Why KnackApp got started?
I wanted to work on Wall Street, the epicenter of finance.
The Career Center at Harvard, where I studied, told me about an early career leadership program with one of the world’s best known quantitative hedge funds.
I thought it was super cool, exactly what I wanted!
I quickly emailed my cover and resume, and got an email back in no time! I was thrilled they’d asked me to come in for an interview, and then for another.
A few weeks later they called up and said:
“We can’t make you an offer. You don’t think the way we do. You’re just not creative.”
And that was it.
I thought it was strange — even surprising — that a high caliber firm whose business was all about using big data and deep insights to develop smart trading algorithms and strategies had actually made its hiring decisions without real data.
After all, can you really tell how someone might contribute to your team and business based on some Q&A?
To be honest, I was quite frustarted with this hiring ‘experience’, not to mention the waste of time. And I was also running out of money.
I realized that one particular line on my resume was the key to getting that interview: my having gone to Harvard. I don’t think I would even get an interview otherwise. That firm was clearly biased in favor of hiring Ivy League graduates, and a quick Google search for people they’d hired confirmed this.
In other words, anyone outside that small super competitive talent pool wouldn’t even get a chance to get rejected, no matter how able and talented she or he might happen to be.
I thought that wasn’t a smart business strategy, not to mention that it was also ununfair.
But it was the trigger I needed for spending time with that problem. I started thinking hard about hiring, who gets a chance and (mostly) who doesn’t, how such decisions get made, how these “transactions” shape people’s lives, what’s a good way to build a business workforce, and how you’d find people you need but don’t know about.
The wise words of my doctroal advisor at Harvard came to mind. He encouraged me to think about solving problems by designing new systems from scartch; rather than making small improvements to whatever systems and solutions happen to exist. (In case you’re wondering, yes, he was an economist.) In other words, his inavlauble advice was: think fresh, think bold, think big!
And then came my Aha moment!
What if we looked at hiring as a game?
But not just any game. Rather, the type of strategic games that get studied in game theory classes; the type of strategic interactions and insights for which John Nash, Michael Spence, Alvin Roth, and several others got the Nobel prize in Economics.
Specifically, can we create a signaling game that lets people — really, anyone and anywhere — show and communicate their true ability and potential?
I wasn’t sure, but I surely got excited!
I started imagining a whole new platform that combines cognitive science, gaming, and AI that let people from all walks of life broadcast their otherwise-hidden talent and potential.
I thought that building such a game could change the game for people and businesses, and it would level the massively uneven playing field.
Things started coming together quite quickly. Working from my NYC apartment I started putting together a tiny team of engineers, game designers, and scientists.
I also started pitching the idea to potential investors. I’ll just say they were quite creative in how and why they turned it down. “You won’t be able to build it.” “I’m telling you, it just won’t work.” “It’s really hard to build a good game, and you’re are telling me you want to build a game that does what???” “No one will use it.” “No one will pay for it.” “You’re wasting your time.”
But I didn’t let this get to me.
Because like Robin Williams said, “you’re only given a little spark of madness, you mustn’t lose it.” And as we learned from Steve Jobs, “the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.”
As we started building the technology and seeing it in action we came to appreciate its massive potential and promise. This shaped our vision of the future in ways we could not have anticipated.
This is how it all started.
Creating a whole new way to unlock human potential at scale (not just a better mousetrap) is a hard problem to solve. But it’s also a massive opportunity to change the world.
I truly hope you join us on this future-shaping mission!