How insecure and in need of validation someone needs to be to seek career advice from a chatbot four times a month?
Love the emotional response. Hey -- some people have to think it's incredibly stupid for it to be a good idea, right? #vclogic ;)
Anyways, we don't see this as just an advisor/coach that you use once or twice a year. That's thinking by the old school rules of how career coaches work.
But Boost is very, very different.
The vast majority of our users use Boost to analyze internal workplace situations, such as those dealing with politics or trying to climb the ladder. Many users do this weekly, when they get new communications that confuse them and they want to ensure they put their best foot forward.
We started the company as an advice-giving system for those during job hunts, but found nearly everyone should have been talking to us 3-6 months before they were switching. Most people don't have online brands that exude quality, they don't land speaking engagements, they don't push themselves to hit goals, and much more.
The people who push, have constant feedback, and have social accountability end up achieving much more. They gain an edge over the people who only "need advice once or twice a year."
Tighter feedback loops = faster learning, which equates to faster career growth.
Oh, and it's not a chatbot. Think of it more like Facebook M -- we have a full-time staff of career coaches who ensure every conversation is of the absolute quality. As of right now our chatbot tech is exceedingly limited and we're prioritizing quality over scale.
Fast forward a year or so later, I got sent a link (by my now old flatmate) to a BBC article saying they'd made their million bucks. So, we got together, drank -a lot in my case - and all I remember is much hilarity and that it was a cold night that night.
:) - legit curious what you mean by that.
After this point the stupidity will dissolve into blah blah blah.
We don't see our career as frivolous. I doubt people will tolerate stupidity in this case.
However, I have two main questions:
Does having a person to talk to offer a compelling alternative to a blog post/book etc. that emphasizes the things you just mentioned: "brand that exudes quality, land speaking engagements, push to hit goals" etc. ?
The second question is: what about people who already do that? Will this be mainly geared towards entry level folks looking to go from mediocre jobs to good jobs? What do you have that would entice someone like me (happy with my current job, well paid, an online brand to some degree, does speaking/open source)? Perhaps I am not the target customer?
If you look at people who tend to say they're going to do something vs actually do it, the #1 signal is social support and encouragement.
For many, their networks aren't doing these things either. Boost can be that encouragement and constant feedback mechanism to stay the path and make the changes.
For people who already take a lot of these actions... surprisingly, they are using the product as well. Often they'll say "I always want a 2nd opinion on everything I do, but I worry about annoying my friends constantly."
The top performers in the world all have executive coaches. The President (eek, perhaps bad example) has numerous personal advisors. Feedback loops always help, and this is a way that everyone can have that... 1 message away.
Also how valuable would you say this tech is for people that are going about things their own way, say new or future startup founders looking for advice and mentorship?
I don't think this is the right format, but I do think computer-assisted political strategy is an interesting prospect. The problem with trusting other humans for political advice is that you can't know how much their own political ambitions play in, but the bot is really just once-removed from the people who made it, so the issue of human meddling is not entirely out of the picture. It would need to be very transparent, explicit, and clear to be trustworthy, and preferably highly tunable.
How are you ensuring that your bot is providing a valuable, localized analysis for the person asking for advice? If Boost tells me to do something that would get me promoted in California but fired in Boston, who's liable? What kind of cultural accounting is performed? Can I adjust it based on the political/cultural leanings and backgrounds of my subordinates, peers, and superiors?
Also, politics depends heavily on unpredictability. You almost need a reverse bot, telling you the worst solution, so that your political enemies don't accurately predict your moves and set traps. Does Boost have a "surprise" mode?
As our customer, you're our sole focus. Your needs, desires, goals, etc. We succeed when you succeed, so I don't think it's valid logic to have to worry about what Boost is looking to get out of the advice.
Phew! That's actually a big relief. For the record, I wasn't just going off the commenter above who called this a "chatbot"; I also skimmed the site and saw a bunch of stuff about "advanced AI and Machine Learning", an IM interface that looks like the other new-wavey AI talk stuff, etc., so it all seemed to comport. You should definitely make it abundantly clear on the landing page that this is subscription access to real, human career counselors.
Now I have all the same questions about the backgrounds of these career counselors. :P What kind of vetting or training is done?
As non-computers, I think the situation is more complex; how can I ensure that one of the career counselors is not in league with a political enemy? If I spill my guts to this guy, what stops him from contacting my much richer, more powerful, more attractive boss and saying "Hey, Jim Bob just developed a crazy scheme to take you down, I'll give you the details for $DOLLARS_AMOUNT"? Just the belief that Boost is full of nice people who wouldn't want to do that?
Lawyers have to check to ensure that their firm doesn't also represent the opposing party before they can take a case because of the glaring conflict of interest. How can Boost ensure that myself and political opponent A are not artificially manipulated by Boost internal staff, sent into a feedback loop primarily designed to keep both of us subscribe to Boost as long as possible, instead of moving us up the power ladder to the point where we don't need it anymore? How do I ensure that my boss and myself don't end up being advised by the same career counselor, who would know both of our moves in advance, and who therefore couldn't possibly perform his functions in an effective manner for either of us?
While I think software-assisted politics is a much more interesting business model (not buzzwordy ML/AI BS, but a "political planner" or something to help evaluate and plan), I don't necessarily think that subscription access to human counselors is a bad idea. I just think that a lot goes into it, there are a lot of potential ramifications.
What's the typical use case/scenario for this? It seems like anything people would need advice on, it's risky to trust Boost. Everything else would be simplistic advice that everyone knows, but just doesn't want to do, like "Brush your hair better". Maybe they have specific grooming tips and point to a good hair gel?
That's the only political advice you need, right there. Everyone is interested in your success, so stop worrying. sarcasm
It's funny to see this business that specifically targets people insecure about their understanding of complex political situations and tells them worrying that I would act against your interest is illogical.
Why get advice when negotiating salary? My employer succeeds when I succeed, so concerning myself with whether they are shorting me must be illogical, right?
That said, the existence of career consultants proves that there are people who do enjoy this sort of advice and direction. I don't see this becoming a unicorn startup, but I could see it becoming a niche service that some people really enjoy.
It's nice to see the democratize. Hopefully it can help people.
Edit: saw another comment by from Boost, they're doing Facebook's approach.
Let me rephrase that: "How long does one need to go without finding a job - perhaps any job, or one that is satisfying, or that pays well - before one seeks career advice from a chatbot?"
I have been fortunate with my career opportunities; your dismissive tone tells me you've also never truly struggled. Not everyone is in the same boat. Some go for years unemployed, or are stuck in a spiral of being paid far below market salary. I can understand why some people might be attracted to this service.
That said, I have some criticism for this business:
1. Your market isn't large enough. Those who would find this the most useful are unemployed, and cannot afford to pay. This will hold back growth more than anything - your best customers are those you cannot acquire. This leaves people who already have successful careers, and are only looking for an edge to improve their success the next time they are job hunting, or to "game" their current employer. I imagine the number of people in this category to be far less numerous.
2. From the home page: "A team of career coaches, industry experts & AI". Sorry, we're not naive. With that misleading phrasing, I'm almost certain that the "career coaches and industry experts" are never personally in contact with the customers. You simply trained the AI with their input, and these professionals are not on board to personally assist anyone. You're selling the AI rather than personal advisers, paying a modest fee to curate content instead of matching people with human beings who can offer informed advice. That is the real shame here: marketing "career coaches" and "industry expects", while that is a half-truth. Artificial intelligence as it exists today is not good enough for one-on-one coaching. For a service this important, where people are hanging their hopes and dreams of a career on the line, only an expert in the field is capable of tailoring their advice to each client in a way that is appropriate - perhaps even moral.
3. Regarding the "AI" (too many companies claim to have real artificial intelligence, when all they have is a precomputed index of lookup terms), I bet that the database is extremely generic. If you are looking for advice on the interview process, you would get similar information by Googling for interview tips. The odds that you can narrow the context down to get at information that is specifically tailored to your exact situation, rather than a generic scenario that matches problems facing the majority of the population, is slim. This service is likely nothing more than a search engine for curated content related to career advice - with a bit of interface design sugar making it seem more like a conversation than a search result.
The biggest question I generally have with services like this is "who is providing the advice?". We have an issue in our Reddit sub, where there is little transparency (obviously due to anonymous accounts) as to whether your career advice is coming from someone with twenty years of industry experience or an intern. I think the source of the info is relevant, as the recipient may want to weigh the advice based on the source's experience.
It appears Boost is using some AI that might automate some of the response, which will hopefully provide some good answers and perhaps have a few kinks with advice that doesn't quite apply.
As a bit of advice for the founder (saw you commenting here), perhaps a bit of info on the source of the advice would be useful to users.
Best of luck with the service, and feel free to reach out.
We have trained career coaches on staff, an advisory board for coaching, and an extensive network of experts who are within reach.
Through all of this, each conversation acts as a knowledge base that we can pre-fill. We brought in tens of industry experts across product management, design, software engineering, marketing, and more to give crash courses, which were then put into the database as well.
We're still refining our coaching process, as what works for one individual doesn't always work for another.
I'd be interested in chatting in more detail. Can you reach out? :) -> firstname.lastname@example.org
Happy to discuss with you, will email directly. Again, good luck!
i.e. "I've attached a PowerPoint full of sensitive information that I'd love you to read and profide feedback. Soon afterwards I'll be needing job search advice since my employer will fire me for having such terrible judgement."
Sounds like a terrible idea and a poor example of how to use the service. Do they really want to advertise Boost as a service which will provide unapproved consultancy of confidential info?
Are your coaches licensed professional counselors, therapists or psychologists? If not, those conversations are not actually privileged; any disclosure of legally protected information (like a company's sensitive internal documents) would be highly improper.
Interestingly enough, "licensed career coaching" is a complete sham. There's no real accreditation or regulatory environment: the largest career coaching programs that bestow certificates are private, for-profit orgs and give out their certs like candy on halloween. It's really sad.
I agree that there's a large amount of information that probably shouldn't be sent to us, but people also need to give us the full context for their personal problem. We don't encourage people to send us information we don't need, and often they can get by with indirect info... "we're raising $8.6m on a $100m valuation" -> "I think we're going through additional funding soon."
It's not called a 'licensed career coach' -- privilege, in this case, is a legal protection that is not afforded to the type of relationships you're talking about. You're putting yourself, and your clients, in a very legally tenuous position.
Also what about legal blowback if they give really bad advice?
Would you consider adding anything to the UI to discourage your users from those potential lapses in judgement? And if not, what do you do to protect the sensitive information you may find in your hands?
Once we can expand the team further, hiring a full-time security engineering staff will be a priority. As of now, we have the basics down... full E2E encryption, security access privs, etc.
- who am I getting it from
- what do I know about their life/experience
- under what circumstances
Because that let's me adjust how much importance to put on it. Getting advice is generally not the hard part, figuring out which advice to follow and which to discard is.
We help people build external social support networks as well.
In addition, as is true with all good coaches, most conversations circle around introspection and talking through analysis rather than imposing our own advice. We still give plenty of advice, but we also are aware enough of the nuances that exist and we-don't-know-what-we-don't-know.
This certainly smells.
Suspicious? People self post all the time. We didn't run an upvote group, if that's your concern. HN algorithms are way too impressive.
The account that posted was created about two months ago and this was the only submission which was the red flag. And this was the very first submission. Usually people have to repeatedly post to get the traction this post did because they get ignored sometimes.
I can't see it -- I only see this one.
Maybe that's why this one was allowed to go up? Not sure.
Boost can do things that help you daily or weekly such as:
- Review communications (inbound and outbound)
- Help you develop new skills and stay up to date
- Assist you with targeted networking
- And much more.
Overall, this is a service that can refine every aspect of your professional life. People who only think about refining their habits and practices twice a year are not aiming towards their potential. The bare minimum is too often accepted as normal -- we want to change that.
One thing is that I have no idea who is on the other side of the chat. If they are giving me advice about one of the most important things in my life is there a guarantee on the quality of that advice?
Are you guys in the next YC batch?
And our tech revolves around surfacing quality advice, what works/doesn't work, so it will constantly improve. Still, we don't risk anything -- we do extensive training for coaches.
Say I just got an email from my boss that I think is passive-aggressively accusatory (e.g., perhaps it lays out the specifics of what she wants me to do tomorrow in a way that I think she's implying that I can't be entrusted to get things done without detailed instructions).
I paste the email into Boost, asking for feedback; am I crazy, or is this an accusatory email, I wonder, eagerly anticipating Boost's response. Perhaps I also want to hear Boost's advice on how to respond to the email.
After I do this, who is reading and interpreting the email on Boost's behalf, then giving me advice on how to respond? I'm sure you're feeding it into a sentiment analysis API, but apart from that, what human attention does the email get and what are the backgrounds of the humans doing it?
I don't know about the idea of having "experts" talk to you. I've spent a lot of time thinking about my career and talked to a few experts and it's a real mixed bag. In some ways I see this in the same way I see most formal mentoring programs - the best way to get an amazing mentor is to arrange it yourself. There's a way to do it, but it's hard.
That said, there's a massive amount of potential to change the way that recruiting is done. Traditional job boards suck - they don't work for candidates - it's a blind stab in the dark, they don't work for hiring managers because you get the same 100 applicants who didn't read the job description every time you post up an ad.
Getting people to front-load the work before they look for jobs and making that introductions to companies would totally change the game. Recruiters aren't suited for that (I am a sales recruiter). You'd eat LinkedIn's job postings for dinner as well.
If you were able to get a userbase of high-quality candidates, who you worked with to improve their careers and then put them into additional jobs you'd be able to charge thousands for each successful hire. There's a market for helping move the smart, overworked, underpaid millennials who are grinding it out at professional services firms from their first jobs at $50k to jobs paying $120k a year (which will more or less happen naturally for a lot of them as they move through their 20s). These people are likely to pay for it, plus their employers would pay on the other end.
The hardest bit is making it a habit for young professionals to check into your platform. Right now it's a weird concept, but hey, the idea of dating online amongst 22 year olds was weird until Tinder changed the entire game.
If you could turn Boost into a career coach firstly and then into a reliable pipeline of candidates for professional firms, I'm convinced you could make this massive.
Damn, I want to work on this now haha.
We actually played that game before. We were arbitraging candidates for their job hunt -- taking a % of their salary upon successful new job. The issue was, most frequently, was that you'd have to invest a lot of time/money into people and there are a lot more "talkers" than "doers". So far, the recurring revenue model has been a lot more psychologically pleasing, haha...
But yes -- our goal is to really help people become better and move up the career ladder faster. If you're passionate about that, I do think we should chat!
Tickets are free. Event is in SF on June 1st!
1. Signups go right to waitlist, so it's hard to validate any of this. Is this vaporware? Why waitlist? Are you still in dev, or is this an artificial scarcity play?
2. All I see here conceptually is headhunter lead-gen, so I don't understand why you're charging $708+/yr for chatting. Why not offer your service for free, register orders of magnitude more users, and make your money as an agency by placing users in new jobs? If they are engaged with your platform, you'll know it's time to do that before any other platform or agency does, and you have a qualitative advantage over other agencies because you will have counseled your candidates for a long time prior. Seems like the focus of Jobstart before you rebranded it, n'est pas?
3. Your job functions in registration are constrained to tech and tech-adjacent functions only. Is that a limitation of the advisors you have on your platform, an unconsciously narrow scope, or is it related to your market designs for point 2?
4. How will you not get obliterated in court for encouraging the transmission of proprietary or privileged information?
5. Back to the $708+/yr point, so many alternatives could provide the same use for less. A private curated Quora, a user mentor network with perks (advise other users for incentives), even curated career resources in a newsletter or Amazon book-of-the-month club. I realize that a service like this might pay for itself in boosting one's earning potential, but many less-expensive incarnations of the same are at anyone's disposal.
6. Why chat? Why not email? Why not Hangouts? I feel like chat is such a restrictive medium.
1. We actually have a load balancer of sorts. When we get flooded with requests and won't be able to maintain conversational quality, people get put into the line. It's effective for launches like this. We prefer to not put people into the line, as instant-access users are 38% more likely to engage, but quality trumps all else.
2. Fun you mention this! This is how our business worked at the beginning, but it led to some really absurd dynamics at scale. People above mentioned ethics questions... well, when the company's and coach's profit-motive is to place you in a new role, the advice slants that way. Especially if it's $15k a pop for an engineer. Secondly, this model only work with engineering and SV-based recruiting... and we want to help people who are facing uphill battles in the US -- not just those who already have it pretty good.
3. As we develop a larger network of industry experts and train our coaches, we'll be able to expand further.
4. People can send us whatever they want, but we don't actively encourage proprietary information in any specific way.
5. We attempted a user mentor network before and it didn't scale. The user experience was often terrible for users because we couldn't guarantee consistency or quality of advice -- a LOT of mentors would give terrible advice, and then we'd have to come in to fix the situation. To even detect that, you have to give mentors a shot. Secondarily, if a mentee slacked, the mentor wouldn't feel empathy for them and also slack. When we control the experience, we can play "coach" and get real with people -- mentors don't look to do that usually. Sometimes there are hard conversations and people need to be told their being lazy, making excuses, etc.
6. It works with chat and email. We're trying to think about scale, and live video would require a price point that is about double or triple. That would make it unaffordable for middle America.
Thanks for the thoughts + analysis! Curious your take on my replies.
1/ it's based on personal advice so needs to scale on both sides. I've spoken w the founders and they legit.
2/ I intend to get my work to pay for it under "high quality outsourced good management". I don't expect to use it for a new job, but to perform better in my current.
3/ it is my understanding that it's a scaling thing.
5/ in my job, a 10% improvement in efficiency Uncompounded is worth thousands of dollars in direct costs per month. Well worth it, based on my jobstart experience w the same team.
Even if they need to give the current employee a healthy raise ($$) to retain them, they'd still probably net save money.
If some high % of employees who use this tool discover they really ought to be working elsewhere, well, that's probably better for the industry's cost/productivity as a whole, so everyone wins in the end yayy!! But sure maybe it's optimal for an employer to hide this sort of tool if they rely on employees having inefficient market information to retain them & that somehow fits with their ethics...
(Looking at you, the giant companies that got sued for their illegal informal non-competes...)
I can't guarantee it'll be as high quality as the Billion's actors though. ;)
I think the difference changes Everything. This could solve a very real problem: the mysteries of navigating ethical standing.
I am concerned about the anonymity, particularly that the advice depends on the info provided while the user is representing not only themselves as a patient but also their ego. Ideally, the user would have comfortable assurance of their anonymity and the concept would have a unique value. If doable and manageable, I would believe in that.
Privacy would be a concern for many users (for various reasons) but not all. My thought about anonymity is about usefulness, not privacy.
Would someone really want to confide that much of personal glimpse into their working life to community they barely even know, or even for their current employer or future employer to possibly see one day.
Not for me.
More people question too little than too much, so it's great to see you all are the opposite. :)
I will be curious to see if there's an actual market for this.
And any tips for finding good recruiters in London specifically?
Also, most recruiters (sorry) can't be trusted. Their motivation is not aligned with the candidate's best interests -- candidates are their product.
Even if a person hasn't signed a non disclosure, how ethical is it to share in-company politics with others?
We're also working on DB security. Our data isn't large enough yet to really be a big target -- it's pretty boring right now -- but we'll invest in it right when scaling hits promising Series A-style levels.
Why I ask: Wondering if bots or customer support staff can really support this use case.
At $59/month, unit economics should work as we develop better tech. But for now we're certainly prioritizing quality over speed. :)
Are you focussing purely on low to mid level employees inside a company or also catering to freelancers and such people who have similar though not exactly the same needs?
Low/Mid level employees are certainly much easier to help. Less complicated political situations, etc.
We have a couple freelancers on the platform... probably about 15 or so. Their discussions usually center around improving their external brand and customer pipelines.
There's actually currently an AB test where we remove topics. It seems that most people are confused by this, and it created a strange flow in the conversations.
A topic is basically an entire chat engagement, end-to-end, with a specific purpose.
As I said though, we're looking to gain data right now to possibly remove them. Appreciate the thoughts!
Our entire engineering team is dedicated to building tools that make our career coaches super human. Unit economics can get healthy pretty fast.
Shows that this concept can span niches.
We're always looking to hone in our pitch and improve the product. If you or anyone else here has feedback, let me know.
Does that work for you?