Since 2012, Emilie Cushman has gone from a recent graduate entering an accelerator program without a business idea, to the CEO of a growing company whose product has been enthusiastically adopted by some of Canada's top business schools. Not a bad showing for a year's work.
Ms. Cushman is the co-founder and CEO of Kira Talent, a platform for conducting video interviews that captures the dynamics of a live interview, but without the scheduling headaches that come with even setting up a phone call.
The fact that Ms. Cushman entered an accelerator program without an idea isn't to her detriment: In fact, the very premise of the program – a Toronto-based entrepreneurship boot camp called The Next 36 – is that young entrepreneurs come to hatch and develop ideas in the process.
During a meeting with one of the CEO-level mentors the program had paired her with, the mentor mentioned that he had to staff one of his companies with 300 summer students, and had wished that there had been some practical way of using video interviews for the process.
So Ms. Cushman and her co-founder, Konrad Listwan-Ciesielski, set about devising a system that would take video interviews from hassles to staples. Kira's innovation is low-tech but high-impact: It shows applicants a question, and after giving them a few seconds to think, it immediately records their response in one 30- or 60-second take.
Just as in a real interview, there are no re-dos: Applicants don't have the opportunity to try a response over and over until they've nailed the perfect take, as they might if they were posting an interview tape on YouTube.
"It brings a candid perspective," says Ms. Cushman, who handles the business operation while Mr. Listwan-Ciesielski focuses on the product. "It really mimics the in-person interview: you hear the question once, you get a couple of seconds to think about it, and then you have to think on your feet and respond."
The Kira platform then gives organizations the tools to collaboratively evaluate all of the video submissions they've received, including sharing clips within their organization, ranking them, and annotating them. Kira is a hosted service that charges clients by volume: each completed application costs $12.95.
The product has found a ready audience with business schools like Queen's School of Business, the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto, the Ivey School of Business at Western, and Ryerson University, all of which recruit from around the world. Not only does Kira's platform cut out the back-and-forth of scheduling phone calls or video chats, but it lets interviewers and interviewees both work in their own time-zones, without either party being rousted at odd hours to perform for the camera.
Now the Toronto-based, 10-person company is targeting the commercial market, especially the upper end of the small to medium-sized business space. Mr. Cushman is convinced that businesses will find value in screening applicants by seeing them with their own eyes.
"Kira actually means 'light' in Sanskrit," she notes.
Special to The Globe and Mail