How We Built An AI-Powered $22M/Year Job Search Engine Platform

Published: May 9th, 2023
Gergo Vari
Founder, Lensa
from Philadelphia, PA, USA
started August 2015
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Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?

Hi! I’m Gergo, a founder by nature. I first tasted entrepreneurship as a child selling fruit from my grandfather’s orchard.

My journey through founding, funding, and exiting successful startups has taught me a valuable lesson: the hiring process is broken. And so is the way we look for jobs and develop our careers. That’s why I created Lensa, a start-up that offers a technological solution to the crisis of the career marketplace.

In 2001, I founded and launched the, Hungary’s leading recruitment platform. In just 4 years, we reached an extraordinary market share of 75%. When SanomaMedia purchased the company in 2005, the transaction was the largest of its kind in Hungary up to that time.

My passion for startups led me on to found and head e-Ventures, and later, in 2008, to the launch and sale of AffilateMedia,, and Replise.These ventures opened my eyes to the need for recruiting and human resources technology that puts people first.

At Lensa, our mission is to help job seekers find their perfect career match using our advanced AI technology. By using a combination of skills and work environment preferences, we can match individuals with jobs that fit their unique needs. This not only saves job seekers time and energy in their search, but it also helps recruiters by providing a pool of qualified candidates who are better suited for the position.

We're proud to say that in 2022, our efforts paid off as we saw a 12% increase in revenue from the previous year, reaching a total of 22 million in revenue and 6 million new subscribers.

This success shows the effectiveness of our approach and the growing demand for more personalized and efficient job-searching tools. We are committed to continuing to innovate and provide solutions that benefit both job seekers and recruiters.


What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?

In 2000, I graduated from finance at McGill University in Canada and returned to my homeland of Budapest, Hungary, ready to kick-start my career. But upon searching for a job, I quickly realized that there was a major problem with the job search industry in Hungary - there weren't any established platforms for posting jobs. This made it incredibly challenging for a recent finance graduate with almost no experience to land a job.

This realization ignited my entrepreneurial spirit, and I came up with the idea for my, Hungary's first-ever job search platform. With three friends who had minimal coding experience and no funds, we began our journey to bring our vision to life. We only had 2 computers and we had to take turns coding, it took us almost 4 months and all of our minimal budget.

The only way to achieve your goals is through rewriting ambition. For me, ambition is a thoughtful, step-by-step process.

It wasn't an easy journey - there were countless trials and errors along the way. But after a lot of hard work, relationship-building, and networking, grew to become Hungary's biggest job search platform. Eventually, I sold my share in the company, which became the biggest tech transaction in Hungary and even earned me a feature in Forbes.

After a few years of thinking about what my next step will be, I traveled to San Francisco to visit my friend Joey Stubbs, who worked at the time as a VP for Recruitment advertising at Nexxt. Together, we realized that the job search industry in the US was broken - job search platforms were paid by click, leading to duplicate positions and positions that serve as fake advertisements.

We decided to create an AI-powered job search platform that would change the game entirely. And thus, Lensa was born. The name "Lensa" represents the lens through which job seekers can view their careers in a new light, with a realistic picture of employer-employee fit thanks to rich data sets on the US job market and job seeker trends.


With a powerful vision and the expertise to back it up, Lensa has become a game-changer in the job search industry. And it all started with my determination to make job searching easier for me.

Take us through the process of building the first version of your product.

Our team already had experience in creating a user interface for a job search platform, so we used similar principles for Lensa. However, we did not rely solely on our previous experience.

Upon the initial launch of Lensa, our modest team consisted of four developers, a Chief Financial Officer, a Head of User Relations and Sales, as well as myself in the role of CMO.

First founding team

Before launching our platform, we conducted a lot of focus groups to ensure that we were meeting the needs of our users. Focus groups are essentially small gatherings of potential customers that discuss your product. Just like A/B Tests, this method allows entrepreneurs to identify strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities for improvement in their offerings, ensuring it aligns with market expectations and has a competitive advantage.

It's essential to identify your target audience correctly and invite them to these focus groups. This can be done by reaching out to professional organizations, online forums, or social media groups within their industry. In our case, we hired a marketing organization who was specialized in creating focus groups. However, local networking events and co-working spaces may also provide connections to potential focus group participants.

Focus groups enabled us to create a product that not only met the needs of our users but also surpassed their expectations. By incorporating the feedback gathered from these sessions, we effectively validated our idea and fine-tuned our platform to ensure its success in the market.

Our design process started with initial prototyping, where we focused on creating a competitive advantage for our platform. We wanted to make sure that the job search process was streamlined and that users could easily find jobs that matched their skills and preferences.

Lensa's competitive advantage lies in its AI capabilities, which sets it apart from other market players. Through the insightful feedback garnered from our focus groups, we recognized the need to highlight these innovative AI features as our primary selling point.

By emphasizing Lensa's innovative technology, we effectively communicate the value proposition that our platform offers to users, making it an attractive choice for those who were time-sensitive when it comes to job seeking.

At Lensa, we meticulously crafted our UX design to ensure the user interface was intuitive, easy to navigate, and visually appealing. To achieve this, we employed a robust tech stack, which included popular and versatile technologies such as React for the front end, Node.js for the backend, and MongoDB for our database. This combination allowed us to create a scalable and efficient platform that caters to the needs of our users.

Our developers and UX designers collaborated closely to refine the platform's design and functionality, following best practices to optimize performance and user experience. The development process was carried out in phases, beginning with the ideation and planning stage, during which we outlined our platform's key features and functionalities. We then moved on to the actual development, leveraging agile methodologies to ensure timely delivery and continuous improvement.

The Minimum Viable Product (MVP) of Lensa included essential features such as an intelligent job search engine, personalized job recommendations based on user profiles, and a streamlined application process. The MVP aimed to address the most pressing needs of our target audience while providing a solid foundation for future enhancements. The development of the MVP took approximately four months, with iterative testing and feedback from potential users ensuring that we delivered a high-quality product.

By creating different focus groups before the official launch, we gathered valuable insights to refine the platform further and validate our product-market fit. This process allowed us to prioritize improvements and new features that catered to our users' needs and preferences, ultimately ensuring a successful market entry.

Describe the process of launching the business.

When starting a business, networking and making connections are crucial. That was certainly the case when my team and I launched Lensa. We attended every human resources and job search event we could find, building relationships and seeking out potential data sources.

It took tremendous hard work, strategic sales efforts, and a dedicated marketing approach to achieve break-even in just seven months. To spread the word about our platform, we enlisted the help of a marketing agency called Luck Boosters, led by Stefan Repin, who played a crucial role in building our marketing team from the ground up.

With the foundation of our marketing strategy in place, we launched a series of campaigns on Google and social media, which greatly contributed to our initial traction.

As our marketing efforts evolved, we decided to hire an in-house team to handle Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Pay-Per-Click (PPC) campaigns. Our current SEO team consists of seven employees, while our PPC team has three dedicated members. However, we also value the flexibility of working with freelancers, making our marketing team a hybrid setup that combines the best of both worlds.

We are determined to maintain control over our business and opted to bootstrap Lensa. By relying on our resources and expertise, we were able to steer Lensa's growth in the direction we envisioned, striking the perfect balance between external support and internal control.

Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?

Continued networking and investing in channels that bring higher ROI. It's important to understand your target audience. For us, we've found that TikTok has a huge growth potential, so we've put an extra focus on marketing efforts in that channel. We also have our internal PR department in charge of improving SEO, and organic traffic, and reaching out to industry professionals to participate in our blog.

Our team in a conference - all about networking!

In terms of increasing traffic and sales, we invest in Google Ads but prefer relationship-based link-building for SEO. This allows us to build stronger relationships with other websites and drive more organic traffic to our site.

At Lensa, we prioritize a multifaceted marketing approach. While we invest in Google Ads, we also emphasize relationship-based link-building for SEO, enabling us to foster a network of connections to leverage it to attract more organic traffic.

Our marketing strategy is divided into several channels: social media, public relations, email marketing, and networking. We believe in adopting a holistic marketing approach, which entails strategically and effectively leveraging all available channels.


To bring existing customers back, we prioritize a great user experience and personalized communication. We use data to understand our customers' preferences and behavior, and then tailor our communication to meet their needs. This includes personalized email campaigns and targeted social media ads. We put a special focus on sending target notifications regarding job alerts.

How are you doing today and what does the future look like?

I'm proud to say that we've had a very successful year in terms of revenue and user growth. Our focus on expanding our user experience and developing our AI for more accurate job recommendations has resulted in a profitable business with a bright future.

Our gross margins are strong, thanks to our efficient cost of goods and customer acquisition costs. Our return on ad spend and customer lifetime value are also very healthy, and our monthly traffic and average time on-site continue to increase, with currently more than 200k monthly visits. We have a large and growing base of email subscribers, and we send them job alerts.

Our operations are running thanks smoothly to a talented team committed to delivering the best possible user experience. Looking ahead, we're excited to expand our product features. In particular, we want to make our platform available in Spanish, as we see a huge opportunity to serve the Latinx community.


Our short-term goals include improving our AI and user experience while expanding our marketing efforts to increase awareness and drive even more traffic to our site. Our long-term goals include promoting the advantages of AI in decreasing recruitment biases and alleviating the US labor shortage.

Overall, I'm very optimistic about the future of Lensa. Our team is focused on delivering the best possible product and user experience while also expanding our reach and impact in job seeking.

Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

In my industry, we rely heavily on technology and when you are first starting with a limited budget there is a big importance in making strategic decisions. It can be tempting to jump on the latest trends or adopt the new shiny technology. However, it's crucial to take a step back and consider how these technologies align with our long-term mission and goals.

By making informed decisions that are consistent with our overall strategy, we can avoid wasting time and resources on technology that doesn't benefit our organization.

To make informed decisions, it's important to take a comprehensive view of the potential benefits and drawbacks of each technology option. This involves considering factors such as the financial cost, the resources required for implementation, and how the technology fits into our existing systems and processes. By weighing these factors against our long-term objectives, we can make informed decisions that are strategic and sustainable for our business.

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

Lensa is a web-based job search and career management platform that utilizes a variety of tools to help job seekers and employers connect. For seamless internal employee communication, we employ, Trello, and Slack as our primary collaboration platforms. The other tools we utilize are tailored to meet the unique needs of each department, as listed below:


  • Git for version control
  • GitHub as a code repository
  • Jira for project management and bug tracking
  • Docker for containerization
  • Jenkins for continuous integration and deployment


  • Adobe Creative Suite (Illustrator, Photoshop, and XD) for graphic design and prototyping
  • Sketch for UI/UX design
  • InVision for design collaboration and feedback


  • Google Analytics for website traffic analysis
  • Google Ads for PPC campaigns
  • Hootsuite for social media management
  • Mailchimp for email marketing
  • Ahrefs for SEO research and analysis


Customer Support:

  • Zendesk for customer support ticketing and management
  • Intercom for in-app messaging and customer engagement

These are just a few of the software we use as our team continuously evaluates and incorporates new tools to enhance efficiency and stay at the forefront of innovation.

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?

The book that inspired me the most is Shoe Dog - A Memoir by the Creator of Nike to be an incredibly inspiring story. The book tells the story of Phil Knight and his entrepreneurial journey. It highlights Knight's challenges and struggles as a startup founder and how he overcame them. It shows me that success always comes with failure, and it is how we approach them that we can learn.

Reading Shoe Dog has inspired me to approach my work at Lensa with a similar level of passion and determination. It reminds me that building a successful company is never easy, but your strength is in your mentality.

The story of Nike also teaches important lessons about the importance of innovation and adapting to change. In Lensa, we are constantly experimenting with new ideas and taking risks. As an AI-powered job search platform, we strive to stay ahead of the curve with our technology. We should always push the boundaries of what's possible and never stop striving.

Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?

My biggest entrepreneurial mistake was when I began my entrepreneurial journey, I was overly ambitious. My main focus was scaling up by investing in all areas of my business without conducting sufficient research. Since then, I have learned that the only way to achieve your goals is through rewriting ambition. For me, ambition is a thoughtful, step-by-step process.

In my experience as an entrepreneur, I've learned that asking stupid questions is crucial to success. It's common to have a great idea but feel hesitant to execute it because it's not our area of expertise. However, innovation and creativity thrive on asking questions that may seem "stupid" at first.

For instance, even though my background is in finance, I've been able to become a successful human resources and tech leader by constantly asking questions and seeking out new knowledge. I truly believe that asking questions is the key to unlocking your full potential as an entrepreneur.

Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?

At Lensa, we place a strong emphasis on attracting top talent who are aligned with our vision. If you're interested in learning more about our job openings, you can check them out on our careers page at We're always on the lookout for exceptional individuals to join our team.

Where can we go to learn more?

If you're looking to stay informed about the latest happenings in the US job search industry and gain valuable insights from an industry leader, then you can connect with me on LinkedIn. I share my opinions and industry news regularly, providing you with an insider's perspective that you won't find anywhere else.

Follow me on LinkedIn and let's stay connected!