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Seeking out the Best Candidates with BrainCeek

BrainCeek creates work simulations that allow corporations to tackle talent shortages by helping prospective job candidates gain a better understanding of roles in as little as 30 minutes. Its simulations, aimed primarily at students, allow users to experience “a day in the life” of their desired role, increasing their understanding of what they might actually do if they’re successful during recruitment processes.

Graduate Recruitment

“What do you think you’ll be doing in XXX role?” Hearing this question in an interview, you quickly become filled with self-doubt. You’ve probably rehearsed the answer to it for hours. You’ve gone through it hundreds of times with friends, family, people within the industry, anyone who’s willing to listen to you. But do you really know what it’s like to do the job? No, of course not. You’re a college student looking for that elusive first internship, or you’re about to graduate and even with internships under your belt, you might be looking at a role that you haven’t had experience in. In an age where any and all information can be found online, you’ve probably looked on Glassdoor for reviews of companies and jobs, and you might have managed to speak to people who’ve actually had experience in the role that you’re after, but there’s no substitute for actually doing the job. That’s where BrainCeek comes in.

Recruitment in the Digital Age

Founded in 2017, BrainCeek is spearheaded by Columbia Business School alumni, Jason Fan, who previously worked at Jefferies, an investment bank, and Thomas Liu, who previously worked at S&P as a technology analyst for enterprise solutions. They create work simulations that allow people to gain insights into the jobs they might apply for. Originally the idea started off as a way to help their classmates understand what it was like to be an investment banker. Having come from an investment banking career, Jason wanted to share his experiences with his classmates, showing them the average day of a banker, complete with modeling tasks in Excel and PowerPoint presentations. Over the past three years, this simulation has progressed from an instructor-led one that needed to be taken in a classroom, to an online portal where users can access a virtual machine remotely, to complete tasks laid out by BrainCeek.

BrainCeek co-founders Jason Fan (left) and Thomas Liu (right)

The Simulation

BrainCeek’s portfolio of simulations includes products for investment banking, credit risk, cybersecurity and data science. Their investment banking simulation incorporates key tasks that bankers have to perform when on deals, such as valuation modeling in Excel, researching companies and creating pitchbooks in PowerPoint, all while being interrupted by emails from their team. A sidebar with instructions walks the user through how to perform each task, so no prior knowledge of the industry is required at all. It allows the user to gain a flavor of the job.

Originally designed as a product that could be sold into universities and students as an educational tool, the team at BrainCeek has pivoted to focusing more on building relationships with corporates and their HR functions for graduate recruitment. With graduate recruitment being incredibly human capital intensive, requiring trips to campuses across the country, BrainCeek is hoping recruitment teams can use their simulations as a scalable solution to introduce their companies to a broader group of candidates, especially those from non-target schools. They’re looking to tap into a portion of the $158B spent on staffing and recruitment in the US annually. Working alongside their current customers, they have helped them to increase overall application numbers for internships and graduate programs, as well as increasing the proportion of diverse candidates in the applicant pools.

What the Future Holds

Within the first year of the pilot, BrainCeek had signed up two corporations and three universities to their simulation. Three years since inception, it has accumulated 14 B2B clients, that span corporations, non-profits and universities, all while running a lean operation with a team of four. They’ve received funding from Columbia University and the Dorm Room Fund, a student-run pre-seed fund that invests in the most promising student-founded startups, and more recently received capital from CyberNYC. They have big ambitions – from a corporate perspective, they want to help increase the visibility of less popular professions. For example, Jason notes that cybersecurity was never an area of focus for fellow students at Columbia, even though he thinks that there are many good roles out there in the industry for MBA graduates. He’s hoping that BrainCeek’s simulations can help cybersecurity companies get in front of students. And they don’t plan to stop there. By customizing simulations to specific companies, they’ll be able to allow companies to let users sample their unique cultures as well. They hope to be able to help companies with talent shortages, connecting them with qualified students.

BrainCeek is currently fundraising and any interested investors should reach out to

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