Like almost everyone, Kathryn Minshew used to ask herself, “What should I do with my life?” She was working at McKinsey, but considering an NGO or nonprofit in developing countries; one of her coworkers was thinking about biotech. They realized it was hard to imagine what those options even looked like. With that question, an answer appeared: They created The Muse, a better, multimedia-rich way to find and advertise jobs.
They launched in September 2011 with zero budget, and reached 20,000 unique people in the first 30 days. Six months later, it was 100,000 monthly. Now, they reach approximately one million people a month on the site and engage with another 20 to 30 million through syndication and other partnerships. The number of companies they’re working with is increasing by 10 to 15 percent month-over-month as well.
We spoke with Kathryn about how she’s changing the dream-job hunt.
The traditional job search involves typing a keyword into a search bar and getting thousands of results that all sort of look and sound the same, where employers have a paragraph or two of text to try to convey what's unique about their company and their culture.
We turned that model on its head. We let job seekers browse through companies, hear employees talk on camera about what they do day to day and discover places to work that are a great fit for them. We let companies showcase their culture and what makes them a unique place to work in a visual, multimedia way. We like to tell people we built the job board we'd always wished we had.
How does The Muse make money?
We're an employment branding and recruiting tool for our partner companies, and our partners pay us a monthly subscription for their multimedia company profile and job listings.
What was the biggest mistake you made in the first year of development that you'd do differently next time?
We got a little excited about planning complicated features, and to be honest, it was slowing us down. I remember when we were about a month into Y Combinator [a seed capital firm that hosts a boot-camp-like program for startups], we were showing [Y Combinator co-founder] Paul Graham wireframes and mocks that had a dozen cool features, all connected in to social networks with these awesome predictive algorithms — and he tells us, "Just f-ing launch already!"
That turns out to be some of the best advice we got. Ten days — more like, ten all-nighters — later, we launched The Muse company profiles, a slimmed-down MVP, with five partner companies. We realized that the core of our idea was to bring multimedia, visually rich profiles to the job search, so that's what we did. You couldn't log in, you couldn't save jobs, there were no recommendation algorithms. We added all those things later — and honestly, the features we built to meet our real users' real needs are far better than the theoretical versions we'd first come up with for hypothetical users.
What did you learn at McKinsey that's most supported your success as an entrepreneur?
Don't be afraid of hard problems. At McKinsey, it was normal to walk into a complex situation with a team you had met a few days before and dive in, roll up your sleeves and start figuring out answers to very complicated problems, sometimes for very high profile cases. And we did it over and over again. There's a lot of learning along the way as an entrepreneur, and a lot times we stare at problems that seem at first glance insurmountable. But faced with those challenges, we always have confidence that we know how to dive in and figure it out.