It’s no secret that some of the most defining technological innovations were born when someone was looking for a solution, but couldn’t find one. In the venture world, it’s called “scratching your own itch”, and as the possibilities of digital and online technology went mainstream, it’s become harder to spot new companies that were born purely out of the idealism of personal necessity. I mean, is there really anything out there left that hasn’t been innovated yet through an app?
It turns out, there is. That was what third-year business students at Bulgaria’s University of National and World Economy (UNWE), Yonko and Tsvetelin found out in 2019, when they were looking for corporate entry-level jobs to work part-time next to their studies. When both started applying to companies that had dozens of open positions, receiving rejection after rejection, they realized: there’s something wrong here.
While pitching the problem at a student startup competition, they realized that the deeper issue is the lack of ability with companies to properly assess the work qualities of junior, GenZ labor market entrants, all the while the young professionals themselves fail to comprehend the communication and selection style of corporations. “Companies hire for junior roles in a copy-paste way they hire for the C suite”, says Tsvetelin. “A young candidate, like the one I was myself a few years ago, may have the best grades, and the best-written motivation letter, and will still never get through the initial review most of the time”.
After first enlisting the help of their professors, through their university network they became acquainted with the leading Bulgarian experts in neuroscience and psychometric psychology. Deciding to major in human resource management, Yonko and Tsvetelin then realized that the frameworks to match job applicants to positions and employers exist within the neuroscience fields, but they are implemented based on guidelines from the 1980s, developed for police and military use. “We figured out that the psychometric psychology principles used for assessing applicant personalities for high-risk jobs, which is always done manually by especially trained psychologists, could be put in digital form and scaled for effortless use by anyone hiring anyone for any job anywhere”, Yonko and Tsvetelin conclude.
In 2019, the founders committed to turning the idea into a business, complemented the team with two technical co-founders, Stefan and Hristo, and started developing candidate assessment models for employers, using first their own university, and then five more leading universities in Bulgaria, as sources of talent candidates. Finally, in 2022, Pleggi launched its MVP: a game-based tool that allows employers to create detailed psychological portraits of their ideal candidates, while the candidates pass the test through a series of interactive games.
Today, Pleggi is a team of nine, with thousands of processed candidates, and close to 30 corporate clients who match the candidates to hundreds of concurrently open positions. With Vitosha, we were part of the company’s seed round in 2023, where we were joined by partner funds Innovation Capital and New Vision 3, as well as several prominent angel investors in our community, in supporting the initial launch and market validation of the company and its solution.
For what the future holds, Yonko and Tsvetelin are excited and hopeful. “One of the main opportunities we see today is all the various things we can do with the data we collect”, says Yonko. Also, adds Tsvetelin, “there are big opportunities with recruitment agencies”. Unlike corporate recruitment and HR departments, they rarely use applicant tracking systems, also known as ATS in the industry, and our solution can be a supercharged ATS for these players, which will allow us to serve the industry beyond just working with specific employers. We see a trend in developed European markets where psychological assessments are being productized, and there are already a number of startups chasing the same opportunity as us. We believe our track record and progress so far places us in a great place to compete for a leading position in the global HR tech field”.