9. February 2012–
EXCLUSIVE – Berlin-based Somewhere launches in private beta this weekend. VentureVillage chats with founder Justin Murray to get the detailed lowdown on the coolest new way to find a job with his new quirky resume creator…
Yes, the CV needs to be disrupted. Yes, this Aussie’s the one to do it. Yes, you will want to use it. The only question is: How soon?
It took us about 10 minutes and four PowerPoint slides into our meeting with Somewhere founder Justin McMurray to feel convinced. Was it the clarity of interface? The enormous list of use cases? The Aussie accent? The fact that (one of our hometown favorites) Tweek was in the trial round? We’re still counting…
Justin McMurray: Who is he? And why is his mission for ‘job joy’ so convincing?
McMurray’s first job was in brand strategy at IBM’s office in Sydney at the age of 21. “It took me years to realize that it was a fantastic company, but not the right fit for me,” he said over cappuccinos at Peaberries down the street from VV’s office. “Finding a job is not a problem for technology to solve. I believe it happens over the table.”
Twelve months ago, while working at Made by Many in London, McMuray recruited a 23-year-old girl without any position in mind. “The best people I’ve hired come from organic settings like parties or dinners where there’s a natural shared culture.”
We met McMurray as it turns out at an EyeEm party a few weeks back. We’re both from out of town, and we’ve both (like the rest of the world) swallowed the job-search process as a necessary evil. We could not be more thrilled to see that someone was tackling the problem creatively.
After working in a social innovation startup in Sydney, McMurray moved to London where he skipped around a few digital innovation companies and finally landed in Berlin six months ago. “For the first three months, we tried to help people find the things like love (in an embryonic stage called ‘Vocatr’),” he said.
“We worked on building up libraries, databases, and all sorts of other algorithms for searching and profiling. After awhile, we realized that automated models was the wrong approach.”
It’s not about what you do. It’s about where you are: Enabling cultural fits, for both applicants and employers
Now the Aussie and his lightweight team of international co-founders and interns are busy building a job platform that will make the gruelling, traditionally black-and-white process of job searching a whole lot cooler, for applicants and businesses alike. “The CV is historically a record of your skills and life,” McMurray explains. “But what about what photos you’ve taken, what music you like, the first concert you ever went to? Employers are actually really interested to hear this stuff.”
99% of hires are last-minute acts of desperation. Everyone knows the situation of: “Damn. We need a developer and fast. OK, let’s post a job listing. Five people apply. This one seems best, I guess we’ll try him out. Because, if not…well. We’re screwed.” Somewhere is targeting those companies who say on one page of their website “We’re always looking. If you’re great, get at us.”
Introducing Somewhere: an interactive way to meet an applicant. And vice versa
On Somewhere (launching private beta this weekend), both applicants and businesses alike create profiles which represent themselves from many angles (not just a linear stream of where they’ve worked and gone to school.) Imagine pictures from Facebook, your favorite SoundCloud track, clips from your personal blog, your most-visited websites, etc. Beyond the profiles, companies build data-rich custom question sets that let companies ask applicants questions specific to their drive, culture, and mission.
“So, say you’re interested in applying to Tweek,” McMurray says. “By clicking on Tweek’s profile, job searchers will receive a specific list of interactive questions.” They could ask stuff like, “What would you cook the team if you had us over to dinner? (this suggestion offered by Tweek founder Marcel Duee himself)” or “Can you Photoshop this image for us? We want to see what your ideal evening television set would look like! (that one’s ours..)”
They’re skipping all automated models like Myers Briggs and related personality tests. “They’re too abstract,” McMurray adds, “People have a hard time telling you what they’re looking for if you ask them.”
On the business side of profiles, applicants will be able to browse through pics and bios of the founders, read mission statements, watch videos… flip through Office Insider shots, maybe? Imagine exploring a company like
Why we like them: 1. They’re focusing on startups
“When we were first deciding on our target market, I used the phrase interesting companies,” McMurray says, “I liked it because it was vague, somewhat why I like the name ‘Somewhere.’ But pretty soon, I decided what I meant: The jobs that have been most interesting to me are often the small ones that go under the traditional job-searching radar, either because they’re not actively hiring or they don’t have huge HR departments.”
In the U.S., 32% of the employment market is built of companies with five to 99 employees. These two million enterprises employ 32 million people. Whether all 32 million are happy is unlikely, but this is where the Somewhere team thinks there’s the highest chance of job satisfaction. Or, as McMurray calls it, “job joy.”
“These companies are also highly unique,” says McMurray, “meaning there’s no standard way for them to present their culture to an applicant.”
“It’s not a problem, it’s an opportunity.” (Then adds, laughing, “Oh God, I’m starting to sound like my Dad.”)
2. They’re targeting urban markets, (not national ones) and Berlin, specifically
Which cities are on the launch list? For now, London, Berlin, New York, San Francisco, and Sydney. In the past few months, the Somewhere team has worked with four “perfect” companies in each city testing out the product and getting feedback. In Berlin, they worked with Tweek, MoviePilot, and EyeEm. With Berlin’s instinct toward coworking, networking, and engagement, it’s a natural platform for our professional habitat.
3. They’re trying to make the recruitment process cheaper
The cost of hiring consumes is about 10-30% of a first-year salary. From HR and flights to valuable time spent interviewing unfit candidates, Somewhere is looking recruitment-waste straight in the eye. “To get a sense of just how expensive recruitment is, we looked at Albion, a digital advertising agency in London,” McMurray explained. “They recruited 6 people in one year, and it cost them about 15,000 pounds.” Somewhere’s business model is not the most developed aspect of the company’s current status, but McMurray suggested the plan is to begin with a low monthly subscription rate and go from there. “We want to help you screen 5-50 people a month and find the perfect one. That would be success to us.”
4. They’re not desperate for investors
At a Team Europe’s CEO party last night, Point Nine Capital‘s Fabian Westerheide told VentureVillage: “You want to give finance a company that will succeed without your funding, but will succeed even more so with it.”
McMurray bootstrapped the company 100% on his own. When the topic of funding comes up, he asks us who we trust and if I can recommend any specific angels. He doesn’t want to work with an incubator because he wants to keep full control of management and has the experience to build a company primarily on his own. The only pitching they’ve done so far was at HackFwd ( two days after they pivoted.) “We want to remain independent until we find the right fit.”
In this culture of sharks and desperados, this makes a very good impression. “Right now we’re talking to some German, US, and UK investors, but we’re not jumping on anything too fast,” McMurray tells me. “My co-founder and I are both in our 30’s and have been in the business for awhile. We know the problem. We know how to solve it. We don’t need that much assistance getting it up and running.”
5. Last but not least: They don’t have a cheesy name
“I was sick of all the ‘start-upey’ names that change one letter or make a pun out of something,” McMurray said. “Why Somewhere? It’s the place we all want to be. It made sense.”