Mostly Everything

An Interview with Paul Rivera, Founder & CEO of Kalibrr


The local startup scene has been shaking lately with the arrival of Kalibrr. Founded by Paul Rivera, Kalibrr aims develop the skills of call center applicants even BEFORE they apply for a job. Now that’s a true incubator. I’ve had the chance to interview the folks and find out more about this amazing startup. Here is a full list of their awesome team.

Kalibrr Founder and CEO Paul Rivera witnessed the Philippines’ skills gap firsthand at a BPO company he founded here in 2007. Prior to this,He found that while there are literally thousands of BPO jobs available in the country, many educated Filipinos still do not qualify for them because they lack the necessary skills for the job. He saw Kalibrr as an opportunity to not just close this skills gap, but to also provide thousands of Filipinos the means to go after a job that will allow them to change their future.

On another note, if you’ve been very curious about the BPO industry but don’t know what to expect, this recruiting service will very well help you out.

Kalibrr was founded in January 2012.

What is the current state of the BPO industry in the Philippines? What “hole” is Kalibrr trying to fill?

One of the fastest-growing in the country, the BPO industry is projected by the Business Processing Association of the Philippines (BPAP) to employ 1.3 million people and generate $25 billion by 2016. The Philippines is the #1 call center destination in the world with India now far behind.

However, while thousands of positions remain to be filled, only 1 out of 10 applicants lands a job (source).

What is Kalibrr’s business model? Is the growth of call center applicants enough to keep the startup afloat?

Kalibrr charges companies a fee for every user they hire through Kalibrr. The large BPOs generally need to hire about 500 agents every month. In 2012, the industry employed 493,000 people, and is projected to employ 862,000 people by 2016 (source). Later this year, we’ll release our enterprise platform where BPOs will use our platform to identify, recruit, and manage candidates.

How does Kalibrr accredit with BPO’s? Are there pre-set standards that all call centers have which the training facility has to meet?

We submit our requirements for vendor accreditation – it’s usually just business permits and the company profile. But other companies set a trial period where they require vendors to prove that they can supply them with candidates. What Kalibrr has done that’s different is we’ve studied the industry as a whole and created an assessment and curriculum that can apply to a wide swath of BPO jobs, starting with the biggest one, the customer service agent job.

From the moment of application, how long does it take for an applicant to successfully complete the screening process and land a job? What is your success rate?

The length of the process will depend on the users’ pace and availability. If they just take the assessments and go through the practice interview within the same day, they can be endorsed to a partner company by the end of the day. If they prefer to take the online lessons and supplementary offline training, it can take anywhere from a couple of days to a week.

Is Kalibrr only for fresh graduates?

No, Kalibrr is for anyone who’s at least 18 years old and finished high school, and is determined to get a call center job. Our former and current users’ ages range from 18 to 50. We recently helped an OFW woman who was 45 years old who was unable to get a job for nearly a year land a great job at Sutherland Global, one of the top BPOs in Manila. We’ve also helped a 25 year old nursing graduate who was working at Mini Stop for the last two years change his life with a job that pays 3x as much in a call center.

Getting funding from Y Combinator is a huge accomplishment. Can you give a short anecdote on how you were able to secure funding? What did Y Combinator see in Kalibrr?

I think Y-Combinator saw in Kalibrr the future of education and employment for the rest of the world. In emerging economies like the Philippines, Vietnam, Kenya, and Latin America, Kalibrr has the potential to be the “LinkedIn” but larger – to take entire economies and help them develop through skills based training driven by employers. This is a market of billions of people and so Y Combinator saw in us a potential multi-billion dollar idea that will be created if we execute. Paul met one of the partners in October in a casual event, he told him about Kalibrr and that partner suggested that we apply – we submitted our application with 1 hour to go before the deadline and then were invited for an interview in late November, and after 10 minutes (the length of the interview), we found out we got in. One last anecdote – Y Combinator looks at the team more than the idea itself and I think YC saw in us an extremely strong team with deep technical, BPO, and workforce development experience.

What advice can you give to other aspiring startups in the Philippines?

Think big. Don’t just think of a startup that’s going to be local or within the country, think of creating startups that can be used in a regional context or global context. The next Google or Facebook will probably not come out of Silicon Valley, it may come from China, the Philippines or Africa. If Kalibrr can make it to YC, I believe there’s more than enough startup talent in the Philippines to do it again next year.

By Jayvee Fernandez

Jayvee Fernandez is a tech enthusiast, EAN certified SCUBA Diver and underwater photographer based in Metro Manila, Philippines. His photos and videos have appeared in various international and local publications including Random House Germany, Discovery Channel Canada, and CNN.

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