My Story: Kartik Mandaville, CEO of Springworks

From starting coding at the age of 6 to doing Masters at CMU and now running a 130-person company, this is the story of Kartik Mandaville, founder and CEO of Springworks, in his own words.

A picture of my schoolmates and me in grade school in Delhi. I’d already begun to learn how to code and was obsessed with computers.

I grew up in Delhi (capital of India) and my fascination with computers started at the age of 6, which is when I started learning programming. I remember completing all the exercises in my computer science textbooks during summer vacation for most of my schooling and then chilling for the rest of the year. I was the top student in Computer Science on every exam and it came very naturally to me.

Throughout my teenage years, I always looked up to Bill Gates. All my books in school were about Microsoft Windows and how to use it. Gates basically taught the world how to use computers and Microsoft had empowered me to save time and automate repetitive tasks at an early age. In that sense, Gates’ technology had improved the quality of my life. Not only mine, Gates had done the same for millions of people around the globe and created something useful and easy-to-use for the masses. I knew early on that I wanted to do something similar with my career – to create something useful for many people.

It always fascinated me how I could make dumb machines intelligent with just a few lines of code. I’ve always been a chess fan and I think the first game I built was an online chess game — it was so much fun to see my favourite game come to life on my computer screen.

Me in my dorm room coding away

My confidence was at an all time high going into freshman year of college where I was a declared computer science major. Everything was going as planned in my goal to make the same global impact that Bill Gates had until I applied for my first internship during my freshman year at the age of 18. I knew that skills-wise I was the best in my freshman CS classes. However, as some of my peers started to look for internships by networking with cousins, uncles, parents’ friends, I knew I could game the system through technology and save myself the time and trouble. Similar to how I had created a program to navigate the complex do’s and don’ts of chess, I wanted to automate the process of navigating the recruiting landscape in order to obtain an internship.

As my friends walked together in groups to career fairs dressed in suits with their hair slicked back, I hid in my dorm room and applied to 200 companies online in my pajamas, taking the time to find the email of the HR rep of each company I was interested in and then sending emails to them.

I was devastated when after my painstaking research, I received only twenty replies and five interview calls compared to my more extroverted peers whose exam scores and coding skills were not even comparable to mine. Wasn’t the world supposed to reward the smartest and hardest-working talent? How was I going to make the same impact that Bill Gates had in the world if I couldn’t even secure an internship?

The feeling that I had after I received an unexpected number of rejections from recruiters.

Luckily, I was able to stand out in other ways. In college, I created a Facebook application that automatically wishes your friends Happy Birthday on their birthdays. I had built this out of my own need — I had five friends to wish one day and I didn’t want to type the same message multiple times. After scripting and building an app, overnight I went from the sole user to having millions of users with people from all over the world started paying for it. It was one of the first applications built on Facebook in India.

My friends and I featured in the Times of India for creating a Facebook app to wish multiple friends Happy Birthday at the same time.

I went on to do my Masters in Machine Learning at Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh. This was a dream come true — studying cutting-edge technology at the best computer science university in the world. In my first semester, I worked on the world’s most famous supercomputer IBM Watson which completely mesmerised me. The subsequent semesters were spent getting deeper, and brainstorming useful applications that artificial intelligence could be used to build to help the broader society.

After graduating from my dream university — CMU

After working post-graduation in India, I received the opportunity of my lifetime to travel to the US and take on a new challenge. I was able to move to Santa Monica, California to serve as CTO at the Science accelerator which incubated startups such as DogVacay, Dollar Shave Club, etc.

As I went from an engineering function to helping portfolio companies at Science recruit for key technical lead positions, I realised I was probably missing out on top talent that were not part of my network in India or Santa Monica. After all, growing up I had not been interested in networking at all. Being a nerd — I was not eager to network but preferred to find opportunities through digital networking.

Mike Jones (Founder of Science accelerator in Santa Monica) and I with the winning participants at a hackathon in India.

I realised then, that just as I had built the Facebook birthday application in college, I could also build something that could teach the world how to become successful using professional networking and also reward those on digital platforms that had superior skills to their peers.

My favourite movie has always been Shawshank Redemption and my favourite scene is when Andy sends letters to the government for more funds to buy books. I can’t recall exactly how many letters Andy wrote but he wrote an insane number of letters to make this happen — one letter a week for six years! This scene showed me that if you really want to get something done — you can accomplish it through persistence.

The first time I tried to raise money on Sand Hill Road for my online networking idea, I was reminded of Andy’s dogged persistence. Most firms told us No and many days I felt like giving up on my grand idea. Yet, I refused to give up. Especially, since this startup was so related to issues that I had faced first-hand growing up. As a result, top Silicon Valley VCs and Angels agreed to give us a check and now my company Springworks (then SpringRole) is still operational and profitable and helping talented technical recruits to stand out from their peers.

The Springworks (then SpringRole) team celebrating a major milestone over drinks.

I’ve since built a team here at Springworks that I consider my own family. We as technical professionals in India understand the market behind hiring people with real skills. Most of us have the relevant experiences, the technical expertise and the startup experience, having worked at a number of different companies.

In 2018, we accomplished a major milestone by becoming one of the first non-fintech blockchain platform to actually have a live product on the Ethereum main-net before going out to the market to talk with potential token buyers. 

One thing is for sure – just like Andy in Shawshank Redemption, I will persist everyday. This is how, since 2018, we’ve been hard at work building a suite of tools and products to simplify recruiting and help organisations engage and retain their employees.

Today, the product stack from Springworks includes SpringRole — verified professional-profile platform backed by blockchain, SpringVerify — B2B verification platform, SpringRecruit — a forever-free applicant tracking system, EngageWith — an employee recognition and rewards platform that enriches company culture, and Trivia — a suite of real time, fun and interactive games platform for remote team-building.

We take pride in our work, and I especially take pride in the fact that we’ve been able to build Springworks into an organisation that places inordinate focus on employee well-being and workplace culture. We’re one of the very few 120+ employee strength company that’s rated 4.8 on Glassdoor

If you like my story, I’d love to connect with you on LinkedIn

And if you’d like to know more about our work, check out the Springworks website.

Kartik Mandaville

I am the founder and CEO of Springworks - HR tech startup using blockchain and AI.

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