We still feel very close to the Imperial College community since we are part of Imperial White City Incubator, managed by Imperial Innovations. We regularly engage with Imperial College spin outs or Imperial Innovations backed start ups.
It’s great to see the support from Imperial College does not stop after you graduate. If you keep your eyes open, while studying at Imperial College and the Business School you could build life-lasting relations that will support you throughout your entire career.