Jonathan Siddharth and Vijay Krishnan, the founders of Turing, started the platform aiming to help startups hire pre-vetted, high-quality engineers sourced from the global talent pool. In this interview for MarkUpgrade, Jonathan discusses what he has learned from his entrepreneurial journey, why he decided to brand the company under the name “Turing,” and why TuringAI.net wasn’t the best choice of a domain name.
Jonathan, you started Turing one year ago, can you tell us how the idea for your startup began?
The moment of inception for Turing was in 2014 when my co-founder Vijay and I were running our last AI company, Rover. There was a moment when Rover was growing very rapidly on the web; we were at a crucial inflection point for the company. We went into fundraising for our Series A round thinking we’d be successful, but the VCs all turned us down one by one because we had no mobile app.
Our failure led us into a mad scramble to hire mobile talent, to find people who could build our mobile app for us. We had lots of talks w/ engineers to join Rover, but this was difficult because they were at Facebook, Google, etc.; it’s tough — and costly — to try to compete with such companies. We ran into the local talent shortage first hand. Attempting to hire out of Silicon Valley proved to be costly, slow, and not scalable. We had to do something different, or our company was going to fail.
What we decided to do was to search in labor arbitrage geographic areas. The result was that we found some remarkable remote talent. Soon were able to put together the app, managed to get the app featured in the App Store, and we ended up successfully raising our Series A.
The experience taught us one thing: the way to hire world-class talent is to be able to source it from around the entire world.
Why did you initially decide to brand your company under the name “Turing,” what is the backstory?
We wanted a brand that is synonymous with excellence in engineering. Turing’s name works on several levels. First, the Turing Award is the Nobel Prize for computer engineers. Since one of our goals is to create opportunities for highly-skilled engineers so they can change the world, the name is a perfect fit.
Second, the “Turing Test” is the name of a test for artificial intelligence such that if the AI is sufficiently advanced, that means we cannot tell the difference between that AI and a human. Classical outsourcing companies throw people at this problem. But Turing uses the process and AI.
Third, Alan Turing, the father of computer science and AI, has a quote: “Sometimes it is the people no one can imagine anything of, that can do the things no one can imagine.” Turing is a foundational layer to the entire tech industry, so we felt it was a good brand. The name is also a nod to excellence in engineering that everyone that knows tech recognizes.
We also want to be sure that people understand that at Turing, AI doesn’t destroy jobs; it’s a means to help people find them.
Startups often compromise on their company domain name, you clearly didn’t. Did you know the value or importance of owning an exact brand match domain and what impact it could have on your business?
Absolutely, yes. A company’s domain and brand is usually the first touchpoint with a customer. It’s essential to have a brand that evokes the kind of emotion and association that you want your customer to have. For Turing, it was excellence in engineering and a name that is foundational to the software.
Did you start with the Turing.com domain, or was it an upgrade from a previous name/domain extension?
We started with TuringAI.net; although that’s a decent domain name, it has the risk of customers potentially associating Turing with only AI talent, which is why Turing.com is a better alternative.
Does the short, generic, premium domain name eliminate the need for online marketing or advertising, or do you still invest in promoting the site in search engines and social media platforms?
There are two separate factors to consider. First, you have to get discovered; to do that, you have to invest in organic and paid marketing for people to know that your company exists. Second, once someone lands on your website, how can you ensure that you communicate the right values?
We believe it is still important to invest in online marketing to ensure that the right kind of people discovering the Turing brand.
What was the best and worst part about the process of acquiring the domain Turing.com?
For many startups, the challenge is biting the bullet to spend what might be a significant amount of money on the right domain, especially if you have investors. That said, for us, it wasn’t tough to convince investors to support our decision to spend the kind of money we did getting the domain name; they saw the value of having a powerful and compelling brand name.
If you could give one piece of advice to someone considering acquiring a premium domain name, what would it be?
Take the time to research what values you’d like to have associated with your brand to come up with the right domain name to go after. Don’t be afraid to spend 2–3X what you originally planned if it’s the right name for your company. Think of your domain purchase, not as a one-time transaction, but as an investment you’ll be able to amortize over the lifetime of the company.
If your brand was a person, how would you describe its personality?
The following words are ones we’d use: trustworthy, authoritative, and fun.
What would you say is the most important thing for your brand right now?
Turing’s mission is to become synonymous with the future of work by powering excellence in engineering via distributed teams. Turing is creating a new category of work to adapt to the radical shift in how tech companies get built.
Which is more rewarding: making a startup a success, or being able to continue keeping it successful?
What’s rewarding is having an opportunity to grow the entire tech industry by connecting talented individuals with incredible opportunities and shaping the future of work.
What is next for Turing, where do you see the company in 5 years from now?
Turing will become the foundational layer for the tech industry on top of which future unicorns will spring. AWS and cloud computing played a considerable role in bringing us several successful billion-dollar companies by removing the scaling constraints for a startup; they did that by democratizing access to computing. Turing will do the same by democratizing access to talent. We see an opportunity to build an Amazon-scale business by shaping the future of work.
We hope this will be of use to you in the process of getting your perfect domain name. If you have any questions, need any help, or just want to chat with someone about the process, book a free consultation at MarkUpgrade.We are always happy to hear from you.