The stress of your first job interview is something everyone experiences. Imagine how much stress could be managed if you received 1-on-1 coaching from former and current employees of the company you want to work for? Well, now you can through the online career marketplace, The Lobby. Recent and soon-to-be college grads – especially those who are seeking positions at top finance firms but lack the traditional Wall Street background – can use this platform to get a leg up in the application process. The Lobby enables anonymous 30-minute phone calls with company insiders so that candidates can ask candid questions like what it is really like working at the firm to what type of resume really impresses recruiting managers.
AlleyWatch spoke with CEO and founder Deepak Chhugani to learn about how this marketplace is personalizing the job application process and digitizing the ability to network with power and intent.
Who were your investors and how much did you raise?
Y Combinator, Ataria Ventures, 37 Angels, former Travelocity CEO Carl Sparks, and Columbia Business School’s chief innovation officer Angela Lee, among other well-known angels. We raised $1.2M in Seed funding.
Tell us about the product or service that The Lobby offers.
The Lobby is an online marketplace that lets job candidates get 1-on-1 coaching from former and current employees of the companies they want to work for, starting with the finance industry. We’re on a mission to democratize access to the best jobs and make the hiring process more transparent.
The Lobby connects recent and soon-to-be graduates directly with insiders at top finance firms – leveling the playing field for talented candidates who don’t come from the typical Wall Street background. During anonymous 30-minute phone calls, candidates can ask insiders questions, ranging from what it’s really like to work at a firm to how best to polish their resume to make it attractive to recruiting managers. The Lobby’s insiders also provide mock interviews, resume development, and offer one-on-one career advice on how the candidate can improve their chances of landing the job.
What inspired you to start The Lobby?
My own story. I was born in Kenya, of Indian parents, and grew up in Ecuador. When I came to the US for college in 2010, I went to Bentley University. The school is amazing and transformed my life in many ways, but we did not have the top banks (Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan, etc.) recruiting directly on campus.
My friends and I were able to break into the industry despite the lack of connections, lack of pedigree, and as international students by getting lucky and randomly befriending people on the inside. While some might call this “hustle,” I always thought it was somewhat ridiculous how much luck and serendipity is involved in this process. The Lobby tries to remove luck out of the equation so that everyone has access to the same information.
How is The Lobby different?
The Lobby is different because it is designed with the job seeker in mind as opposed to the employer (which is how most jobs-focused platforms work). We aren’t trying to filter the person who looks best on paper, we are trying to find diamonds in the rough and get them noticed.
We also provide a safe space for people to ask questions in a risk-free environment, so they can make an informed decision about what career path, company, and team that they truly want to be a part of.
What is the most common mistake applicants make in an interview in the finance industry?
Biggest mistake by far: forgetting that hiring is a human process. They spend countless hours tweaking their resume, cover letter, and responses to online applications. All that stuff helps and is important, but at the end, you can make much more notable progress by getting in front of people in the industry, asking smart questions, and showing personality traits that would make you an amazing teammate.
Biggest mistake by far: forgetting that hiring is a human process. They spend countless hours tweaking their resume, cover letter, and responses to online applications. All that stuff helps and is important, but at the end you can make much more notable progress by getting in front of people in the industry, asking smart questions, and showing personality traits that would make you an amazing teammate.
What market does The Lobby target and how big is it?
We’re starting with job seekers. There are 40M+ high-skilled job seekers in the US every year, which is a huge market
What’s your business model?
We charge a commission on every call.
What was the funding process like?
Coming out of Y Combinator, we were lucky to have a lot of demand and a very swift fundraise. We are excited that our vision resonated with so many experienced investors.
What are the biggest challenges that you faced while raising capital?
Managing my time as a solo founder with fundraising. That is always tricky!
What factors about your business led your investors to write the check?
If I had to speculate, I would say it’s because most of them wished The Lobby existed back in their job seeking days and they believe the team can execute on the vision.
Continue adding to our amazing team and spreading the word about The Lobby.
What advice can you offer companies in New York that do not have a fresh injection of capital in the bank?
Keep your burn rate low by taking lower salaries. Be ruthless about prioritizing and also about what you can do to get the most traction in the shortest amount of time. I’ve been lucky to work with people who valued our equity over short-term salaries, so it’s easy for me to say that. I know it’s very hard.
Where do you see the company going now over the near term?
Rippling out to multiple industries within the larger finance industry and expanding to other verticals.
Where is your favorite bar in the city for an after work drink?
1803 on Reade St.