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Astronaut Selected by Microsoft For Startups APAC

Microsoft | 21 April 2021

Today I am delighted to be talking to Nigel Hembrow, the CEO and co-founder of Astronaut. Founded in 2015, and based out of Singapore, the team believes that video-selfies will fundamentally change many business processes for the better. Their mission is to help companies make real and significant transformations to the way they get to know candidates, and the way candidates get to know them.


Emily: What's Your Story, Nigel? Where did it all start for you and Astronaut?

Nigel: The idea for Astronaut started in 2015, when I was building the team for a media-industry SaaS platform in India. I was using a number of recruitment process hacks and leveraging the LinkedIn community I'd developed in a prior head-hunting role I had held in Singapore.

At that same time, I also became fascinated by apps like Dubsmash, which leveraged asynchronous video and video rendering on mobile device. And when I discovered that asynchronous video could be used to add significant value to recruitment process improvement, I knew I had to pursue it.

In 2016, I reached out to Manfred and convinced him to take the plunge with me as my CTO and co-founder. And, as we both have family in Indonesia, it was only natural that we built Astronaut to be an Indonesia-first company.


E: Can you tell us more about Astronaut's immediate product and marketing roadmaps?

N: Our first revenue came from a subscription to our mobile-only SaaS asynchronous video interview platform. Subsequently, our platform has evolved to serve both web and mobile users, with a comprehensive suite of SaaS tools enabling the fastest and most fair recruitment processes. We serve employers and higher education providers in multiple continents.

In 2020 we productized our platform as an API/PaaS to enable greate r distribution of our asynchronous video platform. In addition, this has enabled us to support the launch of platforms for skills certification and online learning. And we recently achieved our ISO27001 compliance.

This year, 2021, is about investing in scale and making our services available globally. It is also about partnering with both the traditional and disruptive players in the Southeast Asia talent ecosystem to innovate together.


E: Who is on your team and why?

N: Manfred and I lead a team of 18 awesome people. Our headcount is heavily weighted toward product and tech talent, and we're building out our growth team currently. In 2020 we were joined by our CCO, Gwendal, who is leading our global commercialization activities and partnerships.


E: Coming away from the tech side of things for a minute, what's the future of screening in terms of the effect on our psychology around interviewing? Do you think Astronaut and asynchronous communication will be a major shift from the stereotypical interview?

N: Great question. Effective online screening experiences are becoming quicker and quicker for candidates. This is very convenient, and this behavior change will continue and accelerate. Quality, asynchronous communication experiences that are fun and add value to the candidate will be in most demand.

Also, the role of the CV will diminish over the next few years. CVs are essentially unverified data and largely not predictive of performance. So, yes, a major shift is occurring away from the stereotypical interview.


E : Does this mean Astronaut's model eliminates those embarrassing moments in first meetings we all totally regret?

N: Yes, absolutely. Traditional recruitment is full of false-negative and false-positive decisions about who should be shortlisted for an interview. Astronaut enables change so that there are no more unnecessary surprises and no time wasted, for employers and also for candidates. And by using structured questioning and involving more decision-makers, drives greater fairness.


E: What do you think startups should be doing right now?

N: If they're recruiting, they should be signing up for Astronaut's free trial! Our core focus is on the enterprise, but we do serve MSME too with our self-serve experience. And if they're an Edtech, HRtech or Medtech startup they should consider building on top of our API/PaaS. We love to innovate together.


E: What would you be doing if you weren't working on this startup?

N: I'm loving building Astronaut, so I'm not sure. My interests are wide and varied. I'm excited to become more proficient in Bahasa Indonesia and I'm also excited by Brisbane likely hosting the Olympics in 2032. Post-Astronaut, whenever that may be, I may even be a trailing spouse supporting my wife's career. For now, it's serving my team at Astronaut that excites me the most


E: What is your most used or favorite app and why?

N: As the moment, it's the Astronaut Recruiter iOS app, as we're recruiting. No kidding! After that's it LinkedIn, Slack, WhatsApp, Apple Podcast, Audible and ABC iView. I love a good walk-and-talk meeting or a walk-and-listen exercise session.


E: Bit of a wildcard question: What are you really good at, but never want to do anymore?

N: Planning! Haha. I grew up in a family with many to-do lists, which rubbed off on me significantly. I'm now trying to brainwash my wife and son about the important of planning and it seems to be working well. Of course, there are limits! Keep smiling!

E: Thanks Nigel!


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