When hiring for your team, look to your own customers. Why does this work? Because they will be the most natural advocates of your product. Most of the time, they already have a strong brand loyalty and likely know the ins and outs of your product. Fun fact — early on, we hired one of our loyal customers who was a heavy user, tech entrepreneur and Grammy nominated musician.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Weiting Liu. Weiting Liu is the Founder and CEO of Arc, a platform that aims to simplify the process of hiring developers who work remotely. Arc vets developers and connects them with companies seeking to hire them, with clients ranging from Silicon Valley startups to Fortune 500 corporations. Arc grew out of Codementor, an online mentorship platform for software developers. Weiting is a serial entrepreneur and an alumnus of both Y Combinator and Techstars.
Thank you so much for doing this with us, Weiting! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Myjourney as an entrepreneur has been a wild ride. I was born in Taiwan and was fortunate enough to move to Silicon Valley, where I learned that it was really possible to change the world with your bare hands. Back in 2006, I actually managed my first company remotely, way before “remote” had become the movement it is today. Back then, it was difficult to operate and grow our remote team because people were skeptical of joining a newly launched startup over the internet without a physical office. During this period, I learned the ins and outs of building a successful remote team, from the importance of facilitating open communication to transparent documentation.
After a few years of experimenting and coding projects myself, I encountered a bug that I wished I could solve. That’s when I saw the need to create a place for developers to get instant help from other developers online, so we launched Codementor in 2014 as part of Techstars in Seattle. As Codementor grew, we felt inspired by the connections forged by, and opportunities that emerged from this growing community of talented developers around the globe. We saw first hand that it doesn’t matter where you live — as long as you have a strong internet connection, you can still do great work. It was a natural evolution for us to expand our offering to help more individuals and organizations go remote with the launch of Arc.
How do you think this might change the world?
We believe career opportunities should not be limited by where you live. With Arc, we aim to empower people to do meaningful work from anywhere by reducing the friction of “going remote.” The challenge with existing services is that they are still focused on short-term freelancing and gigs, rather than offering remote options for permanent full-time employment. This is because the friction of hiring and working remotely is still too high. We want to change this. Powered by our Silicon Valley-caliber vetting process, we help organizations hire remote engineers who are just as good as (if not better than) locally-sourced candidates.
Keeping “Black Mirror” in mind can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about?
Technological advancements have made remote work possible (cloud-based services, instant communication tools, project management software, etc.). But what we are seeing with a lot of first-generation online platforms, such as Fiverr and Upwork to name a few, is that these services are essentially all about gigs. With that comes a focus on transactional relationships and the potential for exploitation, as contractors are sometimes treated as resources rather than people. I believe the second phase of remote work is already beginning, with better infrastructure enabling permanent full-time remote work. We see Arc as one of the main facilitators of this next generation of remote work by making it easier for both talent and organizations to go remote.
Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this breakthrough? Can you tell us that story?
The creation of Arc has been a natural evolution for our team. We launched Codementor to connect developers with instructors for online mentorship, and now Arc’s mission is to empower engineers who live outside of major tech hubs to find great career opportunities. While the Codementor network already includes many talented developers, we are now focused on connecting the ones who want new opportunities beyond mentoring with companies for long-term, full-time jobs through Arc.
What do you need to lead this technology to widespread adoption?
Modern organizations should not equate productivity with having a team in the same city working at the same office. In fact, both companies and employees stand to benefit from remote work. Companies who hire remotely increase their talent pool, and employees no longer waste time commuting and can avoid high cost-of-living areas. Despite the increase in remote hiring, there are still obstacles to overcome. In order for remote work to become standard practice, we are working to help normalize hiring remote talent in organizations. While there are great tools and services for remote and distributed teams (with Arc positioning itself as one of them), I believe it will ultimately take a shift in attitude among management before we see widespread adoption.
What have you been doing to publicize this idea? Have you been using any innovative marketing strategies?
Marketing is all about finding a way to get your message to stand out from the noise. While technology has changed many aspects of business, hiring remains very much like it was twenty years ago. Typically, a company sifts through hundreds of resumes from local candidates to interview at the physical office. To make our message clear, we compared this old way of hiring with another outdated technical symbol — the floppy disk. Our team handed these actual floppy disks out at a recent conference with the slogan, “Don’t hire like it’s 1995.” (Side note: finding and purchasing hundreds of real floppy disks in 2019 was a real challenge in itself.) While it may seem gimmicky, this memorable handout was a real conversation starter that broke the ice while bringing attention to how Arc is helping companies modernize the hiring process.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
It’s hard to mention just one single person. Our company is like a family to me, and I am grateful for the continued support of both the founding team members and newcomers. Loyalty is everything, and it goes both ways; I am just as loyal to our team as they are to the company. In practice, this means we help team members thrive even as business and situations constantly change. Building a business is a marathon and not a sprint, and I see relationships the same way. Even if you join us on this journey for one chapter of your life, we hope that it aligns with your own personal goals. In fact, one of my interview questions for all candidates is, “What do you think you want to do in life, and how will working at Arc help you achieve that?” If a particular colleague has been loyal to the company, I believe we have a responsibility to help this person to transition to new roles appropriate for their interests and skills even as the company evolves.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
By helping remote developers land better opportunities, we’ve heard numerous success stories. In addition to increasing their real earnings, developers in our network have also reported that Arc has accelerated their careers and strengthened their technological skills through exposure to different fields and industries that would be otherwise out of reach. We’ve connected remote talent all over the world — from a Greek developer who was hired by a Fortune 500 company in New York City, to a Taiwanese developer who was hired full-time by a VC-backed startup in Silicon Valley. We’re proud to be the connection point between hundreds of developers like these and fast-growing organizations such as Spotify, Chegg, and Hims (just to name a few).
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)
- Success is about connecting the dots. Around 2013, after trying a few different career options, I decided to dive back into entrepreneurship world again. This may sound a bit cliche, but the Steve Jobs biography by Walter Isaacson really inspired me. After reading that book, I began to play around with several product concepts by working on one new idea per month. Codementor was the ninth idea. In hindsight, it was really all about “connecting the dots” in my own experience, just like Steve Jobs said, that led me to where I am today.
- When hiring for your team, look to your own customers. Why does this work? Because they will be the most natural advocates of your product. Most of the time, they already have a strong brand loyalty and likely know the ins and outs of your product. Fun fact — early on, we hired one of our loyal customers who was a heavy user, tech entrepreneur and Grammy nominated musician.
- Find a coach or mentor. I didn’t have a mentor back when I first started my journey as an entrepreneur, but in hindsight, I wish I had tried to find one. Entrepreneurship can be a lonely road at times, so it’s good practice to have someone to bounce ideas off. Even today, meetings with my executive coach are still an essential part of my week and invaluable to reflect on my actions as a leader and continue to grow.
- Momentum is everything for startups. When you are a founder, one of the downsides is you’re likely to convince yourself “this idea won’t work.” To mitigate that, you should find some small wins to achieve momentum. Momentum can make or break any startup.
- Launch and get feedback faster. This is old advice, but it gets repeated over and over again for a reason. Startup founders must make it a priority to talk to customers (potential and existing) regularly to really understand their pain points and be sure you are building something that people in the real world actually want.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I imagine a future where remote or distributed work will simply be called “work.” Because career opportunities would no longer be limited by your geographic location, we envision a world where millions of people are able to earn more and live better lives. What’s even more exciting is that idea that there could be hundreds and thousands of local ecosystems thriving again, as people no longer need to flock to large urban centers just to find great jobs. This could really invigorate areas that were previously depressed due to brain drain and other economic impacts.
Some very well known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂
Great talent is global, but for most organizations, hiring is still local. We believe remote work is the future, yet finding remote work or hiring remote talent remains chaotic, time consuming, and a gamble for quality. We created Arc to make remote hiring easier by taking care of talent sourcing, vetting, and matching for organizations. As remote work grows in popularity, Arc is positioned to make the transition to remote seamless by removing friction for both sides of the hiring equation.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Twitter: @actdotdev and @weitingliu
Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.