Startup O Stars is a series that captures stories of authentic tech entrepreneurs from Asia, to share their insights, learnings, tips & resources with the community. It aims to foster a deeper understanding of these journeys, direct from the trenches.

Tushar Tujeja

– CEO Hackertrail

Startup-O Stars in conversation with Tushar Tejuja of Hackertrail, a next-generation recruitment company.

Tushar Tejuja was born an entrepreneur, as most of his family have run their own businesses over the last 30-40 years. His own career, in fact, has been a carefully crafted path towards technology entrepreneurship.

After his first experience running a business as a fresh graduate, Tushar embarked on a career within large corporates, to gain relevant experience. His next move was well planned – he joined a family office as Chief Technology Officer, where he says, “the entrepreneurial spirit was high, so I could reacquaint myself with the principles of entrepreneurship.”


The machinery behind the big idea

When Tushar felt ready to take the plunge, he evaluated 15 business models and took to fruition the one that he best related to from his prior experience. As a hiring manager, he had used various recruitment channels to hire 200-300 people, wherein he relied heavily on gut feel to make decisions.

“The problem is that recruitment is hard and inefficient,” he says. To address this, he resolved to build technology for an alternative method of recruitment. Recruitment, he strongly believed, was ripe for disruption, having been largely unchanged over a long period.

What emerged was the now 4-year-old Hackertrail. Hackertrail is a next-gen recruitment agency that uses machine learning and gamification to parse suitable candidates for a role. This enhances objectivity in hiring decisions by removing bias, and also reduces the time taken to hire a candidate.

“Every client keeps me honest, keeps our product very real, and gives us candid advice that we welcome.”


How to gain confidence from a great product-market fit

A startup may spend time and money building the perfect product, but if the market does not want to pay for it, or even pay enough for it, Tushar says, “it is on the losing side of the equation.” Similarly, a model that works well once or twice is not guaranteed long-term success, and several visits back to the drawing board are often needed.

As such, Tushar’s journey has taught him to think first from the consumer’s perspective, rather than his own. “Every client keeps me honest, keeps our product very real, and gives us candid advice that we welcome.” Today, he is proud to have built an end to end product from the ground up, using machine learning and gamification with a healthy dose of intellectual property to solve the problem of slow and biased recruitment.

As such, Tushar advises all entrepreneurs to take pride in the value added by their product. Knowing the value of their product will help budding entrepreneurs to price it fairly and avoid the trap of under-pricing.

“I would be disappointed if my team members did not have their own companies in 7 years.”


The need to balance perfection and progress

Tushar is an ardent believer in positive organisation culture and insists that every member of his team have a voice that is heard, and an opinion that is expressed. He sees his team as a family, and cares deeply about their progress and their careers – “I would be disappointed if my team members did not have their own companies in 7 years,” he says.

An ongoing balancing act for him is that of delegation versus immersing himself in day to day minutiae. His goal is to reach a stage where he is almost redundant, and his intervention in any part of the business is by design rather than necessity.

Having spent Hackertrail’s formative years deeply involved in developing its technology, he is now starting to let go and cede control. This frees him up for the more strategic and long-term aspects of managing the business. A motto that resonates with him in this regard is “don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.”

"The more you share, the better you get. Share your journey, your pitfalls and your wins.”


The importance of coming up for air from the whirlwind

Over his years running Hackertrail, Tushar has learned the importance of self-care. Most importantly, he has learned to prioritise time for himself each morning and ensure a good night’s sleep in order to feel refreshed and recharged. Weekends are particularly important for an entrepreneur, as Tushar points out, “the lines between the professional and personal are blurred.” He, therefore, carves out time on weekends to attend to Hackertrail matters, ensuring that he uses this window effectively to allow time for leisure.

Tushar also emphasises the importance of support from family, friends, mentors and advisers. This is of great value during times of stress, inevitable long hours, and periods of low confidence. He adds, “the more you share, the better you get. Share your journey, your pitfalls and your wins.”

Of course, there is always room to improve in this arena, especially for a single-minded entrepreneur, and Tushar is no exception. He now aims to focus on gratitude, specifically, recognizing and celebrating small wins and successes with his team.

"Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good."


Two key steps to navigate the mistake minefield

A startup that listens carefully to its customer’s voice will invariably make continuous improvements to its product. However, Tushar has two suggestions for avoiding costly mistakes. First, learn from other’s mistake before you make your own – thus, the onus is on you to be aware of what is happening in your ecosystem.

Second, engage closely with advisers and mentors for guidance. This comes with a caveat; your goals and destination can only be crafted by you, for your conviction to stand the test of time. However, mentors will use their experience to guide you in avoiding missteps on your journey.

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Promising future unfolding rapidly

With validation from year-on-year growth of 400% through 2018, Tushar is now turning his vision to the bigger picture. His longer-term goal is to add value to the ecosystem and build a sense of community to leave a strong legacy in his chosen field. Says Tushar of his mission to dramatically disrupt how recruiters hire the most deserving candidates, “we are fundamentally changing lives.”

Startup-O is South East Asia’s leading platform for startup assessments, investments, and venture building. It was created with ‘Entrepreneurs for Entrepreneurs’ ethos at the core of its design. The assessment platform coupled with venture funds helps with systematic discovery & investing in high traction tech startups. These promising growth startups are selected through a transparent process which is a blend of multi-stage online evaluations conducted by seasoned global experts & proprietary ranking algorithms on the platform.