SmartRecruiters is going after Taleo and SuccessFactors and intends to disrupt the cloud-based recruiting platform industry. Gutsy and well-conceived, Jerome is executing very well on his vision!
Sramana: Jerome, let’s start by reviewing your background. Where are you from? What are the roots to your entrepreneurial journey?
Jerome Ternynck: I was born in France. I studied finance in Paris at the University of Paris Dauphine. I then went into the army, which was mandatory at the time. I gained my first lessons in leadership over there. I served as an officer in the French paratroops for two years.
After my time in the Army I re-entered the civilian life and started looking for my first job as a graduate. That is where my entrepreneurial story started.
Sramana: What time frame was this?
Jerome Ternynck: I graduated in 1990 and left the army in 1992.
Sramana: What happened when you left the army?
Jerome Ternynck: I was basically looking for my first job as a young graduate from a prestigious French university. I sent out 80 job resumes with nice handwritten letters. I approached young consulting firms and banks, the industries where young graduates wanted to work at that time.
France was in yet another crisis in that timeframe. I got two interviews out of the 80 letters I sent out. That resulted in one job with a small, strategic consultancy firm. After six weeks in that job, I realized that there was no potential in being an employee of a small consultancy firm. I realized that I would much rather create my own work and my own business. I decided to move to Prague to look for opportunities to create my first company.
Sramana: What was going on in your head in terms of opportunities to start a company? What was the idea behind your company?
Jerome Ternynck: 1992 was just two years after the Berlin wall fell, so the entire economy was transitioning in the Czech Republic, they were moving from communism to a proper economy. As an entrepreneur, you could virtually do anything. You could open a restaurant, hotel, advertising agency, or an airline as far as I am concerned. Life guided me in an interesting direction. As I explored opportunities, I kept hearing that there were so many things you could do in the country, but it was really hard to find good people.
I thought that it would make good sense to start a recruiting agency. I was 22 years old and did not have a lot of capital. I founded my first company as a recruiting agency in the Czech Republic in 1992. I was new in the country and I did not speak a word of Czech. I was just some guy who moved there a few months earlier.