Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
My name is Matt Reaney and I am the CEO of the global data science recruitment company Big Cloud. My team is based in the heart of Manchester’s Northern Quarter in the UK. A cultural hub of creativity and innovation for the last century, we are right at home here!
Big Cloud is changing the world we live in, and we strive to help companies grow their teams with the best technical talent in data science, machine learning, and AI markets.
Before I went solo, I had 10 years of experience as a Director for another recruitment agency. I grew their team from 10 to over 100 people, and then I decided it was time for a change of pace. I knew I wanted to work for myself in a global, tech-driven industry that interested me.
For the first 6 months, Big Cloud was up and running, we limited the business to the confines of the UK. We have since expanded globally, which opened up doors for us. We met more talent, as well as other startups and established companies looking to hire. Big Cloud’s primary markets are now the UK, Europe, the US, Canada, and APAC.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
I remember one of the first conversations I had when I officially decided I was going to be self-employed. I’d finished a long day at work and I was speaking to a colleague of mine in our office car park. I told him I wanted to do something different in recruitment, and I was going to start on my own. I asked him if he was interested in joining me, and he said yes.
So here I was one night, sitting around a dining room table with two colleagues, and we decided to embark on this venture together. Initially, we knew we wanted this company to be tech-driven and global, but we weren’t sure where to start. We enlisted the help of a close friend to get her opinion and advice on emerging trends in technology, and whether she thought we could apply them to recruitment. She got back to us with 5 areas for us to research and advised us to choose one of the following: Storage, Cybersecurity, Virtualisation, Big Data, or Cloud Computing. We started googling these areas, and within minutes of researching ‘Big Data’, we decided this was the market we wanted to work in.
At the time, businesses of all shapes and sizes started using this buzzword called ‘big data, which essentially means an incredibly large volume of unstructured or structured data that is difficult to process using traditional methods. You look at companies like Facebook that mine big data - people's demographics, social interactions, and media posts - and they use that data to market and retarget content to them.
Businesses were starting to capitalize on this idea that we actually all have so much data at our fingertips, so why aren’t we paying more attention to what this data can tell us about ourselves?
The demand for companies looking for Data Scientists and Engineers to handle big data was about to flourish. At the time, there were only one or two competitors in the UK who were recruiting in this area, and we saw that this was a niche in the market that hadn’t really been touched yet. It had everything we were looking for: A fast-paced environment, innovative technologies, and smart, high-achieving people. Inspired by the notion of Big Data and all it has to offer; we collectively came up with the name Big Cloud.
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
We knew we wanted Big Cloud as a service to provide contingent recruitment and retained search. This initially inspired the business name Big Cloud Search, but we decided Big Cloud was punchier. Our combined experience in previous recruitment roles meant we already had a leg up into knowing exactly what we wanted our service to provide. This wasn’t without some work though. Those days, most of our research was conducted over the phone.
It’s incredibly important to spend quality time with colleagues. This strengthened our relationships and opened us up to more opportunities.
We spoke to lots of existing candidates in the market to get an idea of what they wanted out of recruiters, and where they were based. We then discussed our work culture and the environment that Big Cloud would provide as a service. After deciding big data was the sector we wanted to recruit for, we developed our knowledge and understanding of the market so we could really hone our skills. We then started picking up clients, and the rest is history.
Before we launched, I moved from a flat I owned into a house. I was letting it out, but I decided to sell it to help fund the business. We raised £80,000 which lasted the first 6 months. I remember we were down to the last £600 before our first invoice came through. Everyone thought I was mad leaving my stable job, as my wife was pregnant at the time!
Describe the process of launching the business.
We launched Big Cloud in 2013, starting as a 4 man office in Manchester. We bought a domain name and I designed a simple landing page in HTML that said ‘COMING SOON’. For the first 6 months, we limited Big Cloud to the confines of London, UK. It was always in the back of my head that we would eventually expand, but it was a good way to test the waters. We used a credit card to help with finances here and there, but once that first invoice finally came through, more business followed, we were recruiting for Big Cloud, and we were able to move into a larger office in Manchester. Once our name was out there, we needed to redesign and develop the website. We outsourced, and over the years made tweaks.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
We firmly believe in using social media and marketing strategies to attract and retain customers. Our marketing team has spent a lot of time ensuring our voice is known and heard in the market, providing added value as best as we can. Each year, we conduct regional Salary Surveys for APAC, Europe, and the UK. The survey data is collated and fleshed out into reports that provide unique insight into the latest salary and workplace trends in data science, machine learning, and artificial intelligence.
Our CRM system allows us to keep track of candidates and clients, seeing where they are up to in the recruitment process, and whether they are ready to be contacted again. This, combined with sending out post-placement surveys and feedback forms, allows us to give our candidates and clients the floor to speak about their experiences with us and if any improvements can be made. This helps us build an honest platform, where we can maintain long-standing relationships.
Our biggest social following is on LinkedIn, standing at over 100,000+ followers. Our social platforms provide spaces for like-minded professionals to engage together with the content Big Cloud produces, all whilst learning about our brand values. Most of our content is organic. For candidates, weekly job advertisements are to hand. We produce insightful infographics, video content, and blog posts relevant to the industry. We are also on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.
Beyond social, our website is home to more resources and information. We are always optimizing our site through SEO practices to increase traffic. We use Google Analytics to monitor key conversions and drop-offs on our site. In short, forever improving!
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
Like many, 2020 hit us hard with the pandemic. We were focused on surviving whilst working from home as efficiently as possible. Over the next 3-5 years we will be rebuilding and recovering from the impact COVID-19 had.
Right now, our core focus is being the best at what we do. We have no plans to expand, but we are continuing to operate in Europe, the UK, the US, and APAC. We will always be keeping a close eye on potential machine learning and AI hotspots, but it’s important to us that we nurture our existing relationships as well.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
The biggest lessons we learnt from this process were that it’s good to have time to reflect on yourself and your business. If we had never taken the leap and followed through in making Big Cloud a reality, we don’t know where we would be today! We asked for a lot of advice when we were starting out, and will continue to do so.
Seeking advice from others early on maximized our chances of success and decreased our bias. We also think it’s incredibly important to spend quality time with colleagues. This strengthened our relationships and opened us up to more opportunities.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
The most important tools we use for Big Cloud are:
- Bullhorn for CRM. This database is a must-have for tracking, maintaining, and hosting contacts through every step of the recruitment process.
- Social media and Google Analytics. Using social media is an integral part of Big Cloud’s communications practices, and the native analytics it provides is invaluable to business strategy.
- The people. Recruitment is a person-centric field; therefore, our own staff has to deliver on a few things. They are all in their own way, bubbly, outgoing, and bring something exclusive to the table. When you put a bunch of bright, intelligent minds in a room together, that’s where things really start to take off!
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
Principles by Ray Dalio. Everyone has something to gain from this entrepreneur. The book is all about the unconventional principles he follows to create great results in both life and business. We all have aspirations and this book will help you achieve them.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
We don’t believe in playing things safe. Taking educated risks and having strength in your conviction is going to set you above your peers. We could have simply chosen to work for someone else and not start this business. It would have been the easy option, but where’s the fun in that?!
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
As a recruitment company, Big Cloud is always hiring! Whether you’re looking for a job in machine learning, data science, or AI, Big Cloud has got you covered.
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