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Hirevue CEO Mark Newman Talks Venture Capital at Sessions @ The Leonardo

If you ask for money, you’re going to get advice. If you ask for advice, you’re going to get money.

“Mark’s pretty much been through almost everything you can go through as a founder.”

That’s how Bryce Roberts, Managing Director and Co-Founder of OATV, introduced HireVue CEO Mark Newman at the Sessions @ The Leonardo on Tuesday night.

“He doesn’t run the sexiest business in Utah,” said Roberts, in jest. To which Newman replied, “Just because you can’t wear it, or ride it, doesn’t mean it’s not sexy.”

“Mark looks a lot like most of us,” said Roberts. “He doesn’t have a Harvard MBA. This isn’t his second time out with a big win already under his belt. He’s somebody I think we can all relate to, as founders here in Utah trying to make things happen.”

The event was billed as “an extremely candid and open conversation about the nitty gritty details” of Hirevue’s recent $25 million in funding from Sequoia Capital. Some of the material Newman covered in his presentation was only meant to be seen by those who were in attendance. We will honor those wishes in this recap. These events are normally captured on camera, but because Newman literally walked through the pitch he gave to VC firms during his most recent round of funding, there will be no video recording of this session.

Hirevue was founded in 2004 by Newman and Ryan Money. The two met while attending Westminster College. At one point, Newman was contemplating an internship that would have taken him out of the country. Before he said yes to the internship, Newman called Money to get his advice.

“I called him up, and he said, ‘Man, I don’t know what we’re going to do, but you’re not going to do that. We’re going to figure something out together,’” recalled Newman. “I said, ‘Alright, sounds good.’”

They eventually decided to convince their professor that they should do an internship, which would amount to them starting their own business. The goal of the internships they created for themselves was to get to the Utah Entrepreneur Challenge. They entered the competition and managed to win $1,000.

“We lost to a pool table company, and a cartoon animation company,” said Newman. “But we managed to make it into the top 10.”

The business idea they presented at the Utah Entrepreneur Challenge was to make it possible for employers to conduct job interviews through webcams. This was before webcams were widely used. “People would ask us, ‘What’s a webcam?’” said Newman.

What’s remarkable about Hirevue is they’ve never really had to pivot away from their original idea. Their value proposition from the very beginning was all about finding a way to help organizations make more meaningful connections with potential employees. Nine years and more than $25 million in funding later, it’s clear they’ve accomplished the goal they envisioned from the outset.

Success didn’t happen overnight, however. For the first five years, Hirevue was funded through student loans, student loan rebates, and credit cards. “Weirdly enough, the greatest thing to ever happen to Hirevue was the Great Recession in 2009,” said Newman. He attributes that to companies having to cut back, especially in their human resources departments, and the need for a platform like Hirevue’s to fill-in the gap.

Newman talked about the importance of procuring funding from someone you don’t know in the early stages of a startup. “Can you get that first dollar from someone you don’t know? That’s the hardest dollar you’re ever going to have to get,” said Newman.

For Hirevue, that first dollar came from a local Utah credit union in the amount of $150.

Newman’s advice on how to get funding in the early stages of a company is worth noting. “If you ask for money, you’re going to get advice. If you ask for advice, you’re going to get money,” said Newman.

He backed that statement up with the following:

Think back to when you were a kid. When you went to your dad and asked for $20 to go to a movie, what did he say? “Get a job. Get your own $20.”

But if you went to your dad, and you just kind of sat there, and he said, “Oh, what are you up to?”

And you said, “Oh, I don’t know.”

“Well, what are you doing tonight?”

“I have no idea.”

“Why don’t you go to a movie?”

“I don’t have any money.”

All of a sudden going to the movie becomes his idea.

Newman then went over the pitch he delivered to VC firms, which we won’t cover in too much detail in this recap. This is a perfect opportunity for us to encourage Utah entrepreneurs interested in learning from local, national, and global startup experts to attend the next Sessions @ The Leonardo.

We do plan on interviewing Newman specifically for Beehive Startups in the near future.

Newman talked a lot about believing in your company, and believing in the product you’re pitching to investors. “If you have that core belief in what you’re doing and what you’re pitching, no one can take that away from you — even if they say no,” said Newman.

At the wise, old age of 29, Newman is determined to see Hirevue through to the end, no matter where that may lead. It’s not easy to walk away from something you’ve devoted a good portion of your life to building, which is great news for Utah. Newman is commited to keeping Hirevue in the Beehive State.

“You can’t pivot away from a dream,” said Newman.

Published 12/11/2013