Friday, September 26, 2014
Workpop: Using UX And Design To Power The Next Career Site
Story by Benjamin F. Kuo
Online job and career sites still seem to be in another decade, when it comes to both design--and user friendliness. Can a startup gain a foothold in the competitive market by designing the right UX and user experience to make a job and career site for everyone? Los Angeles-based Workpop (www.workpop.com) thinks so. The startup was co-founded by former Zynga GM Reed Shafnner and Viddy co-founder Chris Ovitz, who spoke to us about how their prior experience in the social gaming and consumer Internet world is helping the company create an entirely different kind of job site. The company recently landed a $7.9M funding round from such investors as Trinity Ventures, SV Angel, Evan Williams and Biz Stone's Obvious Ventures, Cornerstone OnDemand, Joe Lonsdale, Aaron Levie, Slow Ventures, Box Group, Ironfire Capital, Plus Capital, Lee Linden (Facebook), Jim Pallotta, Dennis Phelps (IVP) and Michael Marchetti. Image: Chris Ovitz, left; Reed Shafnner, right.
What is Workpop?
Reed Shafnner: Both Chris and I had lots of experience with hiring and recruiting in the technology space. Obviously, in the technology space, recruiting is a very different think than elsewhere. There's a huge demand for a limited supply of employees, in particularly, there a large demand for product developers, and there's a shortage of experienced people. That's quite a different scenario than the rest of the world. For example, my dad used to work for the Space Program in Cape Canaveral. They shut down manned space station project and he was laid off, and I saw the experience of his trying to find a job through job boards and forums. As we looked at that more, we saw that job seekers, employers, and small businesses are not being served well by existing sites, so we decided to build a service where people can both find work, and which makes it easier for employers to hire folks.
There's an awful lot of job search sites out there, what's different about what you do?
Reed Shafnner: There are a few things. Our business model is fundamentally different, in that it's free for both candidates and for employers. That's a huge different. If you want to post a job on a high quality site, you can't do it for free. There wasn't a resource out there in the marketplace which allowed you to easily post jobs for free. The reason we wanted to do that, was a for a couple of reasons. First, the company missions it to help find everyone a job that they like, which is only possible if you have the largest supply of jobs. Second, we wanted to build a business model which is not dependent on employers. Lots of services today make more money the higher the turnover rate is for an employer. They don't ultimately care if a n employee is retained by the company. They are interested only getting as many job postings as possible. We don't want to optimize job posting numbers, what we want to do, is optimize retention, and help companies find great candidates.
Starting on the employer side first, we put a big emphasis on design. If you look at the career sites and pages out there right now, they look like they were built a decade ago. They don't take advantage of allowing employers to showcase their brand, and what they provide to employees. So that's a big emphasis for us. Second, we provide employers with tools that make it much easier to message candidates on the platform, to share scheduling opportunities for applications, and to allow candidates to submit video cover letters, so they can see and hear those candidates. It's even the simple things. Every resume to an employer comes to them in the exact same format. We extract all of that data, to get them all of the information and helps them get through all of them. The average, hourly job gets 150 applications, and even if an employer wants to respond to an application, it's just not possible to. They just don't have enough time, and it's too hard. Our software makes it easy to ensure everyone who applies gets some sort of answer.
If you look at the job seeker side, we've done some real innovation. For example, when you apply for any jobs, we let you get access to lots of other data you can't with any other application. For example, we collect anonymous feedback from employers on why they are rejecting your resume, and on an anonymous level, we tell those applicants why they were rejected. We present that back to the candidates in an aggregated, anonymized form. We also allow candidates to compare themselves the other 100 people who applied to a job, so you can see how much experience, skills, and more and how you compare with others. We also provide passive data, such as how long an employer looked at your resume, and how far down they scrolled, and how much of your video they watched. Rather than just applying and hoping to hear back from a company, our customized, career dashboard helps job seekers get the job they ultimately want.
How did you two meet?
Chris Ovitz: When I left Viddy, and Reed left Zynga, we both ended up at Scopely. He ran products and technology for Scopely, and I ran business development. We met at Scopely, when there was a company offsite prior to Reed and I starting our first day there. We were roomed together and that is what sparked the friendship. We became friends really quickly, and realized that we had to start a company together someday.
When did you decide to strike out on your own?
Reed Shafnner: Chris and I thought of the idea for the company in November of 2013. As we talked about it more, and started talking to hundreds of employees--probably north of 1,000 job seekers--it became apparent there was a huge opportunity here. We started in February, and Ben Berman and Henry Jay Yu came on when we closed our seed round in March. We were very fortunate to have some amazing investors, including Aaron Levie, Obvious Ventures., the company run by Biz Stone and Evan Williams, Joe Lonsdale, and a whole host of others. We were fortunate to be able to build a lot of this in a very short period, which led to our Series A a few weeks ago.
What was it that enabled you to attract the investors you have?
Chris Ovitz: I think it's really because we're taking a really bold approach to this product. There's nothing like it out there.
Reed Shafnner: The market opportunity is huge, and as our investors got time to play with our beta, they got really excited about our product. We only started in February, and we didn't start coding until March, but even then, after seeing the demo of what we built, our investors were able to see what a great product and market opportunity this was. That made fundraising much easier.
Does your background in gaming help in looking at how to approach this market?
Chris Ovitz: Definitely. That background has given us an advantage. Specificially, especially in Silicon Valley and in the technology industry, companies tend to build technology for themselves. However, we wanted to address an entire segment, which is completely overlooked. We wanted to build this for everyone else, not just the technology industry. We wanted to use our background in games and social apps, and in building great consumer products, and apply that to a space which really hasn't been updated since 1999 and 2000.
Reed Shafnner: In social games, you really have to focus on a few things, which turn out to play heavily in the job space. Among those is accessibility of the product. In social games, you have an older audience which is not as familiar with technology. You spent a lot of time deeply polishing the user experience, and make sure things are really clear. It's the same here in the job space. There are lots of people who are less familiar with technology who would like to use these apps. You have to make them simple. The other piece, is user acquisition. For games, you have to figure out how to get millions of users. For employers, what gets them the most excited is the ability to attract candidates they have not been able to reach before.
What's the next step for you?
Reed Shafnner: I think the next step is really focusing on making the product great, in Los Angeles. Our immediate focus is to really nail this end-to-end system, to help people post their jobs, and get people hired. After that, you'll see us expand the scope of our product, and help with things like onboarding, training, and deployment. Right now, we're laser focused on polishing this product, so that eventually anyone in Los Angeles can come and know they'll find any and every job available in this market.