Skillsme was created by co-founders co-founders Terry Jiang, Zifeng Liang and Bernard Leong. This Auckland based start-up came third equal in Soda’s recent seed grant.  

Tell us about Skillsme...

Skillsme is an artificial intelligence (AI) tool that screens tech talents, providing recruitment managers with validation and data of their skills. We do this by accessing a potential employee's external accounts like Github, Linkedin, Stackoverflow or CodeSnippet and using that data to feed our AI machine learning tool so we can come up with a competency rating against the industry. Recruiters can then filter for talents they are looking for or even find a talent that has a similar skillset to someone that is already working at the company - we call this the 'Skillsme Lookalike Filter'. Our goal at Skillsme is to give recruiters peace of mind about a potential employee's technical capability when it comes to hiring.  

How did the idea for Skillsme come about?

We had earlier co-founded a start-up and were looking for developers to help build our software. During the recruitment process, we found it difficult to hire the right developer as they almost always overexaggerate their CVs. As we didn’t want to waste our existing developers’ time in screening talents, we went out to look for tools that could do the job and validate developers while being affordable. To our surprise, there was nothing available. This frustration in hiring developers motivated us to find a solution which resulted in the birth of Skillsme.    

When did you first working on the business concept?

We started in late 2019 by validating the idea with a couple of companies and recruitment agencies. The company was incorporated in February 2020 (one week before New Zealand’s first lockdown).

What stage is your business currently at?

Skillsme has a working AI model and we have started getting paid users. Most of our B2B users are based overseas including USA, India, Vietnam, Thailand, Philippines, Canada as well as New Zealand.  We also have talents from over 55 different countries which is growing every month. We are also adding new features and improving our AI model as we get more data.

What has been your biggest entrepreneurial challenge so far?

Recruiters and HR teams in New Zealand are super busy especially in tech recruitment. Therefore, it is hard convincing New Zealand businesses to change the way they recruit from CV dependent to AI. Earning their trust is a struggle but we are up for the challenge.  

We started approaching crypto and high-growth start-up companies from the USA that were looking to hire remote overseas workers. One positive example is a Crypto Company that was having difficulties with their outsourcing agency so they terminated the contract and started using Skillsme. They were able to find a few developers in just a few weeks that were technically capable. They have since trusted us to build their development team of eight with the goal of achieving this by the middle of November.

Who or what inspires you?

We spoke to a talented developer in India that has to work to support his family by day, and at night would spend time in the internet café learning to code as he couldn’t afford a laptop. Talents like this who are not university qualified but are great self-taught developers inspire us. There are a lot of developers holding university degrees and fancy CVs, but many are actually not capable of performing in the real world. We want to make it fair, and one way to do this is to change the recruitment process as it does not fit this generation.

What has been your biggest learning on this journey?

Just do it, and then you will learn it. During the validation process, we also learn to listen to companies’ problems but not their solutions.

What advice would you give other start-ups?

Be ready to solve problems. The more problems you solve the closer you are to a successful start-up.

What is your goal for Skillsme?

To change the way developer's skills are validated in the future. We want equal opportunity for developers to get into the industry even if they can’t afford a university education. There are many ways a developer can learn such as YouTube, Udemy or Bootcamp. Not being able to afford a university education shouldn’t discourage developers from achieving their dreams. We want to build a platform where developers could be self-taught and get validated on Skillsme and provide them with another way to get into the industry.