Starting a business during a pandemic, Waina Landauro MBA 20

“After careful consideration, we regret to inform you…”

Most, if not all of us, have read this infamous line after interviewing for a job. Personally, I have failed a lot of interviews. To paint the picture, let me give you some numbers. I estimate that I applied to 62 MBA internships last year, landing 12 interviews, and converted exactly 2, a success rate of 3%. Considering the time it takes to submit an application and go through the interview process, this statistic reflects inefficiency and disappointment.

Creating Mockmate

My name is Waina Landauro and I recently graduated from IESE in May 2020. I’ve always had a knack for fiddling with things, especially with technology, and during the March-June lockdown I created a tool to help my fellow MBAs and I prepare for job interviews. As the pandemic greatly affected the job market, I wanted to try to help people practice interviews and eventually land some jobs. Plus building something in my ‘garage’ during the lockdown was kind of fun.

When a local journalist in Belgium discovered my interviewing tool and wrote a story about it, I realized that what I had built could actually have some real-world applications. As I was also graduating during a time of uncertainty, trying to navigate the fairly bleak job market, I decided I would give this company a try. That’s how Mockmate started.

The beginning of something beautiful…

Artificial Intelligence + HR

What is Mockmate? Essentially, it is an artificial intelligence powered job interview simulator.

An automated mock interview tool can quickly and easily offer preparation help to a large number of students, which became our initial target segment.

However, something that we discovered in the process of finding product-market-fit: Mockmate can be used in the hiring process for companies in the early stages of interviewing.

According to Glassdoor, only about 2% of applicants that send in their CVs get an interview. This means that 98% of applicants are judged solely by their CVs and cover letters and then overlooked.

If HR professionals use Mockmate, every single job applicant can have the chance to complete a 15-20 minute interview, answering key questions to enable a better selection. Recruiters no longer have to interview only the strong profiles, they can also interview the ‘maybes’. This opens the door for people who maybe didn’t attend the ideal university or didn’t work for a powerhouse company to have a chance to give an interview and offer a good impression based on the content of their answers. This gives recruiters the opportunity to greatly widen their talent pool and potentially find those hidden gems in their stacks of applicants.

Mockmate doesn’t make any judgement based on someone’s name, gender, education, experience, or CV writing skills. Our product offers a very unbiased and standardized assessment of every candidate by analyzing only the content of the answers to the interview questions. We are building our technology with an anti-bias mindset. Of course nothing will ever be perfect, but our product helps make hiring decisions more quickly, and makes each decision based on the same criteria. Also, digitizing the process allows for heightened accountability, so if there is any discrepancy, the chain of events is entirely traceable. I did not intentionally build the original version of the tool with this goal in mind, but I am very proud that we have found a way to help make the process more transparent and equitable.

Building a team & some of our successes!

Soon after I started Mockmate, I realized I need help to build it. I am the tech lead, but I can’t do everything. So, I simply advertised where I knew the best talent was – IESE Business School.

I first enlisted the help of my wife Megan (it’s our 3rd time working together, so it is normal for us now), my classmate Francesco Pelazza, and Mike Gross from IESE MBA 21. At Mockmate we live by our own philosophy of deeply valuing diverse backgrounds and perspectives, from our wild card Mike (a former professional dancer), to Francesco’s killer carbonara (we all eat lunch together), to Meg’s drive and eye for detail, we really have a rockstar team.

Starting a company has a romantic allure, but as entrepreneurs say, it’s not always ‘sunshine and rainbows’. There have been amazing days, and there have been slow and boring days. It’s been pretty challenging to make sure the product is working, get sales coming in, watch spending, raise money, etc. There is a seemingly endless list of tasks to complete.

Here, I want to celebrate some highlights we have had in just the last few months:

  • We recently secured our first paying client (€!)
  • Landed a partnership with Louvain School of Management
  • Pitched in front of IESE’s Angel Network (among others)
  • Completed our first pilot with a company (and the tech worked!)
  • 1000 Instagram followers…and then 2000 Instagram followers

Even though these highpoints have really kept me motivated, being a CEO is tough. The CEO assumes all the responsibility and has their name attached to the company in a way that is a bit different than anyone else. Luckily, there’s a WhatsApp group for this community to help me deal with some of the challenges . This group is made up of Barcelona IESE alumni who are now CEOs, and we support each other in any way we can.

Celebrating a win!

The power of IESE

I am fortunate to have the IESE network by my side. Aside from  being the source of my amazing team, IESE continues to offer Mockmate incredible support. The professors have helped us out in any way they can, the Career Development Center gave us candid feedback on our product, we were able to pitch to the IESE Angel Network, and the fellow alumni have been especially open to connecting and guiding us along the way.

Something I didn’t expect, was how much I would rely on what I learned during the MBA. I have realized that after taking Communications and Public Speaking courses, I am much more confident talking to clients, investors, and our users on a daily basis. And even though reading cases used to be a chore, I re-read several of them while I was developing the initial version of the tool. (Side note: if you are thinking about getting into any SaaS business, I highly recommend Prof. Jorge Gonzalez’ B2B Marketing class.)

Moving forward, we are really excited about what’s next. We are in the middle of raising an angel round and we are focusing on growth. Overall, the main reason we are working so hard is because in the long term, we want to disrupt the way that people land jobs. The hiring pipeline is one of the last aspects of the business to go through a digital transformation, because it has always been so subjective. We want to standardize more processes to ensure every single candidate is given a chance, regardless of education, background, race, appearance, etc. 

I will continue to be the champion for Mockmate because for me, this is my “mark to make.”

All the best to Waina and his team, we look forward to seeing you achieve more with Mockmate!

Pursue your dream MBA! Take these next steps today:

Waïna Landauro View more

MBA Class of 2020
CEO and Founder of Mockmate, www.mockmate.com
Read his blog about his MBA experience at www.iesemba.com
https://www.linkedin.com/in/waina

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