Markellos Diorinos is the CEO & Co-Founder Of Bryq. Bryq offers a science-backed, AI-powered talent assessment platform to help companies remove bias from hiring and meet employer demand by enabling recruiters and hiring managers to hire for each role’s specific skills.
With a strong background in technology and marketing, Markellos is an entrepreneur passionate about delivering results and making great teams.
Previously, Markellos spent 10 years at Upstream, a global leader in mobile marketing, in various roles, among others running the operations in Latin America and establishing new product lines.
Prior to Upstream, Markellos held Product Marketing positions at Microsoft in Seattle and founded ArtLogic, a software house.
Markellos holds a BS and MSc in Computer Science from Friedrich Alexander University Erlangen-Nuremberg and an MBA from the University of Washington.
In an exclusive interview with AsiaTechDaily, Markellos says:
The most important asset in a company is its people. If you put the right people together, magic happens. And this is even more true for the founders of a startup. Get the right founding team together, and the rest will be easier.
We are on a mission – to help millions of candidates out there who get discriminated against or simply overlooked to find a better career. At the same time, this is only possible because of our great team. Making sure that we succeed at our mission as a team – that’s my motivator.
Working hard is not enough – you need to work smart. The only constant is change – the sooner you embrace that, you will be able to realize that being in control means being able to let go. If you are not making mistakes and failing, you are not trying hard enough.
Read on to know more about Markellos Diorinos and his journey.
Please tell me about your personal background and What motivated you to get started with your company?
Markellos Diorinos: I spent several years working in technology and marketing before launching Bryq. One of my former teams spanned from Argentina to Vietnam – and it clearly showed me how the traditional hiring approach was failing in terms of identifying talent. Degrees or even prior performance at another company can often be poor indicators of a candidate’s potential to succeed in a role. Factors like skills and ability, personality, fit for the role, and company culture have to all be considered at the same time.
I often sat across the table for an interview with a shortlisted candidate where I thought, “This person should have never reached this stage. There must be a better way to find talent”.
What is your current main product, and can you share any previous product pivot story to the current product?
Markellos Diorinos: Have you ever watched the movie Moneyball? The one where Brad Pitt puts together a baseball team with objective criteria and statistics and not his gut feeling? He puts together the cheapest talent team that outperforms multi-million dollar teams. Did you know that the movie is based on a true story? This is what we are – Moneyball for Hiring.
Bryq offers a science-backed, AI-powered talent assessment platform to help companies remove bias from hiring and meet employer demand by enabling recruiters and hiring managers to hire for each role’s specific skills. Our chatbot-based assessment only takes candidates 20 minutes to complete and has an industry-leading 77% completion rate. We recently launched an AI-powered offering to analyze job descriptions and predict the most accurate job performance indicators to match open roles with qualified candidates further.
How much money have you raised in total so far? When was the recent funding round?
Markellos Diorinos: In the fall of 2020, we announced the closing of a $1.4 million seed funding round by BigPi Ventures, a seed-stage and technology-transfer fund with experience in supporting HR tech solutions like Workable.
What were the internal decision processes in determining when to begin fundraising, and what were the logistics for this? And how many investors have you met so far, and how did you meet these investors, and which channels worked best for you?
Markellos Diorinos: Our main concern was time-to-market. We could have bootstrapped the company, but it would have taken a lot longer. A strong VC partner, like BigPi, has provided us with funding and a lot of priceless advice on what works. We’ve met many investors, but you need to keep in mind that you need more than just money, so finding an investor that fits your culture and goals is as important.
What are the biggest challenges and obstacles that you have faced in the process of fundraising? If you had to start over, what would you do differently?
Markellos Diorinos: Fundraising requires faith in the product offering and agility to update the company pitch for potential investors continuously. At the same time, startup owners have to be mindful of engaging investors who are a good fit for the company’s growth stage and profile – a good match in terms of industry focus and experience is key to its long-term success.
What are your milestones for the next round? And what are your goals for the future?
Markellos Diorinos: We are focused on leveraging our most recent round of financing to grow our global reach and further refine our product offering by introducing new tools to facilitate objective, bias-free decisions for individual development, team development, and internal mobility.
How have you attracted users, and with what strategy have you grown your company from the start to now?
Markellos Diorinos: We started working with our connections to get our first 10 customers or so. We also established a web presence and started investing in high-quality content early on, paying increasingly higher dividends. And then we added more traditional methods to the mix – conferences, digital marketing, cold outreach. The thing that keeps amazing us is viral growth – we have built a product that our users love, and we acquire a substantial percentage of our customers through referrals and word-of-mouth marketing.
Which has been the best marketing software tool for the growth of your startup, and why?
Markellos Diorinos: We are using quite extensive tech stack to keep our marketing up and running. We learn that investing in tech alone doesn’t solve problems – if we don’t have the proper people and time to manage the tools, they end up being a waste of money.
What do most startups get wrong about marketing in general?
Markellos Diorinos: Startups need to remain flexible and take calculated risks where it makes sense. It’s also important to be able to prioritize the business goals that the marketing strategy should serve. We all have finite resources – in terms of both time and capital – and must put them to use in order to maximize the impact of our marketing efforts.
How do you plan to expand globally?
Markellos Diorinos: We currently work with clients in 15 countries. With our most recent seed funding round, we plan on expanding our sales team to capture a growing worldwide demand and grow our global operations, starting with the U.S.
What are the most common mistakes companies make with global expansion?
Markellos Diorinos: It can be very helpful to focus on one region at a time to establish the company’s presence locally and then be able to apply lessons learned to more places across the world.
How do you handle this COVID-19 outbreak situation for your company’s survival in the future?
Markellos Diorinos: The COVID-19 crisis highlighted systemic barriers to jobs that well-qualified candidates have historically faced. Companies have responded by accelerating investments in Diversity and Inclusion, with bias-free hiring remaining at the center of the attention. The role of companies like Bryq that help qualified candidates get a foot in the door and companies hire the right talent for each role is now even more important.
What are the most common mistakes founders make when they start a company?
Markellos Diorinos: Founders are driven by their vision for the company and the ways it can disrupt how we live or do business. However, that shouldn’t get in the middle of remaining flexible, innovating, and updating the ever-changing global circumstances. Success lies in our ability to adapt and meet unmet market needs.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received? And What advice do you have for someone who is interested in doing similar things like yours or in a similar direction?
Markellos Diorinos: The most important asset in a company is its people. If you put the right people together, magic happens. And this is even more true for the founders of a startup. Get the right founding team together, and the rest will be easier.
What are the top-three books or movies (TV series) that changed your life and why?
Moneyball – which I’ve already talked about. It is all about making better decisions using objective data.
Gattaca – the dystopian version of Moneyball, where data predetermine everything. Data is great, but there is more to people than just data – this is why it is important to augment decision making with data but not rely solely on data to make decisions.
The Matrix – AI is a powerful tool – but unless we learn how to use it properly, the consequences will be devastating. Maybe not as dramatic as in the Matrix, though.
How do you keep yourself motivated every day?
Markellos Diorinos: We are on a mission – to help millions of candidates out there who get discriminated against or simply overlooked to find a better career. At the same time, this is only possible because of our great team. Making sure that we succeed at our mission as a team – that’s my motivator.
What are the top three life lessons that you want your (future) sons and daughters to know?
Markellos Diorinos: Working hard is not enough – you need to work smart. The only constant is change – the sooner you embrace that, you will be able to realize that being in control means being able to let go. If you are not making mistakes and failing, you are not trying hard enough.
What would you like to be remembered for?
Markellos Diorinos: To make a difference and turn the hiring process from a roll of the dice to an equitable process where everybody has equal opportunities.
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