By Danielle Bennings
Co-Founders Emmanuel Kaska and Chike Nwankwo first began developing their idea for Kivvik during the summer of 2013. Their original goal was to build a platform that would help college students find jobs. After examining the market through months of customer interviews during the Fearless Founders program, they discovered that there was a divide in the way businesses hire candidates. Large enterprise companies such as GE and Boston Consulting have the capital to assess all their candidates with behavioral analysis assessments, in tandem with an interview. As a result, they are able to receive a full picture of their candidates. Chike and Emmanuel saw an opportunity to partner with universities to deliver robust assessments to businesses that cannot afford to pay thousands of dollars for all candidates to take assessments.
Since then, Kivvik has formed a full team including Jeremy Horowitz, VP of Marketing, as well as messaging, assessment and sales staff. The current version of Kivvik’s product is designed to integrate various assessments covering the categories of risk and stress analysis, emotional intelligence, and critical thinking to provide employers with complete candidate recommendations.
Since getting involved, the Kivvik team has been no stranger to the Dingman Center, committing many hours in our co-working space to further the business. Only a few months after developing the idea, Kivvik competed in the Pitch Dingman Competition during Global Entrepreneurship Week. They later went on to enroll in the Fearless Founders Hatch course and was one of only two companies to be awarded a $2,500 Capital One grant. According to the team, the Dingman Center has “made a significant difference in helping [them] transition from college students to entrepreneurs running [their] own business”.
The company received some interest from Rob McGovern; a UMD alumnus and serial entrepreneur who took his first business, CareerBuilder, public. In 2004, he founded the online job-search site Jobfox, and he is now the CEO of CoBrain. Having experience in the industry, Rob McGovern agreed to a meeting with the Kivvik team. Chike, Emmanuel and Jeremy learned a lot from that meeting and are currently working to accomplish some of the short-tern goals suggested by McGovern. They focused on three goals this summer: 1) wrapping up sales and referral initiatives, 2) pursuing external funding to grow the team and diversify product offerings, and 3) improving the product both on the front and back-end.
To student entrepreneurs, the Kivvik team says “once you have a great idea, execution is key. You need to have the drive to get up every morning to do what most people consider the impossible.” They also recommend watching a YouTube video called “Life is Best Lived“. The team watches it at least once every week to stay motivated.