The two-year old startup Job Today has already raised $30 million and its expansion seems unstoppable. Founded by two friends living in Luxembourg, the hiring app has already attracted over 2 million candidates and 200,000 employers. We met with Eugene Mizin – while Polina Montano was pitching at the NOAH Conference in London – who shared the entire story of Job Today with us, starting from the very first candidate who found a job in Luxembourg via the app to the startup’s expansion plans for 2017.
(Featured image: Polina Montano and Eugene Mizin co-founded Job Today, an easy-to-use app connecting employers and jobseekers 24/7 / Image Credit: Olivier Minaire)
Let’s start from the very beginning, how did you come up with the idea?
I always had this interest and passion for building products and seeing how technology can deliver better experiences. After I completed my MBA at Georgetown University, I worked for some of the largest media and technology companies. First at AOL, followed by eBay in San Francisco, and then at Skype in London. The question for me has always been and still remains: how do you make innovation useful? How do you find a way to apply technology to solve people’s problem? That’s something that really interests me.
Then I found my way to Luxembourg to join Mangrove Capital Partners. This gave me exposure to great entrepreneurs and innovation across Europe, in places like Berlin, Copenhagen and London.
I met Polina through a common social circle. She had recently completed her MBA degree and we shared this mindset of wanting to build something new. At the time, she ran a retail business operating a chain of petrol stations for Shell.
“We decided that rather than just build a new job board, the real opportunity here was to build a product that fits the lifestyle of small businesses and jobseekers and gets them into direct communication with each other very quickly.”
One Friday evening, I was over at Polina’s place for dinner with friends. And that’s when a call came from one of Polina’s station managers saying that someone was not going to show up for work the next day and that they needed to find a replacement fast. It was late in the evening and naturally Polina was like “this is happening again, what will I do.” She shared how much of a pain it was to find someone on such short notice. And she wondered out loud if there was a tech solution to this problem. We thought that surely there would be some company out there that had solved this issue. As we dug into it over the coming days, to our surprise, we realized that no company had. Very quickly, we decided to do something about it.
This was a real problem both of us understood and appreciated from different perspectives. Polina had a strong intuition about customer needs based on her experience running retail businesses. I had a strong intuition about consumer technology and product development.
We decided that rather than just build a new job board, the real opportunity here was to build a product that fits the lifestyle of small businesses and jobseekers and gets them into direct communication with each other very quickly. Our mantra, which we sort of had from day one, is: let’s figure out how to reduce friction from the process. How do we enable people to get into a conversation in under a minute. And that was a very different approach than anybody had taken before us in recruitment. That approach combined with making it 100% mobile and focusing on jobs in the hospitality, retail and services sectors is what separates JOB TODAY from every other startup in this space.
When did you exactly launch the startup?
We launched the product in May 2015 in Barcelona. It took us a few months prior to that to build the first version of the product. The initial team was four people: Polina and myself as co-founders, and Alexey and Dmitry who joined us as developers. They really jumped into it with amazing passion and talent, and the first version came together very quickly. We soft-launched in Luxembourg and I remember this great feeling when the first person found a job via the app.
We then decided it was important for us to show that this idea had legs and that we could prove product market fit at scale. We looked around and identified Barcelona as a very interesting market. Barcelona has a vibrant services sector, with jobs in hospitality, restaurants and shops contributing in a major way to the economy of this popular tourist destination.
“We took a lot of risks in going into a market that we knew very little to nothing about.”
You didn’t know the Spanish market at all, right?
That is correct. We got on a plane to Barcelona and recruited a couple of brilliant guys to help us develop the market. Ferran and Quim are still with the company today, which I am very happy about. They helped us build up the team and do some amazing things to bootstrap our growth in Spain, where Job Today is now a leader in mobile hiring apps. We took a lot of risks in going into a market that we knew very little to nothing about. And then we did it again and went to London.
Do you have any anecdotes about the early days of Job Today?
Of course! Two moments in particular come to mind.
The first one happened shortly after the launch. Somebody wrote an email to our general mailbox saying: “Thank you, Job Today, I got your app and two days later I started a new job. I live in Madrid, here is my name… Thank you very much.” It was a great moment and we knew we were doing something right.
The second one was when an owner of a chain of telco shops wrote to us: “Hey guys, I just want to let you know that I put this poster on my windows…” and attached a photo of a window sign he created himself which read: “Don’t bring a resume. Apply for this job on Job Today.” He posted the sign in all of his shops!
“We are building a future in which millions of neighborhood jobs will become visible to local candidates.”
Does making recruitment digital have an impact on society?
The majority of businesses in the service sector, such as shops and restaurants, recruit predominantly offline today — through word of mouth and by sifting through stacks of resumes. Jobseekers also tend to go about the process offline! They go door to door, from restaurant to restaurant, walking in, looking around to see if it’s a decent place and leaving their resume. So, most of these service businesses have a stack of resumes under the cash register. Polina experienced this first-hand when she ran her retail business, and there is a big problem here: when you need to contact people, they are often long gone having taken another job, or they have moved or changed their phone number.
What we have done is bring this whole process into the digital world. So many small businesses weren’t advertising their jobs because there was no easy and accessible tool for them to do so. For the first time ever, they don’t have to think twice about advertising a job – posting a position on JOB TODAY only takes a minute and they can be in touch with local candidates right away. We are building a future in which millions of neighborhood jobs will become visible to local candidates. I think there is an important social element to what we do, and Job Today will bring positive change to our society.
You both decided to quit your jobs to start Job Today? Was it an easy decision to make?
In a way it was a very easy decision for me because after a short period of time I knew I had to do it. I think it was absolutely worth it to take the risk. It was important for me to know that I was working to solve a real problem where people’s lives would improve if we were to succeed. For Polina, it was very much the same. She had a great business but she felt it was worth the risk to dedicate her time to building this company. We were also fortunate to attract good support early on, bringing Mangrove Capital Partners as a seed investor. They believed in our vision and Mangrove’s Founder and CEO, Mark Tluszcz, joined our board.
“We were really privileged to attract a number of outstanding investors to the company. The investors we partnered with reflect the company’s global ambition.”
Would you recommend startups to go to VCs early on?
I think giving generic advice like this is not very helpful. For us it was the right fit, because in order to build a vibrant marketplace you need to make a marketing investment. For other companies, if they can afford to take a slower approach to finding a product-market fit, it may not always be necessary.
You recently raised $20 million. How will you spend the money?
We were really privileged to attract a number of outstanding investors to the company. The investors we partnered with reflect the company’s global ambition. From early on, we realized that we are addressing a need that is universal: how to find staff quickly and easily.
I was really influenced by an interview with Jeff Bezos some years ago where he talked about being focused on things that are not going to change. Focusing on what will remain unchanged is a key part of Amazon’s strategy. People want more selection, better prices, quicker delivery. In recruitment, employers want to find staff quickly and cost effectively, and they want to have a lot of control in the process. The better we can address these points, the better chance we have of building a successful global company.
We are developing the company and the product to address those needs. The international investors we attracted more recently, such as Accel Partners and Flint Capital, as well as our media partners, Atresmedia in Spain, Channel 4 in the UK and German Media Pool in Germany, reflect our goals for expansion. We want to continue to develop our market share and expand further in European markets and the United States.
What are the latest services you offer on Job Today?
Our desire to improve the experience for businesses and jobseekers never ceases. We bring new capabilities into the product. We recently launched web access to our platform for customers and are working on novel ways for businesses to access candidates in the coming months.
“We compare the number of jobs published on JOB TODAY versus the job boards on a regular basis, and we continue to see that our market share is increasing.”
How many people and nationalities do you have on your team?
We still are a relatively small team of 50 plus people. Our team is comprised of product development, sales and marketing, etc. And we have too many nationalities to count! France, Great Britain, Spain, Russia, Romania, Bulgaria, Poland… We’re a very international group.
Would you say Luxembourg is a good place to launch a startup and expand across Europe?
I think that Luxembourg can be great for startups. It’s getting better in terms of access to talent and general infrastructure. Even the building we are sitting in right now – Lux Future Lab – is a terrific place to be. The companies that are based here and the people they bring with them to Luxembourg – because many of them have hired people, like we did, from outside of Luxembourg – help the country develop a better ecosystem for entrepreneurship.
How do you know that things are working for Job Today?
We look at our market share very closely. We compare the number of jobs published on Job Today versus the job boards on a regular basis, and we continue to see that our market share is increasing. In Spain, we are approaching a dominant position in hospitality.
We are also sitting down with customers to get direct feedback and understand how we can improve the service. It’s been very rewarding to observe that in the first 10 minutes, they can receive up to 20 applications. Immediacy is a core part of our proposition and what drives the growth of JOB TODAY.
“The core of what we do is removing friction from the recruitment process – this is relevant to businesses in all sectors, globally.”
How do you imagine the future of Job Today?
We’re building Job Today to be two things: universal and useful. Millions of businesses will turn to our platform to find staff for a wide variety of jobs. Some of our jobseekers will be finding their calling for life and others a gig for the day. We look forward to the day when 100 million people open our apps every single day, because they feel Job Today makes their lives better and easier.
Do you expect to target other industries?
Hospitality is a great place for us to start. But already today, over half of the jobs advertised on Job Today are for beauticians, delivery drivers, healthcare providers, as well as some office jobs. The core of what we do is removing friction from the recruitment process – this is relevant to businesses in all sectors, globally.
This article was first published in SILICON magazine