How's this for an unusual interview strategy: When Liz Wessel, the co-founder of WayUp, interviewed to work at Google she told the interviewer, "This is my two years' notice."

Why? She already knew she wanted to launch a startup, having previously started two businesses. And Google was fine with that, so two years later she left to co-found a startup that gives college students and recent grads an efficient way to find good jobs -- and, on the flip side, gives companies a great way to find great talent.

And that's why Liz is another in my series of interviews related to the Strayer University Readdress Success program, an initiative intended to redefine success as "happiness derived from good relationships and achieving personal goals." (Strayer has launched a petition through Change.org to change the Merriam-Webster definition. Sign the petition, and Strayer will donate 50 cents to Dress for Success, a nonprofit that promotes the economic independence of disadvantaged women.)

How did your experience at Google inspire you to start another company?

Obviously I always planned to launch another company, but Google inspired me to want to make an impact and make a change in the world ... as opposed to creating an Instagram for cats or some kind of an alcohol delivery service.

I decided that I wanted to do something that would really make an impact on the world, because you only live once.

What was your motivation to start a job search platform for students?

In college I definitely saw the need for it, and my co-founder J.J. and I had both worked on a project together that dealt with this issue. It was definitely something that was inspired by my experience since I had my own business in college. Finding the right job was really hard even for the best students, both at my school and at other schools.

And then I saw it from the other side. Employers like Anheuser-Busch were asking me to help them with hiring at my school. Here's even this Fortune 500, cool, sexy beer company that can't easily hire the right people ... so obviously there was something wrong.

Has being a female in the tech world influenced your definition of success?

To be fair, I don't think being a woman has had much to do with my experience. Maybe being young has, though. It's much easier to disrupt an industry that you know nothing about.

Fred Wilson is one of the great venture capitalists. I spoke with him at a conference and I asked, "What is the thing that all companies who blow up their space have in common?" He said they are all started by people who have no domain expertise and as a result are able to think about a problem in a really new and unique way.

That really resonated with me. If you think about companies that have taken off and changed the world and become multibillion-dollar companies, most of them weren't started by people who worked for a competitor for a long time.

How do you define success?

Success is more of a feeling. You can't prove you're successful -- personal success is based on your own opinion and your own feelings.

So I would start with the feeling that you have accomplished much of what you want to accomplish, and that you're happy.

I would not say success is accomplishing everything you ever wanted because then no one would truly reach success ... because people who are ambitious will always have more things they want to accomplish. So success is accomplishing personal goals and finding happiness.

For example, Mother Teresa didn't want to be rich, but I feel sure she felt successful.

Did you and your co-founder find it more challenging approaching investors since you're relatively young?

No. I had been following one specific venture capital fund; it's one of the most well- known VCs in New York. I had already done what seems like a million full pitches before I pitched him, and he said yes pretty much on the spot. He said, "Could you come back with your co-founder?"

I came back with my co-founder, and after the second meeting he had committed several hundred thousand dollars and introduced us to a few other funds.

When you were with Google you went to India. Were you assigned or did you ask to go?

I requested to go. I knew I wanted to work in India because my first year working at Google was spent working on a lot of First-World problems. I worked on the Google search product, but specifically for voice search: We were trying to convince people to talk to their phone more and do searches via voice versus writing. TTo me that's not changing the world as much as I would have liked.

I loved that experience and had amazing experiences. Still, for my second year I wanted to go abroad where I could work on something more impactful. In my opinion Google is changing the world more than almost any other company.

So I thought, how can I get that type of experience with Google? Instead of working on a world-changing product in a First-World country, I wanted to work in a country where I would actually see the problems firsthand by living there as well.

Google has offices in a number of emerging countries. India was the only one that speaks English in the office, and they also happened to be hiring.

I should also add that Sheryl Sandberg is a role model of mine, and she had worked for Google in India.

Since starting your business, has your definition of success changed or stayed consistent?

It has definitely stayed the same. My approach to success is what my parents taught me: Make sure you're extremely happy and are accomplishing the things you want to accomplish ... because money comes and goes.

 

3 Secrets to Extreme Productivity
Published on: Dec 2, 2015