The idea for Candid was really hatched out over a series of “beer meetings” with the newly unemployed Mavizon team in September of 2012. At that time, none of us were ready emotionally or financially to start another startup – so we all took real jobs and set the plans on the shelf. I decided to build Candid after my move to the San Francisco Bay Area.
We had originally called the product “StaffSpoke” and it was to be a simple tool for current employees to give clear and concise feedback to employers, and have that feedback viewable to everyone. We felt this needed to happen as Quora and HackerNews posts about company culture just weren’t very useful due to the sour grapes, and non-employee comments.
I took a little bit of cash (like a really, really, really tiny amount of cash) and engaged Jet A Studio who had helped us out at Mavizon. From Sept 13 – January 14 we worked together (me wireframing, writing copy and requirements) and hacked together the very simple company scoring site. We also landed on the name “Candid” as opposed to the not-so-romantic “StaffSpoke.”
I decided to treat the entire project like a massive experiment. Not just in bootstrapping, but also in product design. I used survey monkey to do a little discovery, I used HackerNews and Quora threads to do market validation, and I repeatedly sent out the janky, half working version of the web app to friends and family for testing.
Then I jumped off the cliff: I applied to LAUNCH Festival 2014. As these stories often go, I was floored when we got an interview and were ultimately accepted to launch Candid on one of the biggest startup stages.
To be honest, I had no idea what I had signed up for. I knew LAUNCH had unbelievable alumni like DropBox, mint.com, and Yammer. But I didn’t realize i’d have an audience of nearly 9,000 people over the course of 3 days, or that I would be rigorously coached on the presentation of Candid.
This was all free training for me, and I loved almost every minute of it.
I was first coached on how to make a 5 minute presentation really memorable by telling a story. Next, I had a four hour rehearsal at Sequioa Capital’s office in front of investors, and other presenting companies. Then came dress rehearsal, and finally my big presentation:
I lucked out with my judging group on the day of. They included Don Dodge (Google), Joyce Kim (Freestyle Capital), Jay Levy (Zelkova Ventures), Adeo Ressi (The Founders Institute) and Vivek Wadhwa (Singularity). The judges had some critical feedback, but seeing as Candid is one massive experiement, it was definitely welcomed and appreciated.
Most importantly, I got a small boost in traffic to the site for launch day, and had a few angels show some real interest in the product – Now the real work begins!