60 Seconds with Smarterer CEO Jennifer Fremont-Smith

6/14/11Follow @gthuang

Smarterer, a Boston-based tech startup, is generating some buzz this week, having demoed its product at the WebInno meeting last night.

The company started in the fall of 2010, founded by Dave Balter, Jennifer Fremont-Smith, and Michael Kowalchik. It provides crowdsourced skills tests on digital, social, and other techie tools—think Twitter, Ruby, Matlab, Photoshop. Job seekers and other curious folks can sign up, take multiple-choice tests in under 60 seconds, and get a score that they can promote on their resume (or bury with shame, for us dumb and dumberer folks).

Although some media outlets are reporting it like it’s news this week, Smarterer raised a $1.25 million seed round, led by True Ventures and Google Ventures (and a bunch of angels), before April.

In honor of the company’s 10-question test format, here’s Smarterer in 10 points:

1. The problem: “There’s no smart way for professionals to validate that they have [certain technical] skills and articulate it to the world,” says Fremont-Smith, the company’s CEO.

2. Goal: “To completely reinvent the skills section of the resume of the world,” she says. “Our mission in life is to take that skills section—which is completely wasted, it’s like a joke—and give it meaning.”

3. Context: “The tools people are using today did not exist a few years ago, and there will be a bunch more new ones tomorrow. The pace of change is actually accelerating. So we use the collective intelligence and experience of the crowd.”

4. How it works: Any user can go in and create a test about any topic. (But to get in, you have to be invited by another user.) Then others add to the test questions. When people take the test, Smarterer’s software figures out which questions are harder or more relevant than others, and the tests get “smarter” over time.

5. Approach: “This will be a very powerful tool for employers…but I’ve got the whole team focused on building for consumers.” (Eventually the trend-spotting of which skill sets are becoming important could be valuable too.)

6. Business strategy: “Not chasing revenue right now, we’ve got a lean team. We’ve got some time to get it right for the consumer.”

7. Biggest challenge: “Getting engineering talent. It’s definitely an arms race.”

8. Impact: “We’re building it for professionals to show the world what they know—what they know, instead of who they know. Think about all those people who have a lot to offer, but they’re not natural self-promoters.”

9. Deeper idea: There’s a “core craving” to show people “this is what I know, this is why I’m important.” “That’s for everybody,” she says.

10. Why Google Ventures: “It makes perfect sense for us to be partnered with Google Ventures because these guys [Google] make all the tools. And Google hires the top 1 percent. Our system is designed to identify the top 1 percent.”

Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Deputy Editor, National IT Editor, and the Editor of Xconomy Boston. You can e-mail him at gthuang@xconomy.com. Follow @gthuang

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