Hi Nicholas, what do we need to know about the man behind Headstart App?
I’m 22, hugely ambitious, and am passionate about inspiring young people to make the right choices early on; particularly with regard to their own career.
You were shortlisted in the ‘Disrupt HR’ competition in Paris and recently named as one of the ‘young entrepreneurs to watch.’ How does that make you feel?
Pretty buzzing for the coming months and years. We’ve been in the market less than a year and are already making waves with some awesome clients. Less than a year ago, it was me and my co-founder working from coffee shops. Now we’ve got a team of 14 and growing.
The old-school way of applying for a job has seen a massive change over the last 10 years. How has your target audience responded to Headstart App?
It’s not been easy as it’s difficult for many in-house recruiters to get the buy in from senior management to explore new and innovative ways of recruiting. Times are changing though and the importance of engaging and attracting future talent is increasingly in the limelight for many organisations. As such, many more are adopting tools like ours and starting to recognise the power of data and technology. We’ve had great success to date and are already working with some of the world’s best known brands. And the best thing about it is that the future only looks brighter.
Where do you spend your time when not working on the business?
I spend a lot of time after work and on weekends with family and friends, both of which are hugely important to me. Other than that, I attend networking events and give talks to university/school students on my experiences.
How did you fund the business in the beginning?
I initially funded the business using money I made from my previous company; an education platform called Teaching by the Top. After my initial cash injection, my co-founder and I both agreed not to take a salary for six months and that was enough time for us to get an MVP out and raise seed funding.
What is the business model?
Large corporates pay a licensing fee to post roles on our platform. We currently allow all start-ups to post for free to level the playing field for those start-ups when competing with larger companies who have much bigger recruitment budgets. We know first-hand how hard it is to hire at the start and want to help other start-ups find the early talent that will get their business off the ground. We do not, and never will, charge students.
You’ve made hiring more about the person than the qualifications. What inspired you to create something that looked at recruitment from this angle?
I don’t think there is a single thing that inspired me to make this a focus of the app. It’s a general feeling and passion I have. Qualifications are a hugely important part of a student’s application, but they aren’t the only part. I am not saying companies should scrap qualifications criteria altogether, I just think there is a lot more to a candidate than purely what they have done in the classroom and feel that personality, interests and skills should be given equally as much consideration.
What is your biggest tip for utilising social media?
Social media is a powerful tool - but it’s hard to get it right. We are a long way off being experts at it. The one thing we are trying to do though, is start to give our brand a personality. This is key for all businesses. There are so many different offerings out on the market in every sector. To really engage users, it’s vital that they can relate to your brand. I don’t think it’s necessary to master every social media platform but it’s important to pick two or three and do them well; generating genuinely interesting content rather than just recycled stuff that doesn’t appeal to your target audience.
What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs wanting to get into the tech industry?
Firstly, networking is key. The tech world is actually pretty small - like most ‘worlds.’ To raise funding, and to really get the business off the ground quickly, it’s vital to get out there and talk to people as early as possible. Remember, everyone around you could be helpful in some way, even if it’s not obvious exactly how from day one. Don’t be scared to ask for introductions and advice as most people are surprisingly very open to helping. But remember, you were born with two ears and one mouth so always use them in that ratio.
If you are non-technical, get a technical co-founder early on. It’s hugely helpful to have someone who can complement your skillset and who can get your MVP out for little to no budget. Outsourcing development is to be avoided from my experience. It’s expensive, often unscalable and very time consuming as there is a constant feeling of uncertainty and uneasiness.
What is your best advice testing and launching an app?
Think carefully about what your users actually want before wasting time building. It’s very easy to jump on every idea that comes your way. But, in reality, you can sell to a lot of people with a very basic, work-in-progress product. I would also strongly advise against giving lots of free trials out on a B2B product. It’s fine to give one or two out but, in order to really get useful feedback and to really start expansion, it’s very important to get early validation from paying users.
What plans do you have for Headstart App over the next 12 months?
We have plenty of very exciting plans for Headstart in the next year. We’ll be fundraising again towards the end of 2017 and continuing to grow the team rapidly. We’ll also be looking at school leavers programmes and seeing how we can adapt our software to advise and guide 16-18 year olds on the vast range of exciting options available to them; many of which fall outside of the traditional route of going to University. Watch this space!