We talked to founder Ananth Kasturiraman to learn more about Skillist in October 2018…
Tell us about your company. What problem are you trying to solve?
Did you know that nearly 120M Americans over the age of 25 have at least a high school diploma but don’t have a four-year college degree? At the same time, there are millions of jobs that are best-suited for this population but go unfilled each year. This is a HUGE labor market mismatch, and it stems from a broken job application process.
For far too long, employers have relied on resumes and pedigrees (like a college degree) as proxies for skill which has put a strain on both businesses looking for the right talent and candidates looking for stable, career-advancing opportunities.
Skillist is on a mission to solve these problems by building a fairer, more effective job application platform.
How did your company get started?
Ananth, who started his career in consulting and nonprofit strategy, moved to Boston from sunny California to pursue his MBA with the longer-term vision of working in higher education. During his first year in school, he and some classmates decided to submit an idea for a community college career/advisory portal—the kernel of what would eventually become Skillist—to the HBS New Venture Competition. Their idea made it to the competition finals and received some unexpected attention. Caroline, a Northeast native, had just finished a Master’s degree at the Harvard Graduate School of Education where she focused her studies on post-secondary success for underserved communities. A good friend (who ended up becoming Skillist’s first hire!) sent her a link to Ananth’s business plan and said “Hey Caroline – isn’t this exactly what you’re passionate about?”. Caroline reached out to Ananth, igniting the idea to build a company around this issue that inspired them both, and the rest is history!
Why is your team well positioned to solve the problem you’re tackling?
With our team’s combined experiences, we have a deep understanding of both sides of the marketplace: jobseekers and employers. The co-founders thoughtfully built a team with hands-on experience in career advancement, higher education, corporate talent management, human-centered design, and more to make sure Skillist was built to be effective and have lasting impact. We also keep our ears close to the ground to make sure that our product continues to address the painpoints that jobseekers and employers have been feeling for years.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned along the way?
ABL (Always Be Learning): Be open to words of wisdom, expertise or feedback from the people in your company’s sphere of influence (investors, advisors, family or friends, the startup ecosystem as whole).
Great teams are intentional: The hiring process can seem daunting when you’re starting a brand-new business but, if you take the time to find the right people to go on the journey with you, it’ll accelerate your performance and enrich your experience more than you know.
What resources do you rely on to help your company grow?
As a distributed team, we rely heavily on a number of collaboration and documentation tools to keep us seamlessly connected and organized. And, as you may have gathered from the question above, we have an outstanding team of advisors who we reach out to regularly for feedback and advice on our progress.