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Today we had the pleasure of interviewing Giridhar Akkineni, the founder of AkkenCloud, a leading software platform for the staffing and recruiting industry. Giridhar shared with us his journey as an entrepreneur and how he has been able to shift his business to stay current within an evolving industry.
Future Sharks: We often talk to the founders of tech companies here at Future Sharks. Can you tell us how you got started in the tech industry, and what problem your company is actively solving?
Giridhar: Yeah, sure. That’s a great question because I can talk about the problem I had while running a startup staffing company, that was growing fast, an IT staffing company. There was a lot of requirements. We had salespeople scattered all over. We had recruiters, and then we had in-office HR and payroll and accounting people.
So, having communication between these teams was critical. But they were also having recruiters respond to the sales team with new requirements. And the recruiters following up with candidates efficiently and the back office HR people being able to onboard and get the candidate started on time with all the compliance paperwork. As well as having the payroll people gather time and expenses to be able to process the payroll on time for our temps, and being able to comply with all the taxes and withholdings and all. But it was very critical for us to be able to send out the invoices to our customers on time. So we got paid on time.
We had many solutions, bits, and pieces, to solve this entire cycle, but in the end, it was one of the main reasons why I ended up closing my IT staffing company. And that’s how we started the AkkenCloud platform to be able to have all of these intricate pieces together in one simple to use platform.
Those were all the challenges we all faced daily. And now AkkenCloud has helped thousands of staffing companies solve them using our platform.
Future Sharks: Your industry has changed a lot. The way companies attract talent is different now than it was just five years ago. What’s been the most significant change?
Giridhar: Well, the number one thing the core for the staffing business is the candidates. Your customer is the essential piece.
So, candidate engagement has been a critical piece of the staffing industry, and as I said, there were many bits and pieces of what we call point solutions. You have job boards, you have a social media aggregator, you have other solutions like LinkedIn, and then you have bits and pieces where you collect time and expenses and then a different part for payroll.
Having that candidate engagement was very critical and really difficult to achieve other than the big staffing companies who were investing millions of dollars building these systems together for SMB or mid-sized companies to have elaborate systems in place to be able to get those candidates. And what we do, along with all the core functionality, including the CRM, applicant tracking system, HR management, onboarding, time and expenses and payroll, which are core to the staffing business, we offer several tools that are also integrated as part of our platform to be able to easily engage and manage your candidate pool.
For example, we have a feature called inbound talent management, and that is part of the whole engagement platform where it includes automatically posting your job orders to websites, to various social media outlets, to other engagements, and go make all that process like one single click, but also keep your existing candidates engaged, notifying them through text and voice and broadcasting and all those tools integrated together.
And it also has components like what we called inbound referral management. Where you actually use your candidates, your temp employees, to be advocates for you, marketing your brand and providing references. Which has worked out great because those references, whatever they do, are easily trackable. Meaning you don’t provide a reference and follow up with the recruiter. You can actually speak to the candidate or place the candidate. It’s all tracked automatically for everybody that’s involved in the whole process.
Future Sharks: One final question, your company has seen steady growth over the years and now boasts a platform with over 14.8 million candidates and 33,000 users. But like with any company, I’m sure it hasn’t been as easy as it looks. Can you share with us your biggest challenge?
Giridhar: Well, I have to step back a little bit to recap. We’ve been doing it since 2005 and made it through the most significant recession known to humanity; there’s a long list of challenges. But, to keep it short, the problems that I have seen myself, with my, staffing company are the reasons why we started building a platform but also the delivery method was very critical. It cannot work creating only software on a CD that you can install on your desktop. It won’t work, such a big solution where you have to put service and all. It has to be easy to use the delivery method, which is Cloud, but this was back in 2005.
So, selecting the technology and building that architecture from the ground up back in those days when there was no Cloud or only dot com was a challenge. But then, when we launched in November 2006 in Las Vegas at the American Staffing Association Staffing World, we had an overwhelming response and we grew 300% within the next 12 to 18 months. That was all great. We were all excited, and we grew up to 100 people in the company, but then we had this recession hit not just the staffing industry, but everybody else. So, we were forced to trim down, and we got down to three people.
We realized we could not have a static platform built for a specific industry. It has to be dynamic even in a particular sector for staffing, where technologies change, the market conditions change, the requirements vary, and your platform needs to be able to accommodate all that. So, that’s why whenever we do anything, we look at three, five, ten years down the road to see, “Okay, this specific feature, if we build it now, how is it going to evolve and what is it that we need to prepare?”
So, that’s how we’ve been able to address the market. Those have been our most significant challenges: onboarding migration, training is the simplest that we come across but having us to work for our customers so we can keep them on top of the technology has been a little challenge, but we’re glad we are still here after so many years. Being the experts in the market, we help thousands of customers focus on their staffing business, rather than trying to figure out staffing by themselves.
We do it for them.