'I believe that people can create happiness and coincidences themselves. We facilitate that with our app,' says Schelte Meinsma, co-founder of Karreer. He and his two associates Randolph Mackay and Bjørn Berg-Andersen's ambition is to return control of happiness at work to professionals. And in doing so, bring about a major disruption in the recruitment market. 'We are the Airbnb in recruitment and selection.'
Conceived ten years ago
'Really good recruiters will always be needed, but the current market is really in need of change,' Meinsma believes. He came up with the idea for Karreer ten years ago after an unpleasant experience with a recruiter: 'He would get a 50 thousand euro bonus if I took a certain job, but I didn't want that job at all. He was clearly irritated, while I thought, huh, I'm the asset, why are you earning that? With the rollout of this online platform, professionals now earn money themselves, instead of a middleman. Specially developed for ambitious and talented professionals who dare to look beyond their current job, but in their own way and at their own pace.
Automatically match professionals with job openings
Professionals are presented with a series of questions in Karreer in which they answer by swiping. Based on this swiping behavior, the system gets to know the professional and then links characteristics to the profile. 'Answering the questions should be quick and easy, but above all fun to do, which is why there are occasionally funny or surprising questions among them,' Berg-Andersen explains. The simplicity at the front does not reflect the sophisticated system at the back. 'Through artificial intelligence and big data, the system can make predictions and is getting smarter. For example, we can accurately match professionals' profiles with company searches.'
Money for professionals
Because that is ultimately the goal: to surprise professionals with interesting vacancies and to surprise companies with candidates who really fit their needs. Berg-Andersen: 'Professionals are rewarded if they complete their profiles, in money. Those profiles ensure that the system can make good longlists. Those longlists are presented anonymously, companies only see to what extent there is a match and then make a shortlist. The professional is then notified and can choose to make themselves known, again for a reward. And even at the final step, a job interview, the candidate is rewarded. So the preliminary work in the search process is done by the system. The recruiter is completely out of the picture and the costs for the company are much lower.'
Disruptive marketing for generations Y and Z
Karreer is ready for use after an intensive development period; already 4,000 professionals have signed up. Meinsma: 'Now an exciting period is beginning: we are focusing entirely on attracting users on both sides.' To gain momentum in this phase, they are currently putting most of their efforts into marketing. 'We are really taking a disruptive approach. That suits us and our place in the market, but also our main target group: generations Y and Z. It is precisely they who attach less importance to permanence and are more likely to opt for flexibility and freedom. That's where we come in. The campaigns are innovative and a bit cheeky," says Berg-Andersen.
On to San Francisco and Eastern Europe
Moreover, the Netherlands is not an end station for Karreer, Meinsma points out: "The Netherlands is a good place to launch and learn. As soon as we get traction here, we will cross over to San Francisco. Our concept fits well there, because people there switch jobs much faster. So we see a lot of international potential.' Moreover, the shortages in the IT sector mean that Karreer sees many opportunities for matching with developers.
'We really see huge shortages in the Netherlands, while there are developers in Eastern Europe who are eager to work. With Karreer we can match them quickly and relatively cheaply. Without a recruiter, the control really goes back to where it belongs: with the professionals themselves.'
Klaas Kooistra, Investment manager at NOM: "We provided a subordinated loan in what we felt was an early phase. The concept had been fully worked out, but the platform itself was not yet in place. Because we had a lot of faith in the entrepreneurs and the idea, we went along anyway. It is innovative, the concept is right, and by combining our networks, we can reach the right people well. That is the most important thing right now.'
WE ARE THE AIRBNB IN RECRUITMENT
Of course, it would be a shame for entrepreneurs to fall into the same traps that others before them have fallen into. What can be learned from Karreer's lessons?
1: DON'T MISTAKE THE TECHNOLOGY
'The development process always takes longer than you think. And that automatically means it costs more money than budgeted. That is really important to take into account, because even before we had a 1.0 version, we were already running late. So important lesson. Now with us it was also because we put in really complex techniques, but actually you hear every start-up say that programming takes more time than initially thought of. You are going to change the concept you start with at least three times. Budget accordingly.'
2: A SMALL CHANGE CAN HAVE A BIG IMPACT
If you are not a programmer, you sometimes misjudge the impact of changes in the software. Just changing a field in a contact form seems simple, but can have major consequences in the back-end. That's why testing as early as possible and especially thinking far ahead is very important.'
3: WORKING WITH TWO TEAMS IS CHALLENGING
'We very deliberately chose to work with a professional party right at the beginning in the development of our matching algorithm. We did the rest of the technology ourselves. We liked that choice very much in itself, but coordinating the work between each team took a lot of extra time. We could also have equipped our prototype with a homemade and simple algorithm. Then we could have tested our concept faster and cheaper. Switching to a professional party only later in the process can sometimes make sense, we found. So think carefully about smart development phases.'
4: A CHICKEN-AND-EGG CONCEPT IS TRICKY
'To make Karreer a success, we need both candidates and companies. Those companies are very eager to start, but we need enough interesting candidates. And those candidates only find Karreer really interesting when there are nice companies where they can get on their radar. You have to think this through well in advance to make sure you can break through.'
5: TRAINEES AND STARTUPS BRING ENERGY
'A big advantage of working with interns and startups is that they bring a lot of energy to the company. They have good ideas, important insights about generations Y and Z and work hard.'
6: KEEP FIXED COSTS AS LOW AS POSSIBLE
'The reason we are still here, even though the development process took longer than predicted, is that we have done everything we can to keep our fixed costs to an absolute minimum. Only spend money on what you really need, in our case the software and marketing.'