Melbourne startup Gooroo is using data science to transform the way technology professionals manage their careers

- May 14, 2015 10 MIN READ

Millions of technology jobs are advertised each year, however the outcome of those ads aren’t always ideal. Employers still struggle with hiring architects, developers and engineers with the right skills, behaviours values that align with theirs. At the same time, whilst there are ‘career management’ services available in the market, not many are focused on technology careers and none are driven by data science. Melbourne-based startup Gooroo is set to tackle this problem by building a globally unique and verifiable talent-company-role matching algorithm which promises to not only transform the way employers recruit technology talent, but also the way technology professionals manage their careers and the way we understand the technology industry. The startup is using advanced people analytics to find relationships between technology skills, careers, salaries, experience levels and regions that have previously been overlooked.

To varying degrees, every industry has been affected by software. As such, demand for technology talent has increased every year for over a decade. Supply, on the hand, has decreased in the same decade, with university enrolments in computer science dropping in half. In fact, Australia is near the bottom of the OECD in creating STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Maths) graduates.

Gooroo’s Product Vice President, Carl Joseph said. “When educational institutions start accessing global trending data such as what roles are in demand and what skills are necessary to fulfil those roles, curriculum and upskilling courses at universities and RTOs, faculties can be better informed about what students will be wanting or should be studying.”

Gooroo’s technology, though still a work in progress, collates roles, skills and experience from members along with live job data to evaluate movements in demand, salary ranges and skill trends for particular roles, skills and regions.

Terence Siganakis, Gooroo’s Vice President of Technology said: “Our ability to categorise familiarity and experience at the skill level for a particular role is quite novel. Our focus on the technology job market, means that our models and algorithms are heavily tuned for understanding technical skills, without having to worry about misclassification for other roles.”

Greg Muller, who carries 20 years of experience in management consulting and digital solutions, said it was the challenges he faced when recruiting technologists that spawned the idea for Gooroo. He founded an award-winning digital advisory and solutions firm iFocus in 2000; and by 2008, when it merged with another company Bullseye, it had a team of 30 to 40 technologists.

Muller realised that recruiting technologists with the right skill sets and career aspirations is a challenge for many employers and recruiters, especially those who are not proficient in the skills they’re looking for. For instance, if a company wanted to build a particular software solution and needed to hire a developer with certain skill sets, unless the employer or recruiter has a good understanding of those skill sets, they wouldn’t know what type of questions to ask or what to look for.

“We realised that if you’re not a technologist yourself, you don’t really know what kind of person you need to hire. Essentially, we set out to solve that problem. But there was a particular inspiration point a few years ago when a mate of mine called me up and said ‘can you find this person for me?’ He was looking for a Sharepoint specialist and was willing to pay anything to find the right person,” said Muller, Founder and CEO of Gooroo.

“The more people I spoke with, the more I realised that this is an ongoing problem that still hasn’t been solved today. There are recruiters and job boards trying to solve this problem, but we feel and believe that there is a fairly dramatic wave of change happening in the professional marketplace and hiring technology space, and we’re hoping to ride that wave.”

Sometimes, companies don’t realise that the person they need is right in front them, or a couple of cubicles away. Siganakis said, “The U.S. Department of Labor estimates that the average cost of a bad hiring decision can equal 30 percent of the individual’s first-year potential earnings, why hire someone externally if you can identify that you have an existing employee who may be perfect for a role. Gooroo can tell you if they’re passionate about that work and with some additional training could fill the need perfectly. Resource issue solved and you have a happy camper on board!”

Although the idea for Gooroo was conceived three years ago, it wasn’t until October 2013 that the Gooroo team began developing the product. Muller said that they’ve approached the problem from the perspective of the talent rather than the employer. The question Muller had to consider was ‘how do we connect employers to the right individuals in an efficient and effective way when employers doesn’t understand what they need or know how to define what they need?’ Although this question focuses on the employer, the answer is in the individual.

“The first thing you need to do is to understand the individual and you need to bring that person to bare. Our focus is to ensure that we are delivering a compelling value proposition to technologists around the world, that we’re creating a place where they feel they’re being listened to and understood, and that we’re giving them the information and tools they need to take control of their careers,” said Muller.

Because of the volume of Gooroo’s data, as well as its statistical significance, Gooroo will be able – and is already starting – to predict future trends. For instance, if a Gooroo member is a data analyst today but wants to be an engineer in the future, they’ll be able to identify what skills they need to learn, which certifications are required, which technologies are trending, which career sectors offer the best salaries, and which kinds of roles are in demand.

“It’s a very lonely place out there. Looking for and finding a job, or identifying the best next step is quite daunting for many people. Our focus is on providing data-driven information and learning resources to ensure the individual understands themselves and where they sit in the context of the broader market and then use big data and machine learning techniques to say: ‘This is where you’re at; these are the directions you could take; here are some resources to help you get there and also here are some jobs available that will help you get there’,” said Muller.

Gooroo’s technology team has spent 18 months building a matching algorithm, which is essentially an automated process that matches an individual’s skills, passions and other psychographics to the needs of employers, including culture-fit, as well as marketplace trends. What Gooroo is creating is, therefore, a data and technology driven ecosystem.

“We believe we’ll be able to connect people more effectively, but also by doing so, we’re recognising the transient nature of many technology employment contracts and relationships with employers. Most technologists are on three-month, six-month or 12-month contracts; they’re moving around quite often so we needed to build a solution that meets the dynamics of the technology industry and ensure that we’re getting an accurate match quicker and in a more cost-efficient way for employers,” said Muller.

One aspect of Gooroo’s offering is the Gooroo Index which draws insights from millions of recently advertised technology roles in the US, UK and Australia, as well as from individual members in the Gooroo community. At the moment, Gooroo is processing about 500,000 jobs a month across the US, UK and Australia, and the index is currently based on more than 4 million jobs. The report presents salary trends and market demand for numerous technology roles; and access to this report provides employers and hiring managers with up-to-date data that other industry resources lag 12 to 18 months behind. Employers get an evidence-based understanding of how their own workforce fares against the rest of the market locally and internationally.

“We have our own proprietary algorithms that determine the priority of skills and experience within each job ad. We aggregate that data and filter it to provide what we believe is a very unique 360-degree view of the technology market. We’re using a natural processing engine to analyse each job ad and then identify those relationships between experience and skills and geography and salary and other career related information,” Muller said.

“All of our data is extracted by us from our own research or the algorithms we’ve created. There’s no other external service elevating that.”

Technology professionals can sign up with their LinkedIn or GitHub credentials or just their emails and must demonstrate and validate their competencies to make the matching process more accurate and trustworthy. Muller said that some of Gooroo’s data is imported from LinkedIn and GitHub, however members can adjust information where needed. There are also privacy features so members have full control over their information. This is important because some members may not be looking for jobs and have registered for different reasons.

“The reality is that to create a match, firstly we need people that want to be matched. Individuals will have that control to be able to make themselves available or not. The platform will also reward individuals who put an effort in and put in the necessary details and contribute because it’ll create tighter matches and more effective outcomes for them,” said Muller.

Muller is cognisant of the fact that a startup can build the best technology in the world, but unless people know about it and get value from it, it’s meaningless. Gooroo’s initial growth strategy has been to distribute reports on tech career and salary trends, which has attracted technology talent. This has also created a network effect; by creating valuable content, technologists are compelled to share it with others in the industry, which in turn generates more sign-ups.

However, Muller said they have not put much effort into recruitment or marketing thus far, as they’ve been firmly focused on building their core value proposition – that is, the matching algorithm, which will be launched in the upcoming weeks.

“We’ve been learning and iterating over the last 18 months; and slowly but surely, the murmurs and noise around Gooroo is starting to increase. We’re not accepting new employers yet, because it’s all about the talent,” said Muller.

“Our philosophy is if we build a valuable experience for talent, the employers and recruiters will be there because at the end of the day, they need the talent. Once the employer tools are ready and there’s a substantial talent base, we will start to open Gooroo up to employers.”

Muller said that Gooroo has already “hit a raw nerve for tech professionals around the world”.

“There are a couple of hundred million tech professionals around the world and this number if obviously growing, but a majority of them aren’t good at promoting themselves. They want to do great work, but they’re often misunderstood or generalised,” said Muller.

“We’ve understood them and we’re delivering a value proposition directly to them, so whilst we’ve achieved some great things in terms of our technology, which looks as if it’s going to be unmatched anywhere in the world, the most satisfying thing has been the uptake and responses we’ve received from tech professionals. That support is incredibly rewarding.”

Muller also said that they’ve architected the platform to be global from the get-go. Although its focus at the moment is Australia, the US and UK, Muller said Asia, South America and Africa is next on the horizon given how rapidly those markets are progressing. In fact, many technology companies around the world, especially in countries that adopt pro-growth immigration policies, recruit immigrants. Various reports indicate that over half of Silicon Valley’s tech startups have one or more immigrants as a co-founder.

Co-Founder and CEO of LinkedIn Reid Hoffman once said, “Immigration is key to any entrepreneurial ecosystem”. Carlos Espinal, Partner at European investment fund and accelerator Seedcamp, also communicated this sentiment, saying “One quick way of bridging a shortage in staff in an area is to create immigration policies that allow for talented and capable individuals to enter the country and its labor force without major hurdles”.

Asian countries with strong or fast-growing startup ecosystems offer visa programmes or other types of residency permits specifically to entrepreneurs – like South Korea’s startup visa, Singapore’s EntrePass, Hong Kong and Malaysia’s investment visa, and Japan’s visa extension for entrepreneurs. New Zealand, Canada, UK and US also have entrepreneur visas. These policies and initiatives have allowed for freer movement of people, and subsequently diverse workforces.

While Australia awaits entrepreneur-friendly immigration laws, technologists in other countries looking to relocate can use Gooroo to understand the technology industry in different regions.

“First and foremost, we’ll ensure that the appropriate information is provided and that is going to be the responsibility of the hiring organisation as well. They need to be able to indicate their degree of comfort with accepting international applicants. We also believe it’s our responsibility to ensure that those who are looking abroad or beyond their current boundaries or borders are appropriately informed,” said Muller.

Although Gooroo is targeting technology professionals and employers looking for technology professionals, Muller said that over time, there will be multiple users in the system – like media professionals, investors, organisations or others who are interested in the data Gooroo collects and analyses.

“We’ve implemented a free model where anyone can sign up and access that data, but in time we expect that, because the data is so rich and valuable, we’ll be building experiences off it. Members will be able to access different dimensions of that data or the platform or the knowledge that exists within the platform via a subscription. The experience would be different for different users,” said Muller.

Muller was tight-lipped about Gooroo’s monetisation strategy, but admitted that the startup will be implementing a freemium model for talent, and a subscription or pay-per-use model for recruiters, employers, marketers and advertisers. Gooroo will also be launching learning services with key international partners, which will also be based on a subscription model. Details around this are yet to be revealed.

Thus far, one of Gooroo’s biggest challenges has been balancing capacity and priority. Muller said it’s important that startups have the funds to invest in ongoing product development and the right people to lead that development. But what’s also important during the development phase is prioritisation. Without the ability to focus and prioritise, startups can run out of money prior to commercialisation.

“We have taken the approach of ‘build something, learn from it, get feedback, iterate and then continue to build it out based on responses from the market’ rather than spending too much time and money on building a product that no-one wants to use’. Whilst this was a challenge, it’s allowed us to have much tighter proposition.

“We’ve still got very clear plans about how the product is going to change in terms of new functionality, but we have to ensure that we keep things nice and simple as we move along.”

Last year, Gooroo raised AU$1.24 million in its seed round from UK, Singapore and Malaysian investor. The funds were used primarily for product development, and Muller has invested heavily in Gooroo as well.

At the moment, there are six people working across Gooroo’s various departments including product development, architecture and marketing. Recently, Gooroo also brought on a behavioural psychologist Dr Simon Laurie to look after the customer aspects of the business.

The startup will be embarking on a more aggressive marketing mission when it soft launches its matching feature. Muller said they’re also going to form an advisory board to assist in making important business decisions as the startup moves forward.

But what’s the end goal? Many startups dream of getting acquired for eye-watering amounts of money. Gooroo’s goal, on the other hand, is “to build a global business and truly change people’s lives in a positive way”.

Gooroo is currently in discussions with various organisations about forming strategic partnerships, and will likely open up a new round of funding in the near future. At the moment, it seems like blue skies ahead for this startup. It has all the ingredients in place to become one of the best data-driven startups to come out of Australia.