Tech entrepreneurs are on the front lines of innovation and job creation. What better way to find out what’s happening in tech in Texas than to hear it straight from our state’s top entrepreneurs? TEP Executive Director, Chelsea McCullough talks with Andy Wolfe, CEO and founder of ROIKOI.
TEP: What inspired you to start your company?
I came up with ROIKOI after constantly recommending talented people in Austin that even my own network had never met or heard of. I realized that professional endorsement systems all reward serial networkers, often overlooking the great people behind the scenes who keep every company running. I wanted to fix that.
There’s a group of people in Austin that I would highly recommend to anyone. And as a general rule, I trust their recommendations as well. This idea of second-degree trust is how I found my team, and it’s something I’d like to make easier for everyone. With ROIKOI, I want to explore these networks so we can all find great people and help them get the recognition they deserve.
TEP: What has been the biggest surprise in building the company?
It wasn’t a complete surprise, but we’ve been excited by feedback that ROIKOI is addictive – in a good way. It’s still early given we just announced our beta, but we’re already seeing people log in daily to rate their colleagues and follow the leaderboards, which continue to get richer and more interesting over time.
TEP: Tell me about a pivotal moment.
I think for most founders, the moment you share your idea with potential investors is always pivotal. I spent days getting ready for those meetings, obsessing over every detail. I was always confident ROIKOI would work, but there is no way to overstate the importance of getting positive feedback from experienced entrepreneurs like Brett Hurt (Capital Factory) and Andrew Busey (TechStars) who’ve been in your position before. Those votes of confidence only made me more passionate about what we were working to build.
TEP: What specific advances in technology enable your product?
We’re at a point where our professional networks extend much further online than they do in our physical offices. It would be hard to imagine ROIKOI working effectively without Facebook’s social graph and the ability to map relationships across a large number of people, companies and geographies.
TEP: What does the customer need, technology-wise, to use your product?
A Facebook account and a web browser! ROIKOI.com works great on any device.
TEP: Where will this be in ten years and what will it take to get there?
Our goal is to grow a company that creates great new opportunities for our members. If some day a department head sees one of his team members on the leaderboard and offers her an incentive or new position in order to keep her, that’s a win. If she instead uses ROIKOI to find great people in her field and learn something new, that’s also a success. We’re not sure exactly where ROIKOI will end up, but we’re confident we can build something that will help our members.
TEP: If you were sitting across from an elected official, what would you like to say?
I’d probably ask if they knew their ROIKOI score. As a founder working to build a company in Austin, I’d also ask what they are doing to support Texas businesses and help make this the best place in the country to work if you want to pursue a career in technology.
Andy Wolfe is the CEO and founder of ROIKOI. He previously held product management positions at Square Root and Bazaarvoice, where he designed and launched the company’s first ROI measurement solution. Prior to that, Andy served in a variety of engineering positions at IBM Tivoli and Extreme Blue as well as ICAP, the world’s largest inter-dealer broker. Andy speaks four languages and is a computer science graduate of Columbia University.