Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Aruni Gunasegaram of Babble Soft talks about her Startup

Aruni Gunasegaram talks about her new startup focused on parenting, the mobile phone application space, and the importance of Search Engine Optimization.

I like your blog post on your fundraising toolkit for entrepreneurs. I meet many entrepreneurs who engage with investors but don’t even have a one page summary of their business. What is your background?

I have a background in accounting and an MBA. I was founding CEO of a startup back in the late 1990s called Isochron. Entrepreneurship is in my family tree. I was not always a great employee at the Big 6 companies because I wanted to do things differently. If I saw a better way of doing things I wanted to try it which didn’t always go over well with my superiors. My grandfather was a doctor who made and sold baby powder, distributed baby formula and later started a pathology laboratory and then a medical school in Sri Lanka.

What is the name of your company?

It’s called Babblesoft and focuses on building web and mobile applications supported by a social aspect for those transitioning into parenthood.

How did you come up with the idea for it?

After our son was born we were looking for ways to record information about his activities but we didn’t find anything out there so I thought it was a good place to innovate.

Is your product up and running?

We’re in the beta version with our Baby Insights and Baby Say Cheese applications and the site has been up and running for a while now. We’re now raising funding for the next phase which is to add a social networking element to it and build out more applications

What’s the new concept about?

It’s about connecting people through mobile web and web 2.0 technology so you can find parents going through the same problems you have.

Is this just for parents?

No, it will be for people who are trying to conceive as well.

What is your revenue model?

It’s a mix of advertising and subscriptions.

How does the site help parents aside from connecting to others?

We have a number of applications. One of them is called Baby Insights and keeps track of information about the baby such as breastfeeding and bottle feeding schedules, baby sleep times, mom’s pumping schedule, and diaper changes.

Isn’t there quite a bit of competition in that space?

There are general social networking sites, but not many focused on this space.

How do you drive traffic to your site?

SEO has turned out to be the best source for visitors so far- far better than traditional PR as a matter of fact. We only actively started engaging in SEO in mid December 2007 and we are starting to see traffic double to our site.

What Web 2.0 technologies do you find most useful?

There’s off-the-shelf backend technology that you can use to run it. We plan to integrate mobile applications with our social and web application suite of applications as well. Our technologies will focus on helping people identify others who have a similar situation or issues.

What do you find in the mobile space?

Our current Baby Insights application is built using Microsoft .Net. With additional funding we plan to expand the mobile application to mobile browsers. Our audience consists of parents and they are mobile. They are out and about and they use their mobile phones a great deal. I think everyone is still exploring the mobile arena for expansion of web applications so we’re still early in the game and learning along with the rest of the companies out there with a mobile presence.

Best regards,
Hall T.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Mike Mayeux of Novotus – Purveyor of the Knowledge Base

Mike Mayeux of Novotus talks about how he entered the recruiting market, how he started up the business, and why an internal knowledge base in the form of a Wiki is a powerful tool for any business.

Who is Novotus?

Novotus is with skin on it. We’ve taken those technologies and added highly skilled users and brought together some Web 2.0 technologies to coordinate it all. We have a state of the art environment. We have another company called Reaching Talent that drives traffic to job web sites. We have a group called Nitro which is a research department. Between the three of those groups we’re doing things most other companies have never done. We just celebrated our 5th year anniversary at Novotus.

How did Novotus startup?

We did it all on a little severance check I got when I left We bootstrapped it all the way. There are a lot of people out there who are very gifted at what they do but when it comes to building a company can they actually convert?

What are some of your successes?

When Dell opened a call center in Panama City, Panama, we placed 550 people there in seven weeks. A small startup in Boston, we built employee number 2 to 35 for them. We’ve made over 1000 placements at Dell since 2005. Our big claim to fame is the proof of process for recruiting outsourcing. Oil and services gas company out of Louisiana. We hire 1700 people a year for them which includes everyone from C-level to the truck driver level.

Why are you so successful?

It’s the way recruiters get paid. It’s all or nothing. If they don’t close a deal they don’t get paid. Because of that they don’t invest much. In general they fill one in seven jobs. If you’re hiring a $100K sales guy, you’ll spend $25K to $35K to find him through a headhunter. If you have an internal HR team hiring, you’ll spend around $15K to find that person. We do the same thing for $6K.

How did you get that started?

When I was a rookie back in 1991 in Dallas, I got into the business because I was good at it. There were 4000 recruiters in the country and 1500 were rookies. I just didn’t have the stomach for it. There was never a partnership there. I serve three constituents – the client, the candidate, and the recruiters who put the deals together. The clients want higher quality people faster and for lower fees. The candidates got screwed by the internet because there’s so much information out there on them. Recruiters are inundated with data. The candidate went from being a human being to data. The recruiters are looking for a closer relationship with their clients and better tools. We’ll have about 6500 people apply to Novotus for a job every month. It shouldn’t cost $35K to fill a job.

We have 200 customers now that are plugged into our recruiting environment that pay “by the drink.” We take our knowledge base which is in the form of a Wiki and we can leverage that for each account.

How many hires do you need for that to make business sense?

At least a 100 hires per year.

What is the knowledge base that you have?

It’s based on a Wiki. We found that it was great way to capture people’s knowledge so over time, the person coming in behind them can benefit from their experience. So as knowledge evolves, the new information is over written on the previous information so you can see the evolution of it. We use Wikis to drive internal procedures and it works great. It’s a hard thing to get people to use it, but the benefits are phenomenal. I’m amazed at how many of our original business values were transferred to our new employees. We have a culture of promoting people who build and use the internal Wiki.

There are hundreds of jobs boards out there. How can they be successful?

The key is to aggregate jobs from other sites onto the jobs board. It helps overcome the chicken and the egg problem by seeding the board with some job postings. You can do that based on niche or location. Austin had last year that scraped jobs from everyone’s web site.

What are you interested in doing now?

I would like to provide mentoring to startup companies. I can coach on the talent workforce side. I can also give speeches on motivation and collaboration.

(Editorial note: There are other mentoring sites available on the web including Micro Mentor, Idea Crossing,, and Entrepreneur’s Organization.

Best regards,
Hall T.