ImagiNation with AJ Richichi

RICHICHI

WEBSITE | TWITTER

Occupation: (Title, Company or Organization) CEO & Founder, SENTIO

Favorite Productivity Tool: Hubspot. I take a lot of pride in my work efficiency. Their platform helps me manage tasks, properly plan follow up emails, stay up to date on our user acquisition, and schedule calls with potential customers.

Most Recommended App: Waze. I travel regularly from Charleston to Atlanta and Charlotte for work. When we raised our most recent round, I visited investors in 14 cities in a three week period. Waze saved me hours and hours on my routes.

Last Thing You Read: My wife and I welcomed our first daughter, Antigone (Tiggy) Rose Richichi, on February 21st. Since then I’ve been obsessively reading different parenting books trying to find ways to be the best Dad possible. My most recent read was Moms on Call. It’s written for women, but I find it incredibly insightful and would highly recommend it to any dads.

More work related, I recently read Bad Blood by John Carreyrou. It’s an amazing (true) story about a billion dollar biotech startup filled with lies, corruption, and deception. The book serves as a reminder to the technology community to be humble, honest, and transparent with shareholders and employees always. A misinterpreted email or a casual lie can lead to so much more.

Tell us about your journey? Great question. A lot of articles lately have discussed SENTIO as an “overnight success”, but that is untrue. We’ve been building SENTIO for years in small apartments, hole-in-the-wall coffee shops, and a cookie factory refrigerator (not an exaggeration). One of the challenges with HR tech is that product validation takes a long time. You can’t prove if a company made a good hire using your technology until 1) you analyzed an entire candidate pool, 2) made a formal recommendation for the company to hire a specific hire based on your data, 3) they make that hire, and 4) you track their performance at the company for at least 6 months to a year. It’s been a marathon, not a sprint. I’m grateful that we have “passed” all the tests and are now able to provide world-class assessments to companies nationwide.

When do you feel most successful? There is no better feeling than delivering positive news to my team. Just last week I received a text message from the South Carolina Research Authority stating that they’d like to invest $200,000 into our technology. Those two minutes gathering everyone together in our office was one of the most rewarding moments of my professional career. They’ve all worked so hard for the company and we’ve become a family.

What do you do to recharge when you’re feeling drained? Charleston is filled with beautiful places to decompress. My favorite place in the world is the disappearing pier on Folly Beach. I proposed to my wife there. When it’s low tide, you can walk out all the way to the end. As an added bonus, it’s on the southern tip of Folly Island meaning that there’s a 270 degree sunset. Dolphins are typically swimming in the background. The sun is always shining. It’s the perfect place to take a deep breath.

What do you know today that you wish you would have known when you first got started as an entrepreneur You can’t do two things at once. I feel there’s an impossible and unnecessary pressure for entrepreneurs to start more than one company. There’s an overblown culture of “hustle” and “grind” which leads to founders working on two, even three, projects at once. It requires tremendous focus and effort to launch a successful company. Don’t spread yourself thin because of motivational videos on social media. If your first project is a success, everything gets easier for your next idea. It’s easier to recruit talent, it’s easier to raise capital, and it’s easier to get mentors. The reciprocal is also true. If you fail (especially if you show a lack of focus), it’ll be difficult to recruit talent, difficult to raise capital, and difficult to get mentors.

How do you optimize your day? That’s a timely question. Before my daughter was born, my schedule left no time for unstructured planning or thought. I woke up, drove to the office, put on my headphones, and went straight into my computer. Now, I take the first hour or so taking care of Tiggy which inadvertently gives me time to reflect on my day, week, and year. I find that it makes me a better individual contributor, CEO, and friend.

Who is the person/people who allowed you to imagine more? My wife, Jordan Richichi, is the CEO/Founder of a company called JoJo Rings. Like me, she started her business out of her dorm room. It’s been amazing to watch her company grow from our studio apartment in Syracuse NY to being featured in Vogue and InStyle magazine. She’s self-made and has not taken a penny from investors. Her journey to entrepreneurship has inspired me in more ways than one!

What does imagining more mean to you and your story? It’s important to dream big and protect your vision. As a young entrepreneur it can be difficult and intimidating to stand your ground to investors, mentors, and customers. At SENTIO, I made a vow to disrupt the hiring space by providing a better and more predictive personality assessment for 1/1000th the cost of traditional tools. You can imagine the reaction that I, a 25-year-old kid from Upstate New York, received. But we put in the work, built an awesome team, and launched the product. Now companies spanning from local coffee shops to fortune 500 companies can analyze candidates better, faster, and more cost effective than ever before.

If you could do more of one thing every day what would it be? Respond to emails, especially when we are hiring. According to SHRM, the average corporate job description receives around 250 applicants. I’m always touched by the number of emails that we receive from people who want to work for SENTIO whenever we post a job. Candidates take a ton of time researching our value proposition, thinking up new use cases for the technology, and creating new ways to sell our solution. Unfortunately, I don’t have the bandwidth to be as thoughtful as I’d like to everyone who applies.