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Robert Tsao Headshot

Why I Moved to a Startup

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I am fascinated by how technology can touch and improve the lives of every individual on earth. And software, in my opinion, is the ultimate vehicle of innovation. It is limited only by what we can tell it to do, and as our own knowledge and imagination grows, it can be instantly reflected in new applications and services that touch billions of people around the world.H

aving spent the last 16 years building software companies in Silicon Valley, I have seen how success changes the mission, culture, and strategy of a company as it evolves and matures.

Taleo was a startup long before I joined the company. Back then, the goal was to change the world by convincing human resources professionals that software could help them hire better people into their organizations and that it was safe to access critical employee and job information through a browser over the Internet.

When I arrived at Taleo, it was already a solid, public software company. Not only had they proven that software could help companies hire more effectively, but they also created a new $20 billion talent management market helping companies manage hiring, performance reviews, compensation, and training.

As a medium-sized company, Taleo faced a different set of challenges. We had half of the Fortune 100 paying us big bucks to solve big problems all while fending off multiple competitors. We were no longer trying to change the world -- been there, done that.

We needed to keep our customers happy, roll out more products for them to buy and show enough financial growth for the public markets. However, operating this way made our thought process evolutionary and not revolutionary. Throughout the recent recession, Taleo helped corporations tighten their belts by streamlining their workforce and HR processes.

That being said, we are inherently reaching the limit of how much we can, or should, cut. It is no longer sufficient for HR solutions to automate HR processes (typically 1-2 percent of a company's operating expenses). Instead, we must focus on maximizing the productivity and effectiveness of our employees (up to 70-80 percent of a company's expenses).

So how do you do this in an era where employee engagement is at an all-time low; where LinkedIn knows more about employees' strengths and aspirations than their own companies; and where it is easier to hire an external candidate for a key position than to develop someone internally?

The answer is simple.

You need to bring employees into the solution and give them the ability to take control of their careers.

This is why the opportunity to join UpMo was so compelling.

With the slew of recent acquisitions in the talent management space, SAP and SuccessFactors, IBM and Kenexa, Salesforce.com and Rypple, and even Microsoft's acquisition of Yammer; I firmly believe that true employee career mobility can only come from a startup.

Startups are driven by innovation, are agile in making quick strategic decisions, and are willing to bet the company on game changing ideas. In order to engage employees and gain a deeper insight into what makes them more productive and successful, I knew that information would need to be gathered from the bottom-up.

UpMo's ability to arm employees with insight into how to achieve their career objectives within their respective companies is the only way to achieve success in this industry.

Ultimately, this knowledge not only helps companies develop and allocate their employees for maximum growth and profitability, but it also helps industries work together to ensure quality pipelines of critical employees, shows local municipalities how to invest in bringing the right businesses to match the capabilities of their residents, and demonstrates how economies can be optimally structured to maximize GDP.

Here we go again, trying to change the world.