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Kacharagadla Featured Article

5 Ways to Validate a Business Idea, Right Now

Don't let your day job or lack of capital stop you from finding and testing a business idea. Here's how.
Last year, I embarked upon a personal challenge to validate a business idea in 30 days. To make it even more difficult, it was a random idea chosen by my readers. They asked me to do it without using my existing website, traffic and business connections and without spending more than 20 hours per week on the project. On top of that, I limited myself to spending no more than $500 validating this idea. The experiment was a success.In just two weeks, I built an email list of 565 subscribers without having an actual website. Then, I reached out to a handful of those subscribers and pre-sold 12 copies of a book that didn't even exist yet, all in less than 30 days. I wrote about the experiment in real-time with in-depth weekly updates, successes, failures and lessons learned along the way, right here in my validation challenge. Today, I want to share with you the five most effect…

How Indian Startup Belong Is Using Machine Learning Algorithms To Hire Smarter For Companies

(From left to right) Saiteja Veera, co-founder, Vijay Sharma, CEO & co- founder, Sudheendra Chilappagari co-founder & head of product, and Rishabh Kaul, co-founder & head of demand.  Pic Credit: Belong
For a long time, hiring in India (or for that matter anywhere in the world) meant candidates would have to be active on job portals and scout through the various jobs listed. It would then be up to the recruiter of a company to go through all the CVs and schedule interviews with potential candidates and the entire process took around four to five months.
As companies run into increasingly competitive talent markets, recruiting costs and cycles are escalating. To overcome these challenges and help businesses meet their goals, recruiting teams need radically new capabilities and technologies, something Bengaluru-based startup Belong is helping companies to achieve.
Basically, the premise is simple: for an employer and potential employee to connect with each other they must connect on something beyond skills and experience. Their values and culture must also fit. And to make this happen Belong analyzes behavior and responses on platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Quora, GitHub, Behance, blogs and more to get an analysis of our likes and dislikes. This helps to create a more holistic and accurate profile of a candidate which is then matched using machine-learning algorithms to relevant companies and jobs. Belong’s proprietary predictive analytics platform identifies the “DNA” of each candidate’s profile – the most suited ones are featured on the first page of results, much like a Google search page rankings. The company’s algorithm ensures that no two companies see the same set of candidate profiles for the same role they are hiring for. For example, if Forbes and Belong are both hiring for content marketing professionals, they will not see the same set of candidates in their results. That’s because Belong’s machine learning algorithms — called Personalized Search – learns from each company’s sourcing and hiring patterns and their current talent pool, which of course are different.
“We at Belong feel that good candidates don’t really go out actively looking for a job. Companies have to reach out to them in what we call outbound hiring,” says Vijay Sharma, co-founder and CEO at Belong, previously featured on Forbes as a company to watch out for in 2016.
Sharma believes CVs are not a fool proof way to hire as people are much more than what is described on a page. “What if candidates have the same skills and work experience? How does a recruiter then decide on the right fit?” he says.
I got a first-hand experience of how Sharma’s product works. Once a potential candidate is zeroed in on, a personalized email is sent to his or her inbox. In order to make an email personalized, the algorithm searches for insights (like an award won for a project, or recommendations received on LinkedIn) from publicly available social data. This engages a candidate immediately and often leads to quicker responses.
Example of personalized email. Credit: Belong.

The germination of idea
Before Belong happened, Sharma was working with Practo, a healthcare company founded in 2009, where he joined right after college. The team was small and Sharma was given multiple responsibilities, one of which was to hire talent. Sharma soon realized it was not an easy job. Even recruiting agencies were not of much help as many candidates recommended were qualified but did not fit in the company culture.
Post-Practo, Sharma joined Exotel, a cloud telephony service provider, where he was again handed over the responsibility of recruiting, among other things. “I was going through this phase where I was very confused as to what exactly to do in life. One day my mother pointed out how I no longer was actively tweeting about Exotel and asked me if everything was OK in the company. This is when I realized how a person’s behavior on networking sites can actually tell a lot about him or her.”
And the idea for Belong was born.
The company claims to get at least a threefold increase in engagement rates between a candidate and company, compared to mainstream recruiting platforms. Belong’s customers include several leading technology companies like Amazon, Cisco, Thoughtworks, Fractal Analytics, RedHat, Ola and Practo, among others.
In June 2015, Belong raised $5 million in Series A funding in a round led by VC firm Matrix Partners, with participation from Blume Ventures, along with several angels.
The majority of hiring on Belong platform happens for candidates with three to 15 years of experience. Candidates are generally hired for roles like product manager, data architect, DevOps engineers, Java engineers, Digital Marketing Specialists among others.
“It’s a great feeling to see candidates getting hired by the right companies. We feel a right job fit can really help a person grow professionally and personally,” says Sharma.