Skip to main content

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…

Why My Startup Is Betting On 'Returnships' To Help Women Restart Their Careers

Like most CEOs in growing companies, one of my chief concerns has always been talent. I thought about all parts of the employee lifecycle. I obsess about finding great people, making them successful, developing their skills, and retaining them for the long haul. Research has long shown that more diverse teams produce better business results.
Outside of work, I started to notice something as I entered my 40s – female friends and colleagues were leaving their careers for a period of time to focus on their children and finding it difficult to restart their careers. Their attempts were thwarted by bias from recruiters and hiring managers who were reluctant to consider a candidate with a career gap or someone who wanted something less than a full-time role. So we decided to launch an experiment at Return Path.
Our CTO and human resources leaders convinced me that we could find success by building a new kind of internship program aimed specifically at women looking to restart their careers, that would offer the opportunity to develop new skills and re-build employment history. Our goal was to bring in women who might otherwise be excluded from the hiring process due to a gap in their work history, so we utilized some unconventional recruiting channels such as “mom groups” on Facebook. Internally, we paved the way by identifying managers who were open to the idea of working with someone who was re-entering the workforce after a significant absence. After some initial small-scale experimentation, we launched the program in late 2014, offering a 16-week “internship” with the potential for ongoing full-time employment. In January 2015, we fielded our first cohort of six women hired to fill roles in various parts of the organization, including engineering, marketing, and product management.
The results were a smashing success — my company retained four of the six women at the end of the internship, and three of those four are still working for Return Path three years later. We learned a great deal from our initial trial — things that worked, and things that didn’t. Specifically, we learned the immense professional value that was available through a talent pool we hadn’t previously considered. By tapping into non-traditional recruiting channels, we were able to find great employees who would have been screened out of a “normal” recruiting process. On the minus side, we discovered that we needed to implement a clearer offboarding process, to reduce confusion and anxiety around what happens at the end of the internship.
Following our early success, it was a pretty easy decision to expand the program within Return Path. But I felt a bigger impact could be made if more companies got involved. While I want all the best talent for my company, I recognize that any initiative that helps to grow the overall talent pool will ultimately benefit my company in the years and decades to come. So I began reaching out to other executives I knew to test the idea of creating a community consortium to offer more opportunities to moms who wanted to return to the professional workforce.
The reception was enthusiastic, and we were soon helping PayPal, SendGrid, ReadyTalk, and Moz to launch and implement return-to-work programs. Their results were equally impressive. PayPal, for example, recruited a cohort of nine women software engineers and seven of those women are now working full-time at PayPal.
It became clear that there was an even bigger opportunity to bring this program to more companies through dedicated effort which is what led us to spin the program out of Return Path into a new nonprofit organization called Path Forward with a mission to bring more opportunity to women (and men) who’ve taken a career pause for caregiving.
Path Forward launched in early 2016, and I couldn’t be more thrilled with what we’ve accomplished so far. Today, we are working with some of the hottest companies in California and New York, including GoDaddy, Zendesk, Instacart, Cloudflare and AppNexus. They pay an administrative fee to be part of our program and to support our work with returnees to help them regain their confidence and find success during and after the internship. In this way, we plan to make Path Forward a nonprofit that is sustained by income from partners and not overly reliant on big donors.
Program-wide, 80% of the women who’ve been part of a Path Forward return-to-work program were offered continued employment at the company where they interned, and 90% are now employed.
At Path Forward, our goal is to empower 1 million people to restart their careers by bringing our program to more than 10,000 companies by 2026. It’s big and audacious, and we believe achieving it will bring exponential benefits – to the companies who participate, the women who get hired, and our society as a whole. By launching these types of programs, businesses gain value in additional areas. They can integrate talent they currently don’t consider because of career gaps and facilitate greater diversity in gender and age.
While there isn’t one single answer to the question of how to address the issue of increasing diversity on teams in corporate America, or even a single answer of how to most effectively onramp caregivers with a big resume gap back into the workplace, we believe methods like this one will be a key part of creating a more equitable future.

Comments