Before Fiona Anson and Ali Baker made their names as the founders of Workible, they had started a platform called HireMeUp. The company was basically a job site they started when they faced the problem of trying to find work that would fit around other things and commitments they each had.
“At the time we were both consulting for the same company and we were doing that on a part time basis, and both she and I were looking for other part time jobs,” says Anson.
“It was really hard to go onto something like Seek, put in your availability and find out whether or not a job matched your availability. We were having a conversation in the car one day and one of us said to the other one, if a dating site can match blue eyes and blonde hair, why can’t a job site match days and hours; that was kind of the genesis behind the idea for HireMeUp.”
After building the business to a certain extent, the pair were invited to enter a TieCon women’s pitching competition, held in conjunction with Commonwealth Bank Women in Focus. This resulted in them winning the competition, with the prize being a trip to Silicon Valley.
“Three weeks later we were on a plane to Silicon Valley where we had never been before, and we found ourselves at TieCon over there,” says Anson.
“We had what we call now a blinding flash of the obvious, but it was a bit of an epiphany that if we were going to build a world class tech business we couldn’t do it with a website we built out of India. And overwhelmingly we got this message that everything was going mobile and everything had some social component.”
As a result of that realisation, the cofounders basically started to redesign their business, pivoting the foundation of the user interface from desktop to a mobile platform. They went out and spoke to people and found out exactly what it was that their potential customers wanted and used that as a guide to determine what and how they should be building the tech.
The pair still had HireMeUp running in the background while they started what would be eight months of research, mapping their new technology as well as testing wireframes and workflows.
Anson explains, “We did a massive amount of research into the market and started asking people what their biggest problems were. We figured it was around availability, and what we were overwhelmingly told is that while that was an issue it wasn’t the main issue. The main issue was being able to find quality people fast. So mobile is the perfect solution for that because it allows you to connect with people instantly.”
“When we knew what the market problem was, we then knew how to solve the problem through technology. So Workible was the product of that particular pivot, or we prefer to say pirouette because it’s a bit daintier. Also, it wasn’t a massive pivot, it was, you know, a little pivot. A hop, skip and jump into something that wasn’t totally different from what we were doing.”
Eventually the pair closed down HireMeUp and began to take Workible out to the market. The mobile platform allows businesses to be instantly matched with candidates that match a set of criteria that they are looking for. That criteria could include things like skills, location, availability, qualifications, and even personal attributes.
“We’ve invented a real true mobile solution to the problem of needing to find quality people fast,” says Anson.
In addition to providing that service to businesses of all sizes, Workible also provides a service to larger companies which sees it act as more of a HR Technology provider than a marketplace. The startup actually provides its technology to around 65 companies in Australia right now, with the view of signing up 50 more within the next month.
Essentially, Workible white labels its tech and these companies use it in many different ways, from hiring to scheduling rosters. It is a great model for the bottom line of the business as it is a SaaS revenue model with a monthly subscription and the company does not have to focus too much on competing with the likes of Seek to be a mobile jobs platform.
Basically it is now a company that provides Jobs, HR, and Employment-related technologies.
Anson told Startup Daily that if the pivot had not happened, as a company they would be desperately fighting to get a small slice of marketshare like everyone else.
“We would have ended up having to go head to head with everyone else out there,” she says.
“The HR job space is a tough space. There’s a new job platform, job board, job somebody else launching something pretty much every week. We would rather be the technology they use to create their platforms than actually have to go head to head against Seek and Career1 and Spot Jobs and everybody else that’s out there, we just don’t want to play in that space.”
Since pivoting, Workible has tripled its effectiveness as a business and most other metrics along with it. There are now over 465,000 users on Workible Jobs and the startup’s revenue for last year was around $2.4 million.
Anson is of the school of thinking that any business which is successful is so because it has been through a series of pivots.
“I think it’s absolutely essential. I think the thing that’s going to determine your success is the market and the market will tell you constantly what’s going on and most importantly, what’s changing.”
Featured image: Cofounders of Workible, Fiona Anson and Ali Baker
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