CommonPlace just hired two engineers in very quick succession using Whitetruffle. The story of CommonPlace is at once remarkable and typical of the creativity, passion, and drive that builds a tech startup.
This post is the beginning of a series following CommonPlace as they face the challenges of building a new product with their new team.
CommonPlace is a web platform for local community engagement. Max Novendstern, the company’s founder, was in a sociology class at Harvard reading “Bowling Alone,” a book by Robert Putnam that argues:
“Television, two-career families, suburban sprawl, generational changes in values—these and other changes in American society have meant that fewer and fewer of us find that the League of Women Voters, or the United Way, or the Shriners, or the monthly bridge club, or even a Sunday picnic with friends fits the way we have come to live. Our growing social-capital deficit threatens educational performance, safe neighborhoods, equitable tax collection, democratic responsiveness, everyday honesty, and even our health and happiness.”
Max wanted to fix this - to create something using tools like online social networking and lots of data to help make it easy to connect in meaningful ways with the people in your local community. So he hacked a text entry field in Rails, started a non-profit organization, and began looking for advice on how to make his idea a reality. He soon realized that if he wanted to raise money and hire people quickly, he would have to switch from non-profit to tech startup.
Tech startups were something he knew very little about. He initially wanted to be a non-profit, but learned that “businesses are just powerful ways of getting stuff done.” While he knew this was the right direction to take, Max had to actively search for the resources he needed. Before he knew it he was balancing building the product, active fundraising, and a full schedule at Harvard. CommonPlace was launched in 10 cities while Max was still in school.
When asked how a college student with no business experience was able to convince two engineers to leave their jobs and join his venture, he said he felt it was best to speak to their ambition. He knew he couldn’t compete in compensation or benefits - but he could promise that they would be tackling a big, challenging problem. If they succeeded, it would mean helping many people and getting a lot of public recognition for it.
According to Max, selling your vision to potential team members means “creating a vocabulary where you can be the winner.”
We released even more new features on Friday to make your experience even better:
We surveyed our users to see what kinds of improvements they wanted to see. They told us they wanted to be able to choose the size of the companies they are matched with - and now you can! To select a preferred company size, go to your profile page, click “Edit Profile” and chose one of the three options here:
We made a “Hired” button! Both companies and individual users can now let us know when they have made a hire/been hired even more easily than before!
Lastly, we’re continually making adjustments to improve our matching algorithm. This week we made changes that will better target candidates who are more eager to meet companies and make a move. We’re also fine-tuning so we do an even better job of filtering through the edge-case matches and deciding which ones could be just the person you’re looking for.
Emails are very important to the Whitetruffle experience. That’s how we alert you when there is a match and/or an introduction. It’s actually at the heart of our service.
Yet, our emails were… hmmm… not that good. We were so focused in building our algorithm, that we never really spent the time to fix them. The format was quite ugly, and it was very difficult to interact directly from them.
Well, we finally improved them! And now, they are absolutely gorgeous and super useful.
No need to speak too much about them: you will tell the difference very quickly! We’re really proud of this improvement. It’s one of the most important features of Whitetruffle.