This month’s spotlight is on EO member Vikram Seth, the co-founder and CEO of Simpalm and the more recently founded Ducknowl. Ducknowl is a talent screening and assessment platform that allows recruiters to save time, reduce costs, and screen the best candidates for jobs. It offers a data-driven approach to the hiring process. Outside of work, Vikram loves traveling and trying new foods. Find out how he went from the pharmaceutical industry in India to owning multiple businesses in Chicago.
EO Member: Vikram Seth
Company: Simpalm, Ducknowl
Years in Business: Around 9 for Simpalm, 2 for Ducknowl
How long have you been a member of EO Chicago and why did you join the organization?
I’ve been a member for over a year now, and I joined because I felt the need to have people around me with the same entrepreneur DNA. I wanted to connect with people who thought like me, and with whom I could discuss my ideas and learn from hearing their experiences.
What was your first job?
My first job was as a business analyst at BlueCross BlueShield of Minnesota.
Can you describe your entrepreneurial journey? Where did you start and where do you hope to go in the future?
I think my entrepreneurial journey started when I left India. While doing my bachelor’s there, I worked as a pharmaceutical representative selling drugs to doctors. After that, I got the chance to move to Tanzania, where I was exposed to international clients on the management side. That was the first time that I felt that I needed to do something on my own one day. I saw how entrepreneurs were helping not only the nation but also families by creating jobs.
What do you enjoy most about your work?
I love hearing employees say, “I’m very happy working here. You are not like a big corporation where you treat people like a number.” It’s a huge compliment.
What daily challenges do you face at work?
Where there are people, there are challenges. I think right now the biggest one is making sure everyone is motivated. We have offices in India, as well as in the U.S., and the pandemic has been very rough there. When I talk to my employees in India, they are very low in terms of their motivation. So it’s been a challenge to try and bring people back up to the level of energy they had before—and not just where work is concerned but in their personal lives and with their families as well.
What is the best career advice you ever received?
When I did my master’s at Georgetown, I tried to get my foot in the door of the pharma industry, but somebody told me, “You’d be very good at project management. And you come from a science background. Companies are always looking for people like you. Why don’t you try it? I think you should hone your skills in that direction as well.” I took that advice and it worked out!
What are your goals for the future of your business?
We want to make Ducknowl a household product. I want most companies to use Ducknowl so that we can remove bias from the recruiting process and make it more data-driven. Ducknowl is near to my heart because I remember the days when I was looking for a job and would get rejected because I needed a Visa. They didn’t even give me a chance. The system we have created gives a fair chance to everyone.
What’s the coolest thing you’re working on right now?
Simpalm runs on autopilot at this point, so the coolest things I’m working on are for Ducknowl. The short answer is that we’re bringing a lot of new features to Ducknowl that will make the process even better for recruiters and job seekers.
Who or what inspires you?
My employees inspire me when they say, “We are very happy we joined this company.” That motivates me to produce more jobs to continue bringing happy faces to work.
If you could go back in time five to ten (or more) years and share advice with your past self, what advice would you share?
I would tell myself at Georgetown to take more coding classes. Learn coding!
What is the greatest challenge you have overcome?
When we launched Ducknowl pre-COVID, a lot of my recruiter friends said, “It’s not going to work. Why did you create something like this?” Overcoming these doubts and moving forward with the product and business anyway was a challenge. But now, I think people realize the importance of this type of system. It’s not just video screening. It provides reassurance that if you’re taking someone to the next step of the hiring process, there’s a reason behind it, there’s data. It’s not just because they look good on paper or have a nice face.
How do you find work-life balance?
Don’t think about work when you’re with your family. Don’t check email. And when you’re working, don’t think too much about where you’re going to take your wife to dinner.
What brought you to Chicago?
My family is spread all over Chicago.
When you were a kid, what did you say you wanted to be when you grew up?
It changed a lot, but one that stands out is a pilot. I wanted to be a pilot for a while.
What are your favorite things to do outside of work?
Traveling. I like to explore different countries and I’m a big foodie. I also grow my own food—I love sustainable farming.
What’s one thing still left on your bucket list?
There are a lot! But especially after COVID, I want to travel the world. I’ve never been to southern America, so I’d love to explore there. I saw a small part of Europe but not all of it. I’d love to backpack around, work from the places I go, and explore.
What are you currently reading?
Rework by Jason Fried and David Hansson
What’s your favorite restaurant in Chicago?
I really like Handlebar and Bleuroot. They both offer good vegetarian food.
What is your favorite part about working in the Chicagoland area?
Summer. Summer in Chicago is always the best. Also, when we lived in the South Loop, I would work from small boutique coffee shops in the area. That’s my favorite part of working in Chicago.
What is your top Chicago activity?
Walking on the lake near the Cubs’ stadium—beautiful!
Where’s your favorite place in the world to visit?
I don’t really know how to answer this because there are so many places I haven’t visited yet but where I’d like to go. At the moment, I really want to go to Croatia because I heard it’s like a combination of Italy and Greece.
Thank you to Vikram Seth for sharing his story for our July member spotlight. The Entrepreneurs’ Organization is a global business network of more than 14,000 entrepreneurs in 198 chapters and 61 countries. EO is the catalyst that enables entrepreneurs to learn and grow from each other, leading to greater business success and an enriched personal life.
If you’re interested in becoming an EO Chicago member, check our membership requirements and submit an application to join today.