Our team is proud to introduce Andre Charoo as C100’s new Co-Chair. Andre takes the baton from Co-Chair Sean Harrington and joins Shari Hatch Jones in leadership of the C100 Board of Directors. Until recently, Andre has served on the Board and as a proud C100 Charter Member. Andre brings a special blend of a passion for working with Canadian entrepreneurs and a profound expertise in the talent space.
By day, Andre is VP of Strategic Development at Hired, Inc., a job search marketplace. Andre was one of the first 25 employees at both Uber and Hired. He has made substantial impacts at tech startups across the Bay Area, New York, and Toronto over the course of his career. Andre is committed to accelerating the growth of Canadian founders and their companies. We had the chance to sit down with Andre prior to jumping into his new leadership role with our organization to learn about his own entrepreneurial journey story and his enthusiasm for insatiable interest in building a supportive community of great Canadian leaders accelerating the Canadian tech ecosystem.
Can you describe the early days at Uber? Did you immediately recognize you were a part of such an influential and disruptive company?
Yes, I saw the potential right away. In my interview, I asked Travis Kalanick (CEO & Co-Founder) what the vision of Uber was and he provided an instantaneous and clear response, “we plan to deliver you anything and that happens to start with a car that takes you from Point A to Point B.” A ride-sharing app poised to evolve into a massive logistics engine to move cities. Looking back now with some pattern recognition, there were a few things that particularly stood out me in a crowded field of tech companies: (1) I was attracted to the bold vision; (2) I was impressed with the caliber and breadth of talent in my future co-workers; and (3) Travis had an ability to elevate the company’s purpose to a much higher level than merely an on-demand app to get a ride. When I took the role, I had friends say, “why did you join a cab company?” and those same friends now say “why did you ever leave that cab company?”
A company with a very big vision is actually a competitive advantage. Travis would say “we are rolling out a transportation alternative to the city — there are buses, subways, trains, and there is Uber.”
Companies should not just be working on what consumers want and see at face value today, but instead focus on building something visionary that can scale without limits. There is something extremely special about a company that can elevate their messaging to such a high level that you can see the tangible impacts the product or service would have on a neighborhood, a city, a country, an industry, etc.
What factors contributed to your decision to ultimately leave Uber?
I got recruited by a company called Cinemagram out of Montreal while in Vancouver attempting to launch Uber. Cinemagram had more downloads than Instagram simultaneous to Instagram’s acquisition by Facebook for $1B USD. There was a frenzy to identify the next massive social app, one that would allow you to share a few seconds of your life with followers. There was a debate in the community regarding what would be the “Instagram for video.” Here I am being introduced to this platform with 1M+ users within weeks of launch. The founder convinced me this was a massive opportunity and I should be Employee #1. Similar to Uber, I saw a big vision, clear user traction, and a high-impact role.
In my exit interviews with Uber, both Travis and Ryan Graves (Employee #1 & then Head of Operations) spent an hour with me. The front half was spent celebrating my accomplishments at Uber: launching in Washington with Rachel Holt (current Head of New Mobility), expanding internationally into Canada, and proudly hiring Andrew Macdonald (a Canadian!) as Uber’s first GM of Toronto (recently promoted to run global operations). The back half was spent debating Cinemagram— Travis loves evaluating business opportunities, and he and Ryan saw this as a good one and both recognized my conviction.
Fortunately, I can say that I took Cinemagram from 1M to 9M users over 10 months. We raised a $8.5M Series A from Menlo Ventures, the same investor in Uber’s Series B. I had every celebrity you could think of in my inbox wanting access to this platform. Fast forward, we were the most downloaded app of 2012 and could outpace Snapchat to become the big video-sharing app. I picked the right category but didn’t bet on the right horse. I have no regrets though because I did work that was well-recognized at both companies.
Bringing Uber to Canada was certainly a big moment for me. I’ve had partners in the Canadian cities we launched send me personal messages after the big IPO thanking me for convincing them to join the journey. I aim to have an impact in whatever I do, and granted it was a short amount of time I believe I accomplished significant milestones at Uber. That helps me sleep at night despite the money I may have missed out on.
You have built a career in launching products in new markets. What advice would you impart on earlier-stage entrepreneurs assessing what new environments to expand their product into?
I’ve developed a skillset around physically launching products in new cities, many of which are more tech-enabled than ever. Often businesses require a local presence in order to effectively grow. I believe it is critically important to figure out your business in an initial 1–2 market(s). Many people are surprised to learn that Uber spent a full year in San Francisco before even considering expansion to other markets. Hired did the same. I’m an investor in Setter and Ritual and both did the same. It is so important to go slow in the beginning because most businesses haven’t figured everything out early on in their lifecycle. Entrepreneurs have to know what works before replicating. Premature expansion can generate problems that will quickly compound from operational, team cultural, and unit economic standpoints — especially for marketplace businesses. It is very easy to underestimate the pace of keeping up with what is required to enter new markets.
Figure out your core market and do everything you can to understand it from every aspect of the business before you put the pedal to the metal.
You’ve had the opportunity to witness and contribute to 10x growth at Uber and 50x growth at Hired. Are there key lessons you have learned about building great teams that you can share with entrepreneurs?
People often index on skill when they are looking to hire — who can do this job at a high level extremely well. I view this as table stakes as many people can often do the job you are hiring for. At the time I trusted intuition and co-workers when hiring, then I would build pattern recognition from that. When I reflect on the people who worked well versus the individuals who did not, three qualities stand out:
(1) Level of grit: The idea that I have failed — either personally or professionally— and I got back up and bounced back. You’ve got to have a chip on your shoulder. I’d recommend Angela Duckworth’s book and her identification of ‘effort’ as the x-factor.
(2) Startup growth mindset: Startups are constantly in turmoil and if you pay too much attention to the daily grind (ups-and-downs) you’re more likely to give up. Those who can focus on the trend line and see the bigger picture will get a lot further.
(3) Self awareness: Is a team member aware of how they make other people feel? Startups encounter a lot of stress you will see people at their best and worst. Demonstrating empathy goes a long way and is necessary to move the ship.
Each stage of hiring at a company will look different. Early teams may be unqualified on paper but can be off the charts in other aspects if they possess a learning mindset. Be open to hiring talent with non-linear paths.
Tell us about Maple. What do you aspire to build with your VC and what are you looking to invest in?
Maple was founded two and a half years ago with the thesis of investing in exceptional Canadian founders regardless of location. We have made nine investments at the $100–150K level, seven of which have been in Canadian founders. My goals are to identify great founders, co-invest with big players (currently with Sequoia, Greylock, and a16z), and be helpful to entrepreneurs at all stages — especially at the growth stage given what I’ve done with Hired.
The bigger goal of Maple is to capture some of the talent that Canada readily exports and bring the returns back to move the needle forward.
Ideally in 5–10 years I could replicate the personal satisfaction I’ve experienced in joining companies early on by helping many other companies.
How do we propel Canada to become the top destination for global tech talent? What are we doing well and what can we improve on?
I believe Canada’s largest and most influential export is talent. For whatever reason, we don’t seem to pay enough attention to or keep in touch with Canadians abroad. It should be encouraged for any Canadian to pursue their life goals wherever that may take them. We can do a better job keeping them within our global network if we frame our thinking to view the country as a ‘hub.’ We can pull Canadians in regardless of if they are physically in Canada or not — especially as we aspire to build global companies at home. I hope to help C100 continue to build the largest network of Canadian entrepreneurs anywhere in the world. We have an opportunity to engage these talented folks and leverage their potential to forcefully drive Canadian entrepreneurship forward.
We have to change the narrative that once a Canadian leaves our borders they are out of our purview. That is what most excites me about being a part of the C100 as I believe it is the best organization to accomplish the objective.
Why have you decided to make giving back to Canada a fundamental part of your entrepreneurial journey?
Canada has been so great to me. I grew up in Toronto and it was an amazing place to be. I appreciated it more as I got older. Although I never worked professionally full-time in Canada, I got to spend a lot of time launching Canadian marketplaces at Hired and Uber. There are exceptional people here driven by an inspiring value system centered around giving back and returning the favor.
I look back at my wins and see a Canadian thread running through them. Here I go with Maple and the great founders I see are Canadian. I got to work with Garrett Camp (Co-Founder, Uber) and now Matt Mickiewicz (Co-Founder, Hired) — two incredible Canadians. I’m still trying to convince my wife — who is not Canadian — that we have to move to Canada. This is such a great moment in time for the country. I’m proud to be Canadian and represent the C100 by bolstering our amazing entrepreneurs and giving back to an incredible community.
Interested in learning more about Andre? Check out his our stories_ video:
Article written by Joshua Goodfield, C100. Provide any feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org. Last updated: June 25, 2019.