Hot off TextRecruit’s recent $3 million raise, a new competitor has arisen. Indianapolis-based Canvas is the brainchild of former Cha Cha executive Aman Brar, and uses the advantages of text messaging to help recruiters connect with talent. Brar was also president of Apparatus before it was acquired by Virtusa for $34.2 million cash.
Considering the immense popularity of messaging, it’s a bit surprising it took this long for someone to take on TextRecruit, which launched in 2014. That could change, as services like Twilio make it much easier to set-up a message-based service. The days of setting up a shortcode and paying thousands a month as the only option to having a texting-based business are over.
“I was obsessed over this idea,” said Brar. “I thought the way we had recruited at Apparatus was actually a hindrance to growth, so that, along with talking to people I trusted supported the idea.” That idea has garnered a seed round of $1.7 million. Investors include Tom Linebarger, CEO of Cummins, Jeff Perkins, former VP of HR at SpaceX, and Scott Day, Open Table SVP of people and culture.
Canvas works similar to messaging and email systems you’re probably already using on your desktop (see screenshot). The company also provides native apps for Android and iOS. Recruiters are given a unique 10-digit phone number they can use to start conversations with candidates. A universal phone number is an option as well.
Canvas has developed efficiencies in the interviewing process, like recommending automated responses to questions raised by candidates. Someone sending a message asking for the office address, for instance, might give the employer a popup to quickly paste that information into the conversation as opposed to typing it for each interview. Canvas uses IBM’s Watson.
During the process of a text interview, employers can grade answers with a thumbs-up or thumbs-down response. Recruiters can also give candidates an overall star rating and create notes about the interview. Transcripts can be downloaded and shared within a company. Candidate genders and names can also be hidden.
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“A big goal for us is to integrate with as many applicant tracking systems as possible,” said Brar. Canvas currently integrates with Bullhorn and Greenhouse. Brar also hinted that some form of Facebook and Google integration may be coming at some point in the future.
In addition to TextRecruit being an obvious competitor, Brar considers video interviewing solutions like HireVue, GreenJobInterview, and Take the Interview as companies to keep an eye on. The biggest threat, however, could come from the applicant tracking systems themselves, who hold the keys to the castle for many recruiting technologies.
Brar likes his chances though. “What we do is hard,” he said. “The kind of artificial intelligence we’re building into our platform can’t be easily duplicated.” Competitors are likely to sprout. Citing numbers promoted by Canvas, only 12 percent of millennials and 29 percent of Gen Xers prefer phone calls for business communication to text.
Product pricing is determined by the number of seats at a company and the volume of text messages being sent back-and-forth between a candidate and a recruiter.