He invested and worked with many other companies, he candidly admits, but nothing hit as big as his messaging platform Hotmail. He sold it to Microsoft in 1998 for a cool $400 million. But tech entrepreneur Sabeer Bhatia is back in business again.
Today, Bhatia launched ShowReel, a purpose-driven social video platform that will match job seekers with companies looking for talent. The platform, which is to be launched first in India and then in the US too, will enable job seekers to build their own professional video profile. And he is giving himself six months to scale up his business model.
But is he replicating another LinkedIn? Or does he want to take them on? Bhatia explains how this platform is different. He admits that his initial attempt was not successful as it was based on the app asking potential job seekers text-based questions. “But I have since modified the model and have hit upon a winning idea,” says Bhatia. What he now does is interview them, as if he were conducting a Zoom interview with eight well-thought-out questions. “These questions on the app provoke a response which is much more natural than throwing a series of text question to an individual and is 10 times richer than a LinkedIn profile,” says Bhatia.
Bhatia points out that even LinkedIn has video, so that is not the uniqueness of his offering. He provides the example of TikTok’s amazing growth despite Facebook already having the feature of uploading videos. “But TikTok had a unique meme capability to act out a song or make a funny video based on a pre-conceived idea. That made it popular,” says Bhatia. So, he will be very happy if the videos on his platform are uploaded on LinkedIn too. “We are not competing with them; we will co-exist. You don’t beat someone; you just create a space for yourself,” asserts Bhatia.
The idea to set up the platform was born out of solving a problem, which arose because of the pandemic when billions lost jobs. Bhatia hit upon the idea – he was also inspired by his daughter using video freely – of leveraging technology to help job hunters to build a more evolved professional video profile.
Bhatia, of course, says that he wants to use the platform which is in the beta stage to test out the economics: What is the acquisition cost of a potential customer and what does he get in return. “For getting the matrix, I will require 20,000 to 30,000 customers and my guess is that the acquisition cost will be between $2 and $5, and the value the employee will get is over $200-300. Once the matrix is right, I will raise large amounts of capital and we can scale up to hundreds of millions of customers.”
But, for now, Bhatia has just initiated talks with four global and Indian companies to come on board to hire from the platform, and the numbers will go up slowly. Of course, just like in LinkedIn, it will be the potential employers who will pay the bill for the platform to get them potential employees. He finds there is no reason why it should not take off – after all, it cuts down management time and cost in hiring, and job seekers get a better fit.
Bhatia is also looking at extending the platform just beyond matching jobs with employers. He is also looking at customers creating their video health profiles, using the same method and in other areas too.
What’s more, once the platform takes off, he will also customise the questions (at the moment they are generic) to meet the specific job requirements of companies.
So, is Bhatia concentrating on this new venture or is he still a serial investor? Bhatia points out: “I have limited my investing. I have realised investing is better done by professionals rather than doing it on your own directly.”