How I Went From Recruiter To Building My Own Recruiting Platform

Published: August 21st, 2019
Matthew Gibbs
Founder, Recruiterly
from San Francisco, California, USA
started November 2017
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Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?

I’m Matt Gibbs, the co-founder of Recruiterly. Recruiterly is a lead-generation platform and marketplace for recruitment professionals and businesses. We help increase the discoverability of top recruiting professionals which in turn improves the lives of job seekers and employers as they now have a way to find and connect with the recruiting partner for their specific needs.

Our current flagship product is our innovative recruiter and recruitment professional directory and platform with comprehensive recruiter profiles, recruitment business pages, private communities, reviews, and marketing tools.

Our customers are the recruitment professionals and recruitment businesses that want to increase their online discoverability, get more leads and grow their businesses.

We have just emerged from a 9 month period of extensive testing and only launched a couple of weeks ago, so we are below $1,000 MRR currently. We are in the process of starting to scale the platform.


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

I have been in recruitment for over 8 years now, roughly. I had my first job with an agency in the UK when I was around 21 and then got back into recruitment about 7 years ago. I’ve since managed teams, whole branches, launched new offices in new countries and even started and ran my own agency successfully.

One of the biggest frustrations that I would always face - and this is often one of the core reasons truly great recruiters leave the industry - is constantly facing the negative stigma the industry has.

Don’t let perfection get in the way of progress.

While in Hong Kong (I was asked to relocate by my employer at that time from Australia to open up and run the Asia office for them) I was introduced by a colleague from the Brisbane office to my now co-founder Jamie. We had dinner and a couple of beers and that was that.

Growing frustrated working for someone (no fault of theirs, just my nature) I reached back out to Jamie for a coffee this time. A few more serious chats later and we decided to leave employment, and founded a recruitment agency of our own, with the sole purpose of generating sufficient revenue to jump into whatever the solution is to the current recruitment industry's problems. That solution ended up being Recruiterly.

We started off brainstorming the challenges and frustrations, built some prototypes and tested this in person with recruiters and agency owners in Hong Kong. As we developed this concept, we started running at about a 75% approval rate of the concept so decided to develop further.

We partnered initially with a couple of dev-houses to get the MVP up and running, launched and started our 9-12 month period of user testing and research.

The feedback, market demand and the current trend in the industry continued to compound our confidence in the need. Now we had to figure out, two experienced recruitment leaders how to become technology entrepreneurs.

We took the business to a sufficient level of confidence, and the platform to a very early v0.0000001 and relocated our entire lives to San Francisco.

We re-launched nearly 2 weeks ago, now it’s time for scale.

Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.

For the very first version of Recruiterly, we took the lead from Google Ventures and locked ourselves in a large meeting room in a WeWork office for 5 days to go through the Google Design Sprint process.

We then at various points took this in the road and interviewed recruiters and agency owners during and after they had a play around with the prototype we created on InVision.

After hitting around a 75+% acceptance rate from these interviews, we decided to move things further forward with a session with a local development house, to better understand the design process and discuss technology recommendations.

For our interviews, we reached out to anyone we could in our network, we even scoured the building directory we had our office in to try and find some recruitment companies - and we did some LinkedIn and email out-reach. We then went and met in person with each interviewee, let them play with the Invision prototype then asked some questions on the experience they had. These questions centered mostly around the value proposition, the understanding of what we were trying to achieve and how this would fit into their day-to-day and how it could make their lives easier.

It didn’t work out with these guys, as the work even for novices like us, was clearly not up to scratch - so we went about seeking an alternative.

What we ended up with was a very established dev-house, who took us through a very detailed documentation process which set us up well for development.

We ended up going with a more ‘scrappy’ dev-house that we felt were more aligned with the stage of business we were at - we signed the paperwork, and the build started. The first MVP took around 6 months, with a couple of months of refinements. We built the entire platform from scratch.

We learned a lot in this phase, it’s really important to be in your sides PM of a project, even if the dev-house has their own PM. In my experience, and I certainly don’t advise against using a Dev-House. Many do, with great success - you often both have conflicting goals so this has to be managed carefully.

We ran a small pre-launch campaign, then launched MVP for the sole purpose of a period of deep user testing. We captured hundreds of users and some really positive feedback but we knew the product needed to be better - so took the feedback, the additional learning, additional research, and redesigned Recruiterly V0.2.

Describe the process of launching the business.

When we launched the MVP (and the pre-launch campaign), we actually engaged the help of a growth agency. We did this for a couple of reasons; 1, faster to market, 2, to help us learn how the experts do it.

Think about revenue from the beginning. I don’t mean you should start a company just to make money. I mean think how you can get to revenue quickest, and focus your product around that and reducing churn. Cash-flow is oxygen to your company.

We learned a lot from this and have taken our learnings forward in all additional marketing tests, tactics and for our current re-launch.

The pre-launch took the form of a viral pre-launch campaign, lead by a heap of direct outreach as well as some PPC tests across LinkedIn and Facebook. The viral campaign was fairly standard, refer colleagues and you’ll rise up the leaderboard and get a reward from the platform.

This worked really well considering we started from 0, however, in the future - we know that a campaign like this would work a heap better with a lot more planning and preparation and pre-pre-launch list building.

The biggest lesson I think we have learned from v0.1 - was not paying enough attention to the journey we take the user on, from the very first time they hear about us all the way through to their activation & ‘first-to-value’ experience after signing up. Taking a user-first approach would have resulted in a very different user experience design, and likely a slightly different platform design. If you build it they will come, in today's world is in nearly every scenario not true.

If we had a do-over, I’d have spent months on the user-experience and user-interface and how this aligns with the goal of the user before and after they join the platform. I would not have touched a line of code until we had that down.

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

Our most productive channels are fairly obvious considering our customer base, however for transparency:

  • Direct outreach
  • LinkedIn
  • Retargeting

LinkedIn is an interesting channel for us. The paid marketing options are very expensive when compared to other channels, but they offer unparalleled targeting for B2B, so that’s how they justify it. You have to really nail your ROAS to make LinkedIn Advertising work, but the value from simply connecting, communicating and posting on LinkedIn within and around your target audience is very powerful.

What is now starting to perform really well is SEO. We have focused and focused on this, and since the re-launch have literally doubled our inbound traffic and continue to grow our traffic and impressions and so on.

My advice for SEO, not every business is created equal - we have the benefit of our custom-built directory - but from a general content perspective - if you won’t do it to a gold-standard level, don’t do it at all. Our low-value high quantity produced pieces perform very poorly when compared to the high-value, low quantity pieces.

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

How are we doing today?

In short, great. Excited but also daunted by the sheer prospect of what we are creating.

Why are we excited?

  • We know, 100% that the market needs and wants the product.
  • We have spent 9+ months testing, talking, analyzing. We know our initial target market to go after - the market that gives us the best return on marketing activities.
  • We know which channels to double down on.
  • The product has never been better suited to the objective of our users.

We have not started scaling outreach or marketing yet, that starts to ramp in the next couple of weeks, but we have already seen a major improvement in traffic volumes and traffic > lead conversion on Recruiter profiles.

Short term goal is to scale to around 5,000 users, medium-term saturation of the US market and then expand into the UK, Asia, and Australia.

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

  1. As mentioned a few times, we dived in too early to development in my opinion. Once you start writing code, it’s very difficult to stop. Without question, we now spend a heap more time on the user experience, then the user interface and ensure that whatever we are going to build aligns with the goals of the user we have in mind, test that, and ensure that the user is a better person or their lives are easier because of the tools we are building.
  2. Dev-houses, again I don’t want to advocate against the use of dev-houses. They have an important role to play, I would just advise caution if you are a startup without serious funding. Find a lead-dev, build a relationship that’s more than client <> freelancer and then ask them to bring on board a team they have worked with before. This is a really powerful way to build a team in the early days.
  3. There is so much software out there to make a startup more successful or a founders job easier - I recommend exploring these, they can achieve the above - but always look at alternatives and think through do you need all these bells and whistles, can you do this, albeit a little harder, with a cheap or free tool. Keep those startup costs low until you hit meaningful revenue.

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

The most important software we use includes Segment - as this helps us integrate software rapidly without the need of dev support, HubSpot for our inbound marketing, lead capture and basic analytics, Pendo for our user experience and various other smaller tools such as HotJar for heat mapping etc.

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

Abundance - just incredibly inspiring. It’s hard to read through it as it really opens your mind to the endless opportunities in the world.

Good to Great - wonderful book about building exceptional organizations.

Walter Isaacson - Ben Franklin andSteve Jobs books.

The Intelligent Investor by Ben Graham - while I read this for my personal interest in stocks, it is an excellent book about pragmatism, and not allowing external forces or hype to impact long-term decision making or action.

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

  1. Don’t let perfection get in the way of progress.
  2. LISTEN to what those in San Francisco, Silicon Valley say - it’s not hype, the lesson’s these serial entrepreneurs have gone through are valid and can help you avoid some key early, costly mistakes.
  3. I would spend more time and money on the user experience and user interface of a product before going anywhere near a dev.
  4. For some, a dev-shop is the best option - I, however, recommend trying to find a great (even if expensive) lead developer, build a relationship with him/her and then ask them to bring on board some other devs they have worked with to form a team that way. Dev shops have often, conflicting goals to your startup.
  5. Think about revenue from the beginning. I don’t mean you should start a company just to make money. I mean think how you can get to revenue quickest, and focus your product around that and reducing churn. Cash-flow is oxygen to your company.

Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?

If anyone believes in our journey, and the opportunity in front of us - we’d love to hear from them. Depending on the stage you reach out, we might be able to facilitate paid, or unpaid work. The areas we would love support would be in product, dev, design, and marketing.

Where can we go to learn more?

If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!