Mike is one of the co-founders of The Job Auction, a job board launched in 2018 which has built strong partnerships with CV-Library and ZipRecruiter. Leveraging LinkedIn and building a network have been the main two marketing strategies that brought TJA’s to $10k/month.
May 29, 2019
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Hey, I am Mike! I am one of the founders of The Job Auction.
I initially studied Computer Science and quickly got drawn into the banking sector. I have worked as a consultant, developing finance software ever since. My latest assignments were all in the high-frequency trading space.
Currently, I am working on a project called The Job Auction which is, in essence, the eBay for jobs.
Actually, it was my business partner and co-founder, Emily, the one who came up with the initial idea.
The idea came from her days at Central Saint Martins in London, as a fashion designer. Here, he came to know the perils of putting together a large collection on a limited budget. One of her peers, who was a knitwear designer, struggled to find people to hand-knit all of his designs. After advertising nationwide he found OAP’s (Old Age Pensioner) to help. The team element brought the OAP’s out of isolation and provided them with extra cash. In return, he had very advanced skills from those who had been knitting most of their lives.
It was only 10 years later after some discussions with me about this, that we realized that if an auction site existed concerning skills and tasks, the idea could be rolled out across different sectors, worldwide, and benefit everyone.
We started the development pretty much immediately. I had started a business before which was doing fairly well (it was a consultancy for financial institutions). Emily also had her own business and we used the combined knowledge to start The Job Auction.
Starting a business from scratch without an already existing client base turned out to be really challenging.
We started building The Job Auction around 2016. We always felt that if you want everyone to use the product it had to be more than an MVP. People are savvy these days and they won’t give you another chance if the product doesn’t look and feel like you had put some effort into it.
We launched on Valentines Day 2018 (not intentionally, we were just too busy to realize) and have now been running for 10 months. Our sign up rate is growing daily (we have beat Pinterest in sign up rates, which we are really proud of).
Initially, it was just me writing code, which in some ways was very enjoyable as decisions could be made very quickly without having to double check with anyone. However, there are also a lot of drawbacks to that as it is very helpful to have a team. Ideas can be talked through and worked on much better. Other people may have solutions to a problem that you had not even thought of.
The Job Auction itself is a multi-node Java enterprise application.
Unfortunately, we are not yet big enough to be able to afford masses of physical advertising (on buses, subway, TV, etc), so we are mainly concentrating on online marketing.
We leveraged LinkedIn to get our initial customer base (which is explained in detail in the next point). Linkedin advertising is very good to get companies to post job ads. We create world-wide press releases every time we add a new feature to The Job Auction. We use a lot of Google and Bing advertising too.
We’ve also set up a 'sales team’ to increase our sales. This includes cold calling companies as well as physically visiting various recruiters around the country.
Link-building is an important part of any marketing strategy. There are many lists with platforms where you can showcase your product. This is very helpful if you have only just started.
Finally, we’ve also joined several recruitment bodies and got a lot of leads through them. Networking can help to a certain extent but if you are global it has its limitations.
The age-old ‘build it and they will come’ mantra didn’t work of course. We thought that spending a lot of money on Google Ads would be enough, but of course, money was fairly tight.
We also quickly found out that the auction element of The Job Auction wouldn’t work until we were fairly well known (auctions rely on many people competing). So we resigned to that feature initially, pivoting to a job board functionality.
However, to be a job board you need jobs pots and so we needed to be in contact with recruiters around the world. To do this we tried to leverage LinkedIn, but as we didn’t have the budget to have a massive LinkedIn Ad campaign, we decided to use our personal accounts and add as many recruiters as possible.
I quickly maxed the 30K connection limit on LinkedIn, adding every recruiter I could find. We then contacted every single one of them and asked them to post their job ads on our page. This was a great solution to the lack of budget problem as it got us to talk with two of our current partners: CV-Library and ZipRecruiter. Through their partnership, we had access to many more jobs and we could also feed our jobs into their platforms.
While there is no other auction platform for jobs, there are many big job boards out there. So it was fairly hard to get a look-in. However, we eventually realized it was better to work with them than against them.
We also didn’t have much experience in the recruitment area so there was a big learning curve. We are constantly learning and when we realize that something we assumed right turns to be wrong, we change it immediately.
Moreover, at first, I personally underestimated the work we would have to put into The Job Auction. I thought we’d code it, release it and then live happily ever after.
There were many. Don’t build things people don’t want. Don’t splash out on office space you don’t need. Never think that people you hire are as passionate about the product as you are.
I would also advise you to be realistic. We got carried away thinking we had an amazing idea and we could build it and make money. Turns out that an auction with only one participant is not very appealing. Don’t be shy parking things until they are ready to be rolled out.
From a technical point of view, we changed some of the underlying components several times as they came to ‘end of life’.
Don’t just use a framework/component because you think it’s cool. Make an informed decision. Take roadmaps of various components into account and make sure your application does not have to be completely re-written in 2 years just because the component you used is not being updated any longer.
Don’t build unnecessary features. While I am glad we have a lot of additional functionality now, we could have brought the product to market much earlier. Stick to what people actually expect to form your platform.
Get focus groups involved very early. There are various sites that do that for a relatively low price. The information is invaluable.
Initially, we attended a lot of free classes at the Google Campus in London. These are great and mostly free. Google has campuses all over the world.
Apart from Failory, which I found and still find extremely helpful when it comes to mistakes to avoid, ProductHunt and StartupRanking are very useful to promote your business initially.
A book I really liked was Richard Branson's Screw It, Let’s Do It – Lessons in Life. This is not so much about concrete help starting your business, but it will show you a certain mindset you will need in life.
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