How To Crystalize Your Startup’s Mission

We recently distilled a mission for YesGraph, and I wanted to share the outcome and the process so that you can try it for your company.

For context, YesGraph has created a referral recruiting product that helps companies scale the most successful source of candidates, referrals. If you haven’t tried YesGraph yet, check it out, or get in touch for a demo.

The product is designed to be simple, and the steps involved are logical and easy to understand. You get your team to connect to Facebook or LinkedIn so we can organize and rank their contacts. This enables one-click referrals, which helps you scale that channel.

All that said, your product today isn’t your company’s mission.

You probably rightly focus on iterative improvements to make your product better. You listen to user feedback and run tests. Hopefully, you mercilessly cut that which isn’t going to help achieve your goal. But your current product and your near term road map are far too specific to make a great company mission. Especially for a startup, things change and evolve far too fast.

This isn’t bad. In fact, going through this process will help guide you to a place where you know enough to clarify your mission. Here’s how.

Isolate what won’t change about your company by abstracting away your immediate work. For YesGraph, the kernel within all our ideas is helping people perform better with good design and finding insight from data. This is sometimes surprisingly valuable with referrals, where we often illuminate parts of your network that didn’t come to mind.

To help refine your mission, start with adjacent ideas to what you’re building. YesGraph helps companies hire today, but what could we do to help job seekers? What if we built a way for people to find all the companies they are connected to, and how? Maybe we could be smart about how to get introduced to those companies. We’re seeing some interesting behavior elsewhere too, where some YesGraph users are generating sales leads through their network. Sales is really different from recruiting, and but the process we enable can be applied to both.

These ideas would take the company in a different direction. Explore where you’ll be over the very long term. What if we designed an applicant tracking system designed in the same fashion as YesGraph? We don’t plan on it, but over the long term, how would it be different? Or take peer review systems, which are clunky and don’t help employees grow and achieve their potential. One obvious improvement is to couple the data from performance reviews to your recruiting pipeline. It is a bit insane this isn’t easy or common already: the data about who does well at your company doesn’t inform how you hire more successful people.

To find your mission, combine your adjacent ideas and your longer term path, and extract what stays constant.

For YesGraph, we distilled our mission to this:

YesGraph connects people and companies with social data.

That’s it. It isn’t too fancy, and also not very precise. But if you understand our product and how we think about building it, you can clearly see the mission in our work. There are many other benefits, the most obvious is being able to convey our ideas clearly and succinctly.

Now it is your turn. I’d love to hear what people think about this process, and if you’ve come up with something valuable for yourself. Leave a comment here, or get in touch.

photo credit

Why YesGraph Changed Pricing from Seats to Tiers

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We recently updated our pricing to match how we see companies successfully using YesGraph. Previously, we had a flat $19 / seat / month to use our paid tier designed for your company. Now we’ve updated the pricing to better fit different sized teams, with fixed pricing for up to a certain number of members.

We’re also delighted to add a new free tier. If you have up to 10 members, you don’t need to worry about an expiring trial. As your team grows, you’ll grow with us and moved to a paid tier. You can get started creating a team, or check out the updated pricing page here.

free tier

For the paid tiers, we wanted to match how your organization values recruiting and referrals. We’ve made it incredibly easy and inexpensive to start out on a small team, and we grow from there. You might start with just a small group within your company, and then as you add people, we’ll scale with you.

paid tiersWith our previous pricing per seat, we found people hesitated to invite their whole team. That doesn’t match one of the most important lessons we’ve learned in recruiting. If you want to scale referrals you need to get the whole company involved. By updating our pricing, we’re matching that best practice with how customers value our product.

It also matches how the product works. YesGraph makes it easy to invite your whole team to make referrals. The more trusted people you get to help, the more successful your recruiting will be. Plus coworkers can invite their trusted contacts outside the company. This subtle change also helps drive scale.

What can people on your YesGraph team do that those you just invite to make referrals can’t? Team members can see all your jobs, review referrals, add team members, invite people to make referrals, and of course make referrals. Those you invite for a specific job to make referrals can do only that. We’re working on making this easier to understand, but we’re also going to make the default choice the right choice. When you invite people at your company, they’ll have more power as team members. When you invite people outside your company, they’ll just see that job to make referrals.

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How We Built ClickShareLove at YesGraph’s 1st Hackathon

YesGraph just finished our first hackathon. Hackathons are fun events where you try to build something in a really short time. We had around 30 hours, and even with my high expectations, I was very impressed with what the team was able to produce.

There are a few projects to announce on this blog, starting with Click Share Love.


It’s About Love, Not Ads

Promoting content on Twitter has had a mixed history. Third parties started playing in the space before Twitter locked things down. I always hoped that truly native ads on Twitter would leverage the interest graph that is inherent to asymmetric following. I love lots of stuff, and I’d be willing to help that stuff because I love them so much. Getting paid needn’t be part of the equation.

From a brand perspective, getting out your message is notoriously difficult. Love – Ads + Promotion = Click Share Love. ClickShareLove allows your current fans to help spread your message to their network. It works like this: you ask for support from your fans. They choose how frequently to support, up to daily, weekly, or monthly. Then you can promote a tweet to trigger retweets from all the supporters. That’s it, but structurally, you’re sending a message through your fans to their followers, and this helps grow your fan base.

How about an example? When we published this blog post, we tweeted about it and then promoted those tweets on ClickShareLove. Our message was promoted by 9 supporters, who have thousands of followers. What if you had 1000s of supporters? Go try ClickShareLove today.

Oh, and you should go support YesGraph on Click Share Love!

Hackathons: A Ton O’ Hacks

Building something that can be launched in a few hours is actually pretty easy: you need to ruthlessly cut corners to get something coherent out. This might mean some thing are done manually. It might mean the design or infrastructure won’t scale. It most certainly means that you cut features until you have something reasonable to build.

A good example here is that there is no background processing in Click Share Love. For a service that needs to pull your recent tweet history and also schedule promotions, this is a horrible engineering design. Why cut it? Because fuck it, we’ll do it live: it’s simpler and already done, so move on. Another example: none of the interactions in the app are asynchronous, meaning each click triggers a page reload. This is horribly unscalable and inefficient, but for such a baby app, it just doesn’t matter.

In contrast, the design of Click Share Love is actually really awesome. If it were just me, it would be unstyled HTML, but because YesGraph’s designer, Guillermo Torres, got involved, we have a beautiful and delightful visual design. I especially love the logo, which really captures the idea of sharing what you love, and it is an unintentional play on the retweet icon.

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2 Tools To Make Social Media Management Less Daunting

A pillar of social media management is finding valuable content and sharing it via a variety of social platforms.  But with so much information online how do you find the right content?  How do you maintain a consistent flow of meaningful posts?  This process can be both overwhelming and time consuming.  Our solution at YesGraph is to use the online tools Inc and Buffer to collect information and create posting schedules.

Everyone on the YesGraph team finds great content online and we needed a place where we could share, store and collaborate on all of it.  Sure, we could copy a link and send it via email, but that information is easily lost in email threads or chat sessions.

Collecting Content With Inc

We use Inc to maintain an accessible library of interesting content over time. When a team member finds an article that they feel is valuable to our online community, they use the Inc Chrome extension and instantly upload the content to our Inc library with the comment #newsletter (the overarching hashtag for our social media posts).

I search #newsletter daily and see what articles have been shared and curate them for all of our social platforms. Team members can also leave comments and instruction. For example “please tweet @bobbrown with this article”. This allows the whole YesGraph team to be a resource for sharing valuable content.

We use this process for more than social media. Some links are great for #engineering, others help with #onboarding new employees. We use hashtags like this to help organize all this great content.

Posting Content With Buffer

With all of the content collected I turn to Buffer to help make posting easy and efficient.  I am able to take the information straight from our Inc library to Buffer where I can upload posts for all of our platforms at once. The custom scheduling allows me to tee up multiple posts in the future.

Inc + Buffer

With a full library of content and a schedule, I can layout my social media posts days in advance which takes away the stress of always updating in real time. Once I have shared an article I comment #shared on my Inc feed so that I can track what articles have already been used. I also use the Buffer analytics data to see how my posts have performed. Here is what that looks like, ample whitespace and all:

Overall, I spend around 30 minutes to curate the content that goes out through the week. Thanks to the awesome teams making Inc and Buffer!

No Secret: the Demand For Mobile Engineers is Absurdly High

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I have a secret. Well, not for long. I’ve been using the awesome new app about sharing anonymously with friends called Secret. It lets you post messages to friends without revealing who you are.

Because I’m building YesGraph, a referral recruiting tool, I naturally thought about what kinds of conversations would happen on the platform related to talent and HR. I’ve seen people post their salaries and net worth, which are obviously private.

Then I tried a different experiment. I claimed I was a iOS engineer and designer looking to leave my startup. A half dozen people posted contact info to get in touch. Continue reading

How YC Companies Found Employee #1

When YesGraph’s founder, Ivan Kirigin, was looking to make the first hire, he asked YC founders on how they did it. The responses were diverse and fascinating. We pulled some quotes, but they aren’t attributed.

Hiring doesn’t happen overnight

y-combinatorThere’s a strong chance that the person you want to to hire is not actively looking, which means it will take time and significant effort to convince them to join you. Expect to meet with them on numerous occasions, and seek to understand what they would look for in a career move. Even if they aren’t interested, you may be able to assist them with their next career move.

I have spent a lot of time looking for a first hire and it took a while to find him. When I did he was working for another company nearby and we did a little “dating” – meeting up for lunch, “bumping into each other” at events and really got on. When I felt my company was in the right spot and that he was in a receptive place I then “asked him out formally” and proposed that he joined me.

So, I know that you’re seasoned and have heard all the same advice I have a million times but from my own experience: believe the wisdom around hiring extremely carefully and slowly. Give your potential hires significant and real projects and see how they do. And most of all, stay objective. Don’t get excited that you found someone good and excuse them for not being as great as you really need that first hire to be. Continue reading

Exploding Job Offers Are Bullshit

A friend recently asked me for help in choosing among a few job offers. This is always a fun challenge, but a detail stuck out. He said, “this offer expires tomorrow, so I need to decide quickly”.

This tactic in recruiting is bullshit, and it’s time for candidates to stop obeying so willingly. Continue reading

Why Your Job Description Should Read More Like a Tweet.

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Since joining Yesgraph as a designer, I’ve talked to a lot of companies about their hiring practices. I’m going to start sharing some of the insights gained from my design research here on the YesGraph blog.

The biggest problems I have seen with job descriptions is the context that they are written in. Too often, they are created in the process of opening the position filling out a form addressed to HR. This form, called a Req Form in most companies, ask the hiring manager to fill out a list of requirements to fill that job along with other administrative data like position, pay range, starting date. The content of this form is what eventually makes it into the job description. Continue reading

Searchlight Meetings: a secret hiring process used at Facebook and Dropbox

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Getting the attention and time of engineers and other employees is a challenge for recruiters. One best practice is to have a meeting where you get a few people together to help by giving referrals. There are lots of names for this: a blitz, a sourcing session, a searchlight meeting, etc.

It is a lot easier to just send an email to your team to ask for referrals, but putting in a bit more effort should yield far better results. Here are some things you can do to make sure your searchlight meetings are more successful. Continue reading

What Design at a Startup Actually Looks Like

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We recently recorded a design review at YesGraph. We share these discussions internally with the team to help build shared context for a project. The result is an interesting snapshot of what design actually looks like at a startup. We decided to share an example, and if people enjoy it, we can continue to openly share how we build YesGraph. Continue reading