Liz Wessel

Co-founder & CEO of WayUp

THIS CHAT HAPPENED ON April 11, 2016

Discussion

Liz Wessel@lizwessel · Co-founder and CEO, WayUp
Hey, I'm Liz, the Co-Founder and CEO at WayUp, the largest online marketplace exclusively for college students to find jobs and internships. Our company is only 18 months old, but we've grown quickly, with hundreds of thousands of registered student users, and over $9M raised in funding from funds like General Catalyst, Box Group, Index Venture, Y Combinator, and more. I'm passionate about connecting students with awesome opportunities, and helping employers find key hires. I'd also consider myself a night owl and travel-bug. In my past life, I worked at Google, and prior to that, graduated from UPenn in 2012. Feel free to ask me about anything!
Karan Gandhi@karan_gandhi
Hey Liz, Hope you are doing great! 1) Many Universities do have career advisors that directly speak with companies to getting students hired. Further companies now believe in directly entering a career fair to choose their next candidate. How does WayUp handle this problem. 2) Students like me, focusing on fields that require a lot of coursework's and research to do, can't really work full time for an internship or a job, which makes this niche seasonal and popular during spring breaks. Does WayUp face many students that have this issue which make hiring difficult? How are you planning to solve this situation. 3) I do agree its quite difficult dealing with students because everyone wants to work for a specific firm or a specific field and its becomes difficult handling this. But imagine, big recruiting sites entering such a market (many have) and making it big. Do you believe this market is big enough to sustain different competitors. 4) How does WayUp earn revenue? Liz, thank you for reading my questions. I know it would to difficult to answer all of them, but if you do; it would make my day. Thank you once again! Have a great day ahead. More Power to WayUp ( it is literally the WayUp) Regards Karan
Liz Wessel@lizwessel · Co-founder and CEO, WayUp
@karan_gandhi Hey Karan -- and thanks for your questions (and pun!!) :-) 1) We actually often work WITH Career Service centers (one person on our team, Liane -- a former campus recruiter herself -- manages these relationships full-time for us)... At the end of the day, Career Service centers work with us because they know we can get them access to more jobs, and they typically (hopefully!!!) want to help their students with getting hired, whether it's a direct result of their career fair or not. We have several Career Service Directors advising our company, too, and they often give us feedback about how a 3rd party technology can help them do their jobs more effectively. (After all -- there's typically ~10-30 full-time staff for every 50K students.. which isn't enough!) ... look out for lots more innovation in that department, which our team is working on :) 2) We definitely have our biggest bump in usage during 2nd semester, when people are looking for summer jobs and full-time jobs. However, over 80% of students in the US work during the school year, so that's a big portion of our usage... meaning people using us all year round! :) 3) Not completely understanding your question, but if the question is whether there are other companies in the space, then YES. We obviously hope to outgrow everyone, but I'd be naive to say we're the first (or only) ones doing what we do. That being said, we believe our execution, our strategy, our success metrics, and our product has enabled us to differentiate ourselves from anyone else who is taking a stab at the space. 4) We make money from employers. The jist of it: they pay to receive applications. Thank you for the questions, Karan!! :)
Karan Gandhi@karan_gandhi
@lizwessel Thank you so much. Highly appreciate your work and really admire the way you have handled every question today. I have already doubled my expectations from WayUp.
Harry Stebbings@harrystebbings · Podcast Host @ The Twenty Minute VC
Hi @lizwessel thanks so much for joining us today, big fan of @WayUp and would love to hear your process for onboarding companies to accept interns? Are they receptive to you or is it quite a hard sell? Would also love to hear what your biggest takeaway from YC experience was? Would love to have you on @twentyminutevc would be a pleasure to hear the story in more detail!
Liz Wessel@lizwessel · Co-founder and CEO, WayUp
@harrystebbings @wayup @twentyminutevc Hey Harry -- thanks for your note! I listened to your interview with Tisch.. loved it! Anyway, to answer your questions: 1) Process for onboarding companies -- to be honest, the site is super easy to use, and just requires a few clicks of a button. The bigger 'challenge' (if you will) is just reaching the right people at the right companies at the right time. Once you do, they're incredibly receptive. I don't think I've ever met a recruiter who found it easy / enjoyable to hire interns, and they often realize how much easier it can be after they use WayUp :) 2) Biggest takeaway from YC... to focus on growth of THE RIGHT metrics. I think a lot of companies just care about something like gross revenue, but ignore the bad margins. Or marketplaces that only focus on the growth of one side. Sam Altman said to me and JJ during week 1 that we needed to focus on transactions (ie applications) more than anything, and I think it was the best lesson we had during YC... That, or the 10000 lessons I learned from Ali Rowghani about structuring our team, how to think about fundraising, how to improve my pitch, etc. I hope this answers your questions!
Ali Afridi@alikafridi · Building Products
Hi Liz, WayUp seems to have one of the coolest company cultures I've seen (I'm a college student so I may be biased). At what point did you start defining what the culture at WayUp should look like? Do you see this changing as you grow?
Liz Wessel@lizwessel · Co-founder and CEO, WayUp
@alikafridi Aww thanks so much, Ali! Means a lot coming from someone who has seen so many companies... In short: our culture started getting created from day 1, when it was me and JJ working out of a library basement. When we had Nikki (our first team member!) join us, we knew that she would maintain the energy and enthusiasm about college students that keeps this company running... Every person we've hired since Nikki has been just as enthusiastic about our users and our mission, which allows us to keep our eyes on the prize. In terms of culture, I'd say the #1 thing you'd see at our company is that everyone is obsessed with learning and growing. Most people who do what they do at WayUp had little experience prior to joining the team (that includes me -- I'm a first time CEO), so that allows for us to be super scrappy + creative in everything we do, including building our culture!... Plus, everyone who works at WayUp is smart (and fun!), so we tremendously enjoy one another's company.
Emily Hodgins@ems_hodge · Operations @ Product Hunt
@lizwessel @alikafridi How important do you think it is to build a sense of culture from early on?
Liz Wessel@lizwessel · Co-founder and CEO, WayUp
@ems_hodge @alikafridi Well, I think every company inherently has a culture from day 1... it's almost impossible not to. However, I do think it's important to focus on building a positive culture that the founders are proud of from day 1. That being said, culture may change as the company grows, so I always encourage people to not try creating the company 'values' until you're at least a few employees in, and see which values you truly care most about. We tried coming up with values day 1, and it was way harder than when we did it on day 240 (ie 8 months later, and 10 employees later), since we knew what things mattered most to us from the employees we had hired
Yash Patel@yash_19_ · Co-founder & CEO @Pay'N'Park
What would you say is the biggest growth challenge today, how would you tackle it? And if someone wants to be mentored by you, how should he/she approach you?
Liz Wessel@lizwessel · Co-founder and CEO, WayUp
@yash_19_ Biggest challenge we're tackling is scaling our sales team in an efficient way. I think this is a growing pain for most companies, but right now, we're all about making sure the metrics of each individual rep match up to what we need so that we can ensure we're able to scale quickly once we're ready. On the mentorship question -- I get emails (especially from students) flat-out introducing themselves and asking to be mentored. I can tell you first-hand: that's not the way to do it. I think the better approach is to find a mentor who can actually help you with something that you need help with, and making sure that the mentor and you get to know one another before becoming "official", if you will. So, for me, I'd want to form a relationship with someone, whether it be through informal skype calls (I always prefer video chat to phone calls!) or something like that. If I can help that person, then I'm obviously going to try and help them more in the future. It's funny, but there are some people who call me their mentor, but whom I just look at as someone who I'm happy to help. I'm a big believer in Karma, and don't care much about the mentor-mentee titles, as long as value is being created!
Yash Patel@yash_19_ · Co-founder & CEO @Pay'N'Park
@lizwessel Woah! That definitely answered my questions. Value & relation is important by every means necessary. Thanks!! #KarmaBeliever2
Idean Vasef@ivasef85 · Connector / Marketing / Tech Enthusiast
Hi Liz! What do you think is more important as far as the right fit for a job: working for a company/product you're passionate about or moreso the position itself? (assuming you can't have both in this case!)
Liz Wessel@lizwessel · Co-founder and CEO, WayUp
@ivasef85 ooooooh awesome question. Super passionate about this topic. I'd definitely say the position itself, if choosing between those two things. For me, it's all about learning on the job. And even if you work at a company with an amazing product, if there isn't room for growth, or opportunities to learn, then you're wasting your time (in my opinion). I hope that answers your question! Feel free to let me know if you want more details :)
Idean Vasef@ivasef85 · Connector / Marketing / Tech Enthusiast
@lizwessel I definitely would love to hear more actually. Following you now on twitter!
Cian O'Connor@cianoconnor · Dealer, Bank of Ireland
Hi Liz. I heard that when you accepted your offer with Google you gave in your 2 years' notice. Your drive is inspiring. How/when did the idea of starting your own business first encapture you? Has the thought that you are not the best person to tackle this problem ever made you falter and how do you deal those kind of doubts?
Liz Wessel@lizwessel · Co-founder and CEO, WayUp
@cianoconnor Thanks for the questions, and the kind words!! 1) I knew I wanted to start a business full-time after I did it for my first time in college. Starting a business during school was SO fun and rewarding, and I loved the idea of building something from scratch and growing it. I also didn't mind (aka kind of loved) how much effort it took (I can be a bit of a workaholic at times), and the experience / gratification you get from starting a company is unlike anything else... 2) Of course -- that's called imposter syndrome. I don't know any CEO who hasn't felt that way at some point! I also felt that way at Google all the time. Given that I have so little experience in pretty much anything I do (given how young I am, 25), I sometimes find myself wondering why anyone would take my word over someone else's... However, you just have to trust yourself, do your research, and hire people who are smarter than you. Then you know you'll be good :)
Liz Wessel@lizwessel · Co-founder and CEO, WayUp
Hey guys! I'm signing off -- have to run to a meeting (and this ends in 2 minutes)... Thanks for all of your questions, and please feel free to ask anything else to me on twitter @lizwessel :) Product Hunt team - thanks for having me!
Yash Patel@yash_19_ · Co-founder & CEO @Pay'N'Park
@lizwessel Thanks for all your time. #StayAwesome
Emily Hodgins@ems_hodge · Operations @ Product Hunt
@lizwessel thanks LIz! It's been a blast having you on Product Hunt LIVE💬
Ravi Vadrevu@raviformative · Autonomous Hiring Intelligence
Hey Liz, What were your primary challenges in changing your name from CampusJob to WayUp, especially after building your brand around CampusJob. Good job on creating a marketplace that's helping students. We are in the same space and good luck with everything! Cheers, Ravi
Liz Wessel@lizwessel · Co-founder and CEO, WayUp
@raviformative Hey! I actually wrote a blog post about why we did this (https://medium.com/art-marketing...)... In terms of challenges, getting the social media handles for WayUp was a bit hard, but we had people help us along the way. Other than that, it was just a matter of making sure our users and customers (and investors!) knew it was JUST a name change and not a pivot. That being said, every once in a while, I even get funny questions about WayUp's competitor, "Campus Job" :)
Emily Hodgins@ems_hodge · Operations @ Product Hunt
Hi Liz, thank for being here today. 😃 `What was the hardest part about fundraising? What advice would you give to others just starting out on the road to raising funds?
Liz Wessel@lizwessel · Co-founder and CEO, WayUp
@ems_hodge Advice: find people who can help you along the way, who have done it before. Only work with investors you believe will stick with you and will give GOOD advice. Otherwise, you're going up against people who do this for a living and have heard 100000 pitches, whereas it may be your first time. Hardest part: probably just being able to explain why this is a billion dollar business. One of our angels / my personal mentors, Ali Rowghani, was able to help me explain the vision in a more eloquent way, so that helped a ton. But before that (ie at the very beginning of our company's history), I was struggling a bit with it.
Phil Nguyen@p_ngu · The Daily Water Cooler + Vettery
Hey @lizwessel! Thanks for making the time to answer some questions. I have two: 1) WayUp raised a Series A almost a year ago, what are some things that you're most proud of accomplishing since then and what is one thing that you had aimed to do but haven't yet? 2) What is WayUp's biggest challenge (in your mind) that you're tackling at the moment?
Liz Wessel@lizwessel · Co-founder and CEO, WayUp
@p_ngu Hey Phil -- thanks for the awesome questions! 1) Definitely building our team. I don't know how we functioned without some of the incredible people we have on our team today. The team we've built will likely always be the thing I'm most proud of at WayUp. In terms of what we haven't done yet, but hope to do: help EVERY student in the country get hired!!! We don't quite have 22M students on our platform yet, but we hope to get there soon :) 2) Biggest challenge we're tackling is scaling our sales team in an efficient way. I think this is a growing pain for most companies, but right now, we're all about making sure the metrics of each individual rep match up to what we need so that we can ensure we're able to scale quickly once we're ready.
Paul Shen@paul_shen · Former Intern @ DTE Energy
Hi Liz, In addition to having headquarters in New York, is it part of the "growth plan / process" to have offices in other cities (e.g. Chicago, Los Angeles)? Thanks for taking the time to answer my question!
Liz Wessel@lizwessel · Co-founder and CEO, WayUp
@paul_shen Thanks for your question! We currently have no plans to expand to have more offices within the US. I personally am in SF about once or twice a month, so I am almost like a one-woman virtual office out there :)... but otherwise, I'd guess that our next office would likely be international. Just a hunch!
Yash Patel@yash_19_ · Co-founder & CEO @Pay'N'Park
Whats one strategy that WayUp implemented in acquiring users that had the best conversion rates?
Liz Wessel@lizwessel · Co-founder and CEO, WayUp
@yash_19_ Hey Yash -- thank you for your question!! I would definitely say that the best strategy we've had has been our Campus rep program. Nikki and Elana (on our team) run that thing like a machine, and have been able to maintain quality while helping our brand (and user numbers!) grow in a scalable way :)
Yash Patel@yash_19_ · Co-founder & CEO @Pay'N'Park
@lizwessel Thanks!! for the response. Yes, keeping up with quality definitely sounds like a challenge in that. Keep the awesome work on :)
Yash Patel@yash_19_ · Co-founder & CEO @Pay'N'Park
Whats the one question you ask as a CEO to every employee before you onboard them on the team @ WayUp?
Liz Wessel@lizwessel · Co-founder and CEO, WayUp
@yash_19_ Why they want to work at WayUp. you'd be surprised by how many bad answers we get -- and yes, there are bad answers. That being said, I also have 3 questions I ask EVERY candidate in final interviews, but I don't want to give those away in a public forum, in case any future candidates are reading this ;)
Yash Patel@yash_19_ · Co-founder & CEO @Pay'N'Park
@lizwessel Hahaha, thats totally understandable. Thanks for giving "one" away though :)
Erik Torenberg@eriktorenberg · Former Product Hunt
Liz! Thank you for joining. What's something you used to fervently believe that you now see as misguided?
Liz Wessel@lizwessel · Co-founder and CEO, WayUp
@eriktorenberg So many things I've learned.... here's one: Investors from the outside are so shiny, and when I first started this business with JJ, I thought everything they said was gold. I've since learned that many investors don't really know what they're talking about. We've been lucky to only work with fantastic investors (seriously -- everyone should work with them if they can!), but I've been shocked by how many others don't care about the difference between Gross Rev and Net Rev, or who don't understand the value of a brand, etc...
Erik Torenberg@eriktorenberg · Former Product Hunt
OK another Q -- Can you talk about why you love HRC so much? And Bloomberg too?
Liz Wessel@lizwessel · Co-founder and CEO, WayUp
@eriktorenberg Because she's amazing, and because he's SUCH a boss. Hope that answers your questions! :)
Nick Calabro@nickcalabs · Web/iOS developer
@lizwessel @eriktorenberg This is the best answer.
Laksman@laksman · Entrepreneur
Marketplaces seem like they are hard to pull off, how did you initially solve the chicken and the egg problem?
Liz Wessel@lizwessel · Co-founder and CEO, WayUp
@laksman Yes -- SOOOO hard. They're also can be hard to scale efficiently (ie where you're balancing both sides), until the moment you hit your inflection point (from what I've been told, at least!) At the beginning (and still to this day), we allow businesses to post for free and only pay when they get applicants. This allowed for us to "put our money where our mouth is", meaning that businesses wouldn't be risking losing money if they didnt get what the product promised -- applicants who matched the quality-filters they used. On the student side, we grew our userbase by hiring our users (as "Campus Reps") to promote us. I hope that answers your question! :)
Laksman@laksman · Entrepreneur
@lizwessel Great answer :) Thanks so much!
Andrew Ettinger@andrewett · 👟 @wearAtoms // ex @Twitter @ProductHunt
What was the biggest problem you saw in the recent-grad job hunting process? And how does WayUp solve that?
Liz Wessel@lizwessel · Co-founder and CEO, WayUp
@andrewett (1) students don't know what they are / arent qualified for. Our product is built to fix that (we only show you jobs you're qualified for, based on what the employer lists.) (2) Students don't know about what opportunities are out there, and are limited to whichever businesses post at their school (if any at all).. we help businesses reach new audiences of students that they otherwise might not have targeted. (3) Students often don't understand what JD's mean and what a job would entail. We're doing a huge push now to help shed light there to students. (4) Students don't know about when the right time is to apply to a job (especially with campus recruiting timelines ending 9 months before graduation, for many companies!)... we help with that, as well! (5) Many other products + brands out there that act as professional networks or job sites are just, well, not something millennials can relate to. We believe we're building a brand for our generation! And lots more... but I hope that starts to answer your question! :)
Ali Afridi@alikafridi · Building Products
In what ways have your investors helped you besides capital? What do you think makes a good VC from your (the founder/CEO's) perspective?
Liz Wessel@lizwessel · Co-founder and CEO, WayUp
@alikafridi Our investors help us in a million ways. To name just a few: with (1) talent (both acquiring new talent, and vetting talent)... (2) thinking through strategy (typically less on product, and more on business strategy).... (3) introductions to experts and advisors/mentors.... But I'm sure I'm leaving out a ton, to be honest. That's just the start :) What makes a good VC for the founder/CEO: they listen, they don't abandon their founders, they come up with new ideas, they push the CEO to be better (and don't just say things that will make the ceo feel better), and they get their hands dirty when necessary. Those are some of the things that come to mind.
Yash Patel@yash_19_ · Co-founder & CEO @Pay'N'Park
If there are multiple founders in a company, and everyone of them couldn't agree on something? How do you think, one should approach the situation? Also, whats the best way to keep the company horizontal, so that everyone feels involved?