Boole start-up of the week:

29 Jun 2015

Shake's founders: Kevin Holler and Thomas Culligan

Our start-up of the week is Shake, a start-up focused exclusively on connecting students with quality, paid internships.

“Shake helps students and soon-to-be graduates discover the best opportunities as they start their careers,” explained Shake’s co-founder Kevin Holler.

“Career fairs and job boards can be a nightmare to navigate and actually get results – Shake’s personal approach matches users with the right paid internships.

“Imagine walking into a career fair organised just for you. That’s what we provide students online, for free.

“On the other side of this are the hiring managers in companies that we connect with highly relevant, qualified and interested candidates. Not only do we reduce the noise through matching, but we automatically score candidates so that customers can quickly identify who they should be talking to and why.”

The market

There are more than 180 million third-level students worldwide today and that number is estimated to grow to 260 million by 2025.

“We’re currently targeting the recruitment market for interns and graduates, which is growing fast right now. When we launched we focused primarily on tech positions, which helped us to narrow our marketing and sales efforts.

“Today we have students from over 32 different countries signed up and we’re seeing a lot of different academic backgrounds, so we’ve had to expand our reach. We collect a lot of useful data so we’ve been able to identify patterns of interest from users, which help us go after the right companies.

“The big opportunity for us in the US, which we’ll be launching in soon. Stay tuned …”

The founders

Holler began coding at the age of 14. “I have been obsessed with technology ever since. I graduated with a degree in web engineering and went on to work with companies like Intercom, Engine Yard and New Relic designing and building products, before leading a sales engineering team.

“The transition into a customer-facing position gave me the experience I needed to sell and lead our commercial efforts today.”

Co-founder Thomas Culligan leads Shake’s product design and development. Before joining Shake, he worked with Foundry, an HR-tech start-up in San Francisco, which was acquired by Dropbox.

“Working with Foundry gave Thomas an insight into the problems that exist in the recruitment business.

“It took some time but we’ve found a great co-founder balance, with Thomas 100pc focused on product, while I soak up the day-to-day running of the company and focus on sales, marketing and product strategy.”

The technology

Shake is a data-driven company from the ground up, Holler explains.

“Our core tech is our matching and candidate-scoring algorithms, which drive our marketplace. These algorithms look at many data points to deliver results.

“Students add ‘stories’ to their profile such as projects, education, events etc… which all have key data points that we use. The user also sets their discovery preferences to tell us what types of positions they’re interested in, if they’re willing to relocate and their interests in certain areas of work.”

Meaningful connections

Holler says the goal of Shake is to create meaningful connections, between career starters and companies, at scale.

“Our north star at Shake is the number of successful hires and it’s what we measure ourselves against.

“We were able to validate a lot of assumptions soon after launching in March and so we’ve been heavily focused on breaking into the US market, where we’ll be launching this year. We’re always interested in talking to people that may help us achieve our goal of matching the right candidates with rights jobs and disrupting the archaic way it is done now.”

Holler said the biggest challenge Shake encountered from the start was narrowing its focus and deciding what not to do.

“Over time we became better at aligning each feature with our goals. This really helped put everything into perspective. Now everything we do has a purpose and functional purpose.”

A good place to start

Holler said that Ireland has always been seen as a go-to place to expand a company but now it’s the place to start one too.

“We still have a long way to go in making laws and tax regulations more entrepreneur-friendly but we’re lucky to have a start-up commissioner as well as organisations like Start-up Ireland, which are pushing for change and are big advocates for what we do.”

His advice to other start-ups is to focus their efforts on problem-solving and be passionate about their conviction.

“Starting a company is an incredibly difficult journey, both personally and professionally. There will be days when you feel the world is crumbling around you and on those days you’ll hold onto why you’re doing this.”

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years