An Interview With Stephane Le Viet CEO and co-founder Of Work4
Can you briefly describe about your company & the offerings?
Stéphane Le Viet- Work4 is the #1 Facebook Recruiting Solution. We’ve identified a need in the recruiting sector for a better way to connect with passive, hard to find, and otherwise untapped talent, and our solutions make that connection possible.
We work with thousands of companies, including more than 60 of the Fortune 500, to help them find, engage, and hire talent using Facebook and other social media. We are also Facebook Preferred Developer Partners, so we’re able to offer our customers solutions that provide them with the leading edge when it comes to their social recruiting.
Our solutions, which are fully mobile-friendly, range from a Facebook Career Site that enables candidates to apply to a company’s open jobs (which are automatically synced from the company’s applicant tracking system), to a recruiter productivity module that allows recruiters and employees to increase referrals and quality applicants by sharing jobs with their networks; an integration with the Facebook ads platform, as well as access to the Work4 Ads team, to better target passive talent while fulfilling specific hiring initiatives and spreading the company’s employer brand; and a brand-new module for making sourcing simple by automatically generating matches for open positions using Facebook Graph Search.
Our mission is to make everyone a recruiter and everyone a candidate.
What do you currently do?
Stéphane Le Viet- As the CEO of Work4, I do everything and nothing all at the same time. (Mostly the former!) On the “everything” side, I’m in charge of orchestrating the daily operations as well as overseeing the long-term roadmap. I speak on the subject of social recruiting at events all over the world (as well as at our online webinars), so I rarely have a moment to be bored!
My most important job, however, is to do “nothing:” I take care of my customers by building the best, most passionate and self-sufficient team of innovators, dreamers, and technology disruptors who can take the reins and build the business from the inside out.
In a way, recruiting serves a duel purpose in my role at Work4: I focus on supporting the solutions we build to help recruiters find their most crucial talent, and I also spend time working to recruit the best people onto the Work4 team in order to make those solutions happen.
Can you summarize how your role has taken different dimensions as the company evolved?
Stéphane Le Viet- – 2010, The “Birth” Phase: My primary role was learning how to manage a US-based business while focusing on getting from the basic idea to an actual product-market fit. I began by hiring the first couple of employees while acting as the lead sales rep for the company and leading product strategy.
– 2011, The “Adolescent” Phase: During the second year of the company, I was focused on adapting to early market tracking, putting in place the foundations that would be needed to scale the business (i.e. Basic processes and systems). This was also when I began hiring people in cross-functional roles, as opposed to specialists.
– 2012, The “Young Professional” Phase: This was when sales and product began to work well on their own. I secured the funding to help accelerate our growth as well as established a layer of executive management between myself and the team, which also allowed us to begin to expand to support more processes. We also began hiring specialists to make up our Marketing, Sales Operations, and other teams.
– 2013, The “Adult” Phase: Now that Work4 has come into its own, we spend time focusing on forming partnerships to expand our overall reach, promoting our top performers into leadership roles, and hiring more senior people. With the support structures in place, I’m availed more time to focus on the customer as opposed to the company: speaking at events, giving webinars, writing articles and meeting with our Customer Advisory Board in order to make sure that we are providing more than just a product but a complete solution that supports our customers in all of their social recruiting efforts.
How has been your experience of reaching out to potential investors?
Stéphane Le Viet- Work4 is my second start-up and I bootstrapped the first one. So reaching out to investors in the context of Work4 was something new for me. I discovered the VC community, the pitch process, the term sheet negotiation, and the closing process. I was fortunate to find a great investor (Dana Stalder from Matrix Partners) who has been instrumental in helping me build the company. Fundraising process was very quick and efficient: I met a couple of VCs, some of them gave me a term sheet, I did my due diligence on the ones I liked the most, and I picked Matrix!
Tell us about the culture of your company. What insights have you had about culture as the company has grown?
As a company with half of the employees in Europe and the other half in the US, we have a very hybrid culture: not 100% Silicon Valley and not 100% European, but a nice blend of the two.
Our multicultural environment has helped us build a strong, dynamic team, because we can call upon our different points of view and ways of addressing problems. What’s particularly interesting is that we have been able to harness both the American “get-it-done” mentality and the French mentality of collaboration and model our day-to-day business on the best of both worlds. For example, we push hard every day to be innovative and to get the job done or the product shipped, but we also take the time as a team to listen to different viewpoints while collaborating on solutions.
We also spend time celebrating the employees who best exemplify our company values each month by allowing the company to nominate their colleagues for a values award that is decided by the executive team at the company meetings each month. This gives us a chance to publicly honor the hard work that the members of the Work4 team do each and every day.
Who is your inspiration in business and why? Who do you admire?
Stéphane Le Viet- This is always a difficult question to answer, because I think, as entrepreneurs, we admire everyone and no one at the same time. We aspire to create businesses like Facebook, and Google, and Apple, but we also want to do so by breaking the mold. I think that my inspiration comes from a combination of business leaders and entrepreneurs, and that I’ve been able to synthesize the best of their approaches to business, while staying true to finding my own unique path.
That said, I would point out the influence that Mark Zuckerberg has had on how I look at structuring my own business. At Work4, we keep some of Facebook’s mantras on the wall to remind us that staying ahead of the curve is a matter of focusing on shipping the product and breaking things as we go. I admire how Mark Zuckerberg has used these principles to create such an iconic business as Facebook and how they allow his team to keep delivering consistently innovative, revolutionary products on a global scale.
This is part of why I think it was so easy to align Work4 with Facebook from the start: not only do we complement one another, but our ideologies around the way technological and social products should be innovated, iterated, and improved align.
What are some of the difficulties you faced while building your product/ solution?
Stéphane Le Viet- When we first started out, the overall HR/recruiting market didn’t immediately recognize how Facebook could be a recruiting platform. The challenge was not only convincing people that we had a product that would help them with their recruiting efforts but convincing them that Facebook was a recruiting platform in the first place. Because of that, we faced three obstacles:
- Companies and recruiters have long held the belief that Facebook is a personal network and not a professional network. They didn’t believe that people would want to search for jobs there.
- Many people on both the recruiting and job seeking sides of the fence had concerns about sharing personal information while searching for a job.
- Companies also had concerns that their employees wouldn’t want to share jobs with their private networks, which would limit the ability for the company to use social media as a referrals engine.
Fortunately, the tide has turned, partially because we’ve helped make waves in the Facebook recruiting space. We have been able to show companies the value of targeting talent by posting job ads on Facebook using the highly sophisticated Facebook ads platform, for example. By putting the recruitment message and the employer brand in front of the millions of eyes of specifically targeted demo- and psychographics, we’ve seen companies build stronger talent pools while increasing apply clicks and overall conversion.
Our customers have also begun to see fantastic results in the referrals space by automating job sharing for their employees and recruiters. Studies have been published of late revealing how jobseekers often reach out to their close networks and the people they know and trust when they are looking for new positions, so it makes sense that even passive candidates would be willing to take a look at a job shared by a friend or colleague on a personal social network. Social job sharing accounts for large portions of our most successful customers’ job views now.
These days, with Facebook’s innovations in the Timeline, Newsfeed, and Graph Search, it’s easier than ever for recruiters and companies to get connected with talent–and now that Facebook is pushing profile completion (with a newly added professional skills section to boot!), it’s going to be easier than ever for jobseekers to be found (and for recruiters to find them).
What is your advice for fellow entrepreneurs?
Stéphane Le Viet- Never take no for an answer. Ever. This applies to just about everything an entrepreneur needs to do to build a company:
- Hiring – If you find good talent, you must do everything in your power to get them and keep them. Negotiate if you must, but know that the engine of your company runs on the strengths and power of your people.
- Technology – You have to push the envelope. If your customer has a need, you have to try to solve it. As much fun as it is to innovate for the sake of innovation, the real triumph is innovating a way to say “yes” to your customer and solve their problem or fill their need.
- Money – We subscribe to the lean startup principles around here. Never saying “no” is not about spending frivolously–it’s about finding ways to say “yes” while being efficient with your budget. Get creative, negotiate, or find another way.
- Relationships – Never give up on trying to build a relationship. You know the old saying, “It’s not what you know, but who you know?” It’s never more true than when you are trying to build a company that matters. Not every relationship will be easy to establish or maintain, but it’s up to you to persevere. Show the other party that there’s value in the connection. Share information, keep reaching out, and eventually you will build a partnership that matters.
Looking back, are there things you would have done differently?
Stéphane Le Viet- If I could go back, I would make it a priority to move to the US sooner. The goal was (and remains) to grow and scale a global business. While there were benefits to being in Paris, working from San Francisco would have moved things along 10 times faster.
There are so many advantages to being here in the Bay area. For starters, being able to directly network with venture capitalists and other business supporters is hugely important to the success of a start up in general. In our case, many of the key players in the HR industry–vendors of applicant tracking systems, employment marketing agencies, etc.–are either located or have a presence here. It would have been nice to be able to be on the ground building relationships with all of the major players in the market from the get-go.
There are also great talent pools to draw tech, sales, and marketing talent from in northern California. We’ve been fortunate to find some of the best of the best from all over the world, but knowing what I know now, I would have been eager to start tapping into the talent we’ve found in this area earlier in the building process.
What defines your way of doing business?
Stéphane Le Viet- Put simply: “Move fast and break things.” (copyright Facebook)
I built Work4 on the concept of an agile development process. The roadmap is important, but it’s not our only focus. We have built our team to include people who aren’t afraid to iterate or innovate–and we’re constantly trying to “break things” to see how we can make them better.
When it comes to moving fast, we’re happy to be a part of an industry that is moving along at a breakneck pace. The rate of change in social media in general and social recruiting in particular is picking up speed each and every day. As soon as Facebook announces a new update, we’re already running with the ball. In order to offer our customers the absolute latest and greatest, we have to be the latest and greatest, and that means staying ahead of the curve.
Along the lean startup idea, once we set our mind on a project, we put a date on it and we figure out how we can deliver the MVP and what, if any, obstacles we’re going to have to overcome to just get the product shipped. Then we go back and break things to see how we can make them better.
What advice would you give to someone just starting out?
First, it’s not as simple as just doing a competitive analysis. Knowing who your competitors are is great, but thinking of them as competitors is actually going to limit your potential for success. Look at your competitors not as obstacles but as partners. Find a way to do business with them, and you’ll both be richer for the experience.
Second, don’t look at lack of funds or resources as a roadblock. You can move your business forward no matter how constrained you may think you are. Partner to get things done. Trade services for marketing. Spend money when you need to–on A players for your core team, for example, because they’re the ones who will bring you a return on your investment.
Third, instead of seeing “too much to do and not enough people to do it,” take a look at what you can do to move the needle and focus on that. We’re all strapped for resources. That’s what makes business exciting: figure out a way to get your hands on the right puzzle pieces and fit them together to make the core picture. You can fill in the details as you go.
Finally, when it comes to technology, as cliché as this is going to sound, it’s true: iterate, iterate, iterate. The caveat is that you can’t just iterate for the sake of coming up with the next thing that excites you. Yes, you have to be passionate about the things you create, but if they don’t solve a problem or fill the needs of your customers, then you’re missing the point. Your customers are your best product managers, your best QA, your best designers. Ask for feedback, and be prepared to abandon a “cool” idea for one that actually makes your customers’ lives easier or jobs better.
Any other things you would like to share with other entrepreneurs/ VCs, please do feel free to key in your thoughts.
Stéphane Le Viet- Building a company is a most rewarding business experience, but it can also be a tough ride. Don’t underestimate the latter part. It’s not a straight road. You may have your eye on an end goal, but if you believe that there’s only one path to get there, you’re in for a big surprise. From partners to legislation to budget and more, there are going to be a lot of curves before you reach your intended business destination. You must be flexible and keep your optimistic attitude. Know the curves are coming, accept that they’ll be there (even if you can’t see them all from where you stand now), and be prepared to deal with each one as it comes.
Stéphane Le Viet:
Stéphane is the CEO and co-founder of Work4. He oversees the company’s daily operations and is responsible for leading product development, technology and business strategy. Having co-founded two other tech businesses and taught at Sciences Po and the London School of Economics, Stéphane brings over ten years of startup experience and HR technology expertise to the company. Prior to Work4, Stéphane worked at McKinsey & Company in New York and at Hellman & Friedman, a leading private equity firm.Stéphane earned his MA in Applied Mathematics from Harvard University and his BS/MS in Electrical Engineering from École Polytechnic.
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