Reimagining Recruitment with Startup Legends: OfferZen

Valoro OfferZen Interview

If you’ve ever been to their offices, read one of their social media posts, or met one of their scarily loyal fans, you’ll know that OfferZen brings an unfamiliar element of ‘funness’ to the world of recruitment. Of course, if you are one of those fans, you’re probably wearing one of their badass unicorn tees as you read this.

OfferZen Interview

But this story gets a lot more interesting than wizard pandas and rainbow-farting sheep. Because OfferZen was founded by two of the sharpest kids on the startup block: The Brothers Joubert!  

No. We’re obviously not talking about “those two guys who wrote fairy tales about exciting and unimaginable things”! But we are talking about the guys who actually made (and continue to make) unimaginably cool things happen.

Philip and Malan Joubert have a track record of startup brilliancy, with MixIt, SnapScan, Pondering Panda, BitX (the old Luno), and Journey Apps, to name but a few. Sure, they had to move back in with their parents once or twice, and might have spent the first two years of varsity surfing… but so do most geniuses, right? We’re not shocked. We’ve seen that movie before. So here’s one you haven’t seen…

Sit back, crack open a Cola, and find out how the culmination of their past experiences led these brothers to what is known and loved today, as OfferZen.

Changing Lives within 30 Days

Philip Joubert will be the first to tell you that recruitment is not a sexy industry. And while there are a few strong recruiters out there, it’s hard to deny that the industry is saturated with anybody’s and nobody’s trying to make a quick comm. This is bad for the hiring company, bad for the new employee, and a reputational hazard for recruiters with more meaningful motivations.

So how is OfferZen bringing sexy back? Simple. Their intention is to change people’s lives. And to do this, they’ve reimagined recruitment.

“OfferZen is based on the idea that traditional market dynamics don’t work for the recruitment of IT skills.”

It’s Eco’s 101, you see. There’s a greater need for the skills of developers and software engineers, than the number of developers and software engineers actually available in the market. Demand exceeds supply. This gives the developers, well, options.

So, instead of applying to jobs, OfferZen has flipped the scale and created a marketplace where (the best) companies can apply to developers. They’ve curated a tech-skilled marketplace filled with only the top companies and developers by setting a quality bar. Meeting the standards means making it into the club, and becoming part of something awesome!

But, curating their own marketplace isn’t all that makes OfferZen different. They provide upfront salaries on every job (Shut the front door, right?!), so that developers can avoid wasted time on interviews with companies who can’t meet their financial expectations… not to mention those awkward “I need more money than that to leave my couch” negotiations we all hate.  

Learning from Mistakes Doing It Right

Philip has more startup experience than most can conceive of, and with that, has probably encountered more mistakes than all my years of teenage frivolity combined. And yet, he took me by surprise when he disagreed with my generic statement that “we learn most from our mistakes”.

So far, OfferZen has expanded their team to such an extent that they’ve had to move offices – four times! Their online marketplace has welcomed over 650 quality companies, and they’re helping more than 2 developers a day to level-up with new job opportunities.

These are small numbers in terms of where we want to be.

Philip feels that he’s learnt more from each of these wins than from most of the mistakes he’s made before. His first lesson? The importance of remaining focused.

“Broadening your service, product or target market slows you down. That’s why we focused on one city, only startups, and only full-time software developers.”

This focus has allowed Offerzen to grow strong, before it grows big, and has allowed the team time and mental energy to deal with problems properly when they arise.

Philip also has an obvious passion for everything that OfferZen does, and can still do. A passion driven by the impact they can make on people and the world, rather than fame and fortune.

That’s why he says things like this, “Your job determines  a significant amount of your happiness” and this “People achieve 10% of what they’re capable of in their lives”.

So, OfferZen is constantly chasing bigger dreams, and the opportunity to make a greater impact. And with this comes a growing team of inspired, driven, Mensa-level people (trust me, I’ve met them) who want to make that same impact.

How OfferZen Plays Their Own Game

Still, OfferZen is a startup. A startup characterised by hard work, ambitious goals and innovative thinking. This team seems to do the impossible with grace and ease, because the excitement of proving the world wrong is just too hard to say no to.

But, this bunch of unicorn-loving, tech-savvy superheroes isn’t your average collection of people. They’re high on talent, big on brains, and glued together by a culture akin to that of Silicon Valley.

“We’re trying to emulate a Silicon Valley startup, in South Africa. Our ambition level is to compete with Silicon Valley.”

So, how does OfferZen find the right people to join their journey, and harness a culture of continuous awesomeness? To start with (and this should come as no surprise), they’ve implemented a solid recruitment process for their internal team – and it’s made a big difference.

“It’s mostly about finding the right people – they are excited by incredibly challenging situations. Of course there is another side to that – the expectation on you as a leader is incredibly high as well.”

Drawing on wisdom from the book, Who: Solve Your #1 Problem, OfferZen continues to go to the ends of the earth to get the best people on board their high-paced ship. They wrote their hiring process as a blog post, which some people saw, and liked, and sent to their friends who also liked it. And so the applicant funnel grew.

But despite having no shortage of applicants, and despite the constant supply of fan love, OfferZen is steadfast in their transparent approach, and has never become arrogant about hiring for their own team.

A Winning Team

Now, having the right people, and keeping them all aligned and motivated, are two separate (but connected) things. Especially in a continuously evolving startup environment.

“Working in a startup means that you’re often expecting a lot from people. We know that everything is going to change.”

Much like NetFlix, OfferZen is built on a culture of a professional sports team, rather than a family. This means that they’re metrics-driven, goal-driven, data-driven, and super high on self-improvement… all necessary ingredients for coping with change.

“We go far beyond what’s reasonable to achieve our goals. With startups I’ve found that there is often a threshold effect and you need to give unreasonable amounts of effort before you start seeing any results. We wanted to bake that attitude into our culture.”

But the core team isn’t the only team, because OfferZen recognises that advice is accessible – so they use it. As Philip says “People want to help”.

Having no prior experience in recruitment, the OfferZen team decided not to waste time, effort and resources on trying to figure it out themselves, which would have slowed them down. Instead, they found someone with a wealth of knowledge and experience in recruitment. And they continue to draw on the insight of advisers when they feel they need a little help.

Chasing Rainbows

Quick! Put on your shades, because the future’s looking bright for OfferZen. Instead of exerting effort on competing with mainstream recruiters, OfferZen is paving their own way, and focusing on creating high quality and happy experiences for their valued customers.

And just recently, they’ve been able to share this experience with even more customers by expanding their offering to other tech team roles, like UI and UX designers, QA testers, SCRUM masters, product owners and data scientists.

In Philip’s words, building a startup is “90% pain, 10% feeling on top of the world.” But that 10% makes it all so worthwhile!

Follow OfferZen on Facebook and Twitter, or check out their website for opportunities in the tech space.

Flickswitch: An IoT Business with Global Reach and Local Impact

startup interview

The chances are that you’ve heard of Flickswitch before. Because this SME is no stranger to the digital flashes of the online press. They’ve made appearances on Ventureburn, Silicon Cape, TechMoran, IT News Africa and BizTech Africa – to name but a few!

Why all the attention? Because they’re making waves in Africa and doing super cool things, like launching the first business SIM management service in Kenya.

Now, don’t feel bad if you’re scratching your head and asking yourself, “What the %#$! Is SIM management?”. We asked Kees Snijders, Managing Director at Flickswitch, to explain.

“We help companies by building easy local solutions on top of local telco infrastructure. Our clients are global, but the requirement we meet is for local connectivity.”

Flickswitch services a bunch of different SME’s who provide products requiring GSM connectivity. Their clients are usually engaged in some IoT (that’s, the Internet of Things) or M2M (that’s, machine to machine) vertical, like asset-tracking, metering, or some form of sensor-based monitoring. This can mean anything from 10 to a whopping 10,000 SIM cards!

Managing the Certainty of Uncertainty

Now, it’s obvious that Flickswitch has been around, made its mark, established its name in the tech industry. But this startup journey was intense, and the story is downright inspiring! Here’s why…

When asked to describe their greatest challenge as a startup, Kees spoke specifically about uncertainty.

“The most challenging aspect of building something from scratch is constantly dealing with a large degree of uncertainty. We’re ten years old now, it’s been a roller coaster ride with lots of ups and downs along the way, but there is a distinct before and after journey in every business.”

According to Kees, a business is viable once it’s achieved product-market fit, and a large enough and steady enough cashflow to cover overheads. Before that, the biggest challenge is convincing customers, suppliers, investors, employees (okay fine, everyone!) that you’ll get to a stage of viability before the fuel, money, and enthusiasm runs out.

After the business is viable, the challenge is maintaining momentum and defining the next purpose or goal that you’re working towards. Because the one place that you don’t want to go, is nowhere.

“Mistakes are inevitable and much easier to identify in retrospect.”

Three years ago, Flickswitch decided to diversify their service offering and market reach. But not everything went according to plan.

“We took a two-pronged approach. 1. Expand to other markets and replicate the SIMcontrol model. 2. Partner with a client in a JV to build an IoT platform. The first is panning out just fine, but the second failed spectacularly. It was a bridge too far.”

But, Passion and Perseverance!

We all make mistakes, even Flickswitch. But it’s not the mistakes that matter. It’s how we deal with them, learn from them, and avoid making them again. And Kees and his team do this skillfully! Enter: Passion and Perseverance.

We would have gotten nowhere without those qualities

Kees’ journey as a startup founder and entrepreneur has been taxing, to say the least. In their second year, Flickswitch experienced a critical juncture. They had a few customers, and they’d launched SIMcontrol, but it still required a lot of manual work and TLC. Then, on the personal front, Kees was up against a whole different set of challenges.

“We were bootstrapped and had almost run out of our startup capital, my 3rd child had just been born, and I was diagnosed with testicular cancer.”

Kees took three months off from work, and when he returned, knew that it was time for some critical decisions. So, he consulted with close friends and family, and decided to take the plunge to invest more money, double down on effort, and give it another go!

“Passion and perseverance were pivotal, perspective as a cancer-survivor also played a part (alliteration for the win!). We grew closer as a founding team as a result of riding out the tough times together.”

Finding and Leading Talent for a Growing Team

For Kees, his team at Flickswitch is of utmost importance. And as they’ve been growing, expanding and succeeding, they’ve needed to find more people (the right people) to join their journey.

But, talent costs money. And despite advances in bio-genetic modifications, money still doesn’t grow on trees. That’s why knowing when and how to hire remains one of the shadiest, grey-lined decisions faced by small business owners. So how did Flickswitch do it?

“Most people have come on board through our personal networks. As for the rest, we’ve tried to hire slowly and only when things started creaking.”

But sometimes, the need to hire slaps you through the face in a far more obvious way…

“The relocation and expansion of our Dev Team was necessitated by two technical co-founders deciding they wanted to leave the business and emigrate to Canada. This coincided with the hire of a new Head of Engineering. We went on a concerted recruitment drive and were fortunate to find a number of top quality technical staff, locally.”

Flickswitch is still small, so the founders play an active role in recruiting.  

“We try to sell new hires on the distinguishing features of working for a small company versus a monster corporate.”

But, attracting and hiring the most kick-ass team is only the beginning. Because a team needs a leader. And boy is this team blessed with the best. If you don’t believe us, just ask one of the Flickswitch developers. Or, take a peek at this list of top 5 South Africa IoT Executives You Need to Know (or, if you’re too lazy, take our word for it that the name Kees Snijders appears).

What’s his secret?

Well to start off with, he’s a people-person. He cares deeply about what they do, values relationships with suppliers, customers and staff, always tries to lead by example and to surround himself with people who are good at the things that he’s not.

“In dark moments the greatest opportunities to lead present themselves. We’ve had our fair share of crises over time. The key is to stay calm, communicate clearly and, as much as possible, do what is right… If you screw up, say sorry and move on.”

[bctt tweet=”If you screw up, say sorry and move on.” username=”#Flickswitch”]

It’s All Worth It in the End

With passion, perseverance, stellar leadership, and one helluva team, Flickswitch has arrived. And they continue to pioneer the SIM management space and make an impact on African businesses.

“In Peter Thiel’s words, it’s the 0-to-1 thing that is the most gratifying. Building something of value, that makes a dent in the world. It’s intensely rewarding to know that what we do makes a difference to our customers.”

And the future continues to look even more exciting for these guys. They’re currently focused on Africa, but envision expanding to other regions over time.

“We want to be the market-leader in connectivity-management in the developing world. We hope to convince some more mobile network operators to white-label our software. And we hope to expand our product to incorporate other metered modes of connectivity (like LORA, NBIOT, Sigfox, Satcom, etc.).”

The Best Part Is… You Can Do It Too

Kees believes that there are plenty of problems that need solving, and that where you are in the world doesn’t define your potential. What he means, is that you can start, grow and drive your own business, too.

“Lack of access to easy capital is sometimes a good thing. Read a lot, there is wisdom in them books. Step away from the computer and go talk to your customers, don’t build what you think they want, go ask them.”

[bctt tweet=”Go talk to your customers, don’t build what you think they want, go ask them.” username=”#Flickswitch”]

Of course, the legendary “killer idea” or x-factor that guarantees success, probably doesn’t exist. Kees reckons that luck and timing play a part, but that hard work, grit, and perseverance to the point of foolhardiness are the real ingredients for building anything of value.

“There will be many detractors, don’t listen to them. There’s truth in the saying: If it was easy, everyone would be doing it. But that said, be realistic and make sure that you’re doing what you’re doing for the right reasons. If your number one ambition is to get super-rich, stop now and go work for a salary.”

And because I don’t believe that anything I write now could beat that last line right there (and I’m out of coffee), we’ll call it a wrap!

Find Flickswitch on Facebook and LinkedIn, or check out their website.

Come Closer! Collaborative Technologies to Improve Your Team’s Efficiency

tools for small business

What is 40?

40 is the number of hours in a typical working week. It’s also the percentage of time that our teams spend collaborating. That’s 16 hours a week, and 64 hours a month. 64 hours of meetings, communication, knowledge sharing, brainstorming, and project coordination – to name a few.

So for us, 40 is an important number. And team, client, and partner collaboration is something we aim to get the most out of.

How? Well it’s easy. We leverage simple but effective collaboration tools and technology.

Okay, we know what you’re thinking. “Oh no! Tools? Technology? Just another way to say EXPENSIVE!” But if this is what you’re thinking, we’re about as happy as a kid on Christmas to tell you that you’re wrong. And never will you be so grateful to find solid evidence of your wrongness!

Because collaborative technology can not only be affordable, but it can be free! In fact, you’ll find some truly innovative, intuitive and masterful tools for collaboration at the push of a button. Of course your biggest challenge is going to be finding the tool that suits your business best.

[bctt tweet=”Your biggest challenge is going to be finding the tool that suits your business best” via=”no”]

Yes. Tools for collaboration are available in leaps and bounds. Some are free, some are cheap, and others are simply unattainable for a small business budget. Their purpose, functionalities, features and formats come in such an array they can make your head spin.

But wait! Before you slam closed your laptop in hopelessness and dust off that flipchart you’ve been using for team meetings, we’ve got good news. You see, we’ve done a lot of digging, some experimentation, and exercised our evaluative skills to bring you nothing less than the world’s best* catalogue of collaborative technologies for small businesses.

We’ve selected our top picks for every collaborative need, and then listed their monthly pricing plans, features, compatibilities, and other useful stuff to help you decide on the best collaboration tool for you.

And the news gets even better. They’re all massively beneficial for small businesses, while being more than manageable for small budgets.

If you’d like a tip as you embark on this enjoyable read: Understand your business processes, your team culture, and your collaboration needs. Because the shoe’s not gonna fit until you know what size the foot is!

Meetings and Conferencing

Join.Me

Pricing structures: Free (up to 3 attendees), Pro for $18 (up to 50 attendees), Business for $30 (up to 250 attendees)

Sign-up: www.join.me  

Features: This video conferencing tool enables professional and efficient meetings for dispersed teams and/or clients. Meetings can be accessed via VOIP, phone or online. Live chat tools, screen sharing and screen control capabilities create the full experience for the presenter and attendees. Meetings can be annotated, scheduled, recorded and locked.   

GoToMeeting

Pricing structures: Free (up to 3 attendees), $24 (up to 5 attendees), $39 (up to 25 attendees), $49 (up to 100 attendees)

Sign-up: www.gotomeeting.com

Features: Dial in from anywhere, schedule meetings from your Google or Outlook calendars, record your HD video conference. Other features include screen sharing and drawing tools.

Fuze Meeting

Pricing structures: Free (per minute rates apply)

Sign-up: www.fuze.com

Features: HD audio and video-conferencing, document sharing, animations and multimedia make Fuze one of the coolest and most flexible collaboration tools today. Much like Join.Me, meetings can be accessed via most devices (VOIP phone, regular phone, computer). Scheduling can take place directly from Google or Outlook calendars. The flexibility and fun of Fuze makes this our choice for video conferencing.  

Project Contributions and Workflow

Trello

Pricing structures: Free (Basic), $9.99 per user (Business Class)

Sign-up: www.trello.com

Features: This tool enables you to organise, allocate, and communicate tasks and projects using shared team boards. Teams that are invited to a project board are able to upload attachments, comment and tag other team members so that all progress is stored and visible in a central location. By dragging cards across lists, assigning due dates, and using checklists, Trello also enables your team to track progress. A selection of stickers, wallpapers, and labels create a further customisable experience. Unlimited boards, cards, lists, checklists, members and attachments (up to 250MB). Integration is available with Evernote, Github, Google Hangouts, Mailchimp, Salesforce, Slack, Google Drive, Dropbox, and more.

Asana

Pricing structures: Free (up to 15 members), $9.99 per member, small team discounts can apply (unlimited membership)

Sign-up: www.asana.com

Features: Asana is a central hub of projects, teams, and tasks. Unlike Trello, Asana provides less of an overview of all projects, and more of a tracking system for task completion and allocation within a project. Each team member views a list of their own personal tasks, rather than a board of all tasks and projects. The advantage is that team members can focus on those tasks that they are assigned to, without being distracted by those that they are not. Comments, member tagging, and attachments again allow for a central record of work. For small business use, we’d recommend the user-friendly and team-wide transparent Trello, over Asana.  

Team Building

Yammer

Pricing structures: Free (Basic), $3 per user (Enterprise Network)

Sign-up: www.yammer.com

Features: This tool allows your teams to create their own private social networks, where they can share files, documents, photos and other fun things. With an intuitive “Facebook-like” interface, Yammer creates opportunity for improved team cohesion, no matter how far across the world those team members are.

Workplace by Facebook

Pricing structures: Free (Standard Plan), $3 per user for first 1000 users (Premium Plan with 90 day free trial)

Sign-up: www.facebook.com/workplace/

Features: This, is Facebook for work! And it’s amazing. Connect your team members, your teams, and your business partners with live chats and videos, idea-sharing, and instant-messaging. Mobile friendly and fully integratable with so many of the other tools you’re already using… this, is the shizz!

Team Messaging and Communication

Slack

Pricing structures: Free (suitable for small teams), $8 (as an integrated business solution), $15 (advanced)

Sign-up: www.slack.com

Features: A super easy but effective chat technology that enables your team to set up multiple chat rooms (or channels) focused around a certain project or topic. Group and private channels are available, along with the ability to tag team members and attach files. Great for quick, easy, real time interactions.

Google Hangouts

Pricing structures: Free (up to 10 participants), $5 (30GB storage), $10 (unlimited storage)

Sign-up: www.hangouts.google.com

Features: Linked to Google+, Hangouts provides a quick and easy way to communicate in real time with other team members, especially when your team is already using Gmail. Private and group chats are available, as well as voice and video calling. Hangouts is compatible with iOS and Android, and provides a history of all conversations. Our preference is Slack for its central and user-friendly interface.

Ideas and Knowledge Sharing

Interact

Pricing structures: $8 (up to 100 users, unlimited storage), more advanced options billed annually and tailored to business needs.

Sign-up: www.interact-intranet.com

Features: Offering forums, directories, and workflow tools, Interact is an intranet for connecting your people with each other in a way that encourage them to share, review and vote on ideas. Mobile compatibility makes the spread of creativity and problem-solving even easier and more convenient. Further features, like content management systems, teams, and intelligence stores create the informal knowledge management system that every small business dreams of.

Organization and File Sharing

Google Drive

Pricing structures: Free (15GB), $1.99 (100GB), $9.99 (1TB)

Sign-up: www.google.com/drive/

Features: Drive allows you to set up organised folders of all sorts of documents. These can be arranged by project, by team, or any other category, and shared with only the relevant people. Privacy and sharing settings (when used correctly) can protect sensitive information. But the best part is that documents and sheets can be collaborated on by multiple people at the same time. With the same functionality as Word and Excel, Google Drive allows members to comment and make track changes, or edit without the risk of multiple versions. This tool builds collaboration and filing into one, simple technology.

DropBox

Pricing structures: Free (2GB), $9.99 (1TB)

Sign-up: www.dropbox.com

Features: Much like Drive, Dropbox allows you to create and share folders for different teams and projects. There is an option for editing online, without having to download the document. But while this may be appropriate for storing information, when it comes to collaboration, the capabilities are limited. This is why we opt for the more collaborative and user-friendly Google Drive option.

All-in-one Solutions

Basecamp

Pricing structures: Starting at $99 for unlimited users and projects

Sign-up: www.basecamp.com

Features: Basecamp is a pricy, but all-inclusive technology offering private ‘campfires’ for brief interactions, as well as space for formal announcements, FYI’s and other forms of team communication. The creation and allocation of projects, tasks, subtasks and deadlines assists with project management and tracking. Standard features include to-do lists, message boards, document and file storage, scheduling and automated check-ins, and campfires.

Podio

Pricing structures: Basic at $9, add on automated workflows and read-only access for $14 on the Plus plan, or Premium for $24 with reporting, dashboards and advanced workflow.

Sign-up: www.podio.com

Features: Podio is your one-stop shop for working as a team, while managing workflow, tracking project progress, and communicating regularly and efficiently. It’s flexible, it’s customizable, it’s user-friendly, and it scales well with business growth, too!

[bctt tweet=”By just 2020, more than half of the workforce will consist of Millennials.” via=”no”]

Tricks to Optimize Your Collaborative Technology!

Okay, so you’ve spotted the tools and technologies best for your team’s collaboration. Maybe you’ve even signed up for a few. But having the right tools doesn’t matter if you don’t use them right!

So here’s a few tricks to make your technology work for you:

  1. Build your collaborative tools deep into your business processes. This means different things for different businesses. But make sure that daily tasks require the daily use of collaborative technology.
  2. Fit the technology to the talent, and not the other way around. If your business plays in the creative space, then make sure your collaborative tools make for the easy flow of ideas and innovations between your creative team members. If your core business is largely administrative, you’ll want to go for something that offers security and an easy-to-use filing system.
  3. Foster a collaborative culture, supported by collaborative behaviours. If your team doesn’t want to collaborate, or they’re encouraged to compete, then even the coolest of technologies won’t prove effective. Rally your team towards collaboration by helping them to understand the benefits, for them and for business.
  4. Collaborate with anticipation for the future. The future brings change. Change in the way people want to interact with each other. So identify the tools and technologies for collaboration that will evolve with relevance for the future.

By just 2020, more than half of the workforce will consist of Millennials. Millennials who started using technology to play and learn before they could say the word “dada”! As your team evolves, so they’ll be expecting new ways to collaborate with technology, regardless of whether they’re sharing an office or working around the globe. So the question is, are you ready?

*Disclaimer: This is our personal and biased opinion

 

About the Author: Lauren Neuper, Chief of Content

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