10 Questions with Murad Saidov, Founder of Seed Jobs – A London Based Recruitment Startup

Oxford Grad Sultan Murad Saidov share’s his experiences building Seed Jobs, a London based recruitment startup who are helping recruiters make informed decisions on candidates who have a lack of work experience.

Murad, please introduce yourself…

I’m Murad, Founder and Co-CEO of Seed.jobs. We’re a London based tech company that’s creating a disruptive end-to-end software solution for small and medium sized employers looking to hire for entry level roles.

My professional background involves a mixtures of industry and start-up experiences, during which I’d spent around five years involved in graduate recruitment.

Directly before Seed I worked at Goldman Sachs in their commodities team in London, and while my co-founders have a mixture of backgrounds in finance and technology, we all had our own interesting involvements in graduate recruitment that brought us together behind the Seed project.

What’s the story behind creating Seed Jobs?

As with many start-up stories, Seed was founded out of frustration. In our case, we were surprised at how rarely people we knew leaving university seemed to end up in the job that suited their skill-sets and interests, and worse how many of the most talented people we knew had failed to find a full time job even a year after graduating.

Typically the problem seemed to be that people had either not applied to enough jobs or not known enough about the job market to know where their skills would be best applied – for instance, we knew almost nobody applying to work in start-ups despite knowing of many start-ups that were actively hiring.

So we started to do a bit of research in September 2012 into the pain-points of recruitment and another problem quickly emerged – this time from an employer perspective.

When it came to hiring young people without much work experience, the CV or resume was rarely a sufficient or even useful indicator of how employable someone without much experience would be.

The CV is a work-experience aimed format, and it’s difficult to make an informed decision on which candidate to interview without the kind of data-points needed to identify a good junior hire. The kind of information employers need to know about a junior applicant is rarely available without an interview – do they have the skills to hit the ground running, are they highly motivated and are they passionate about the role and industry?

Our research quickly became a large survey of dozens of employers and hundreds of students and recent graduates in what became a project with two aims: first, to reinvent the CV as an online profile aiming to best represent candidates without much worked experience, and second, to create a reversed recruitment process that provided employers with access to candidates that had not applied to them and to give those employers the tools to find the best candidates and assess them effectively.

We founded Seed in December last year and within the first few months we started seeing real validation from both candidates and employers, prompting us to quit our jobs and carry on writing the Seed story full-time.

What were the primary challenges you are facing launching Seed Jobs?

The primary challenge has been a chicken-and-egg-problem common to many marketplace start-ups: we needed to find candidates and employers simultaneously and we were very lucky to find a few early employers excited by our project who wanted to work with us while we still had only a small number of candidates and a very much unfinished product.

The next challenge was to remain flexible in evolving and improving our product consistently as we received more and more feedback from our users. This kind of development became less challenging after the first few months as we began to form a clear vision of our priorities.

What are the benefits of being based in London over other countries in the region?

Compared to other European cities, London is home to an incredible number of fast-growing start-ups and growing companies looking to hire, as well as a large number of talented job-seekers – especially from top UK universities.

In fact, despite being a small country the UK accounts for about 10% of global spending on recruitment, much of which is centred around London. We recently spent a bit of time in Berlin and are exploring a few other European cities as there are definitely opportunities for us to try other countries soon.

When growth allows you to expand into other markets, where will you consider and why?

I think for most business sectors, the U.S. tends to be the biggest market and as such one that every start-up tends to consider addressing, and the same is certainly true within recruitment and for our business.

However, more often than not, business ideas tend to originate in the U.S. and expand to other markets rather than the other way round, and it often makes more sense for European companies to replicate and improve upon U.S. successes.

In our case, I feel that there is an unfilled need for the solution Seed brings to problems with junior recruitment within the U.S. and it is an attractive, as well as an obviously large market for us.

A few of our early clients already have recruitment needs within the U.S., especially on the East Coast, so this is something we are considering in the near future

How do you see the startup ecosystem developing in London?

The start-up ecosystem in London seems to be going from strength to strength, especially as new hubs develop in areas such as Farringdon and even Southwark, alongside the existing thriving community around the “Silicon Roundabout”.

The big strength of having a growing start-up community is that it becomes easier to get connected and introduced not only to investors, but to clients and potential employees, particularly thanks to the growing number of meet-ups and conferences that bring people together within the tech community.

What advice can you share with entrepreneurs wanting to start or expand their business into the UK?

I think the most important advice I’ve heard is to question whether a certain country, the UK or otherwise, is the right one to expand into and to get in touch with companies and start-ups within your space before you move.

Whilst it does depend on your market, I think even speaking to potential competitors can be mutually beneficial and I would definitely recommend getting in touch with a number of businesses based in the UK to build a network and get some advice before choosing where and when to make the move.

London can be expensive, but I think placing yourself within reach of one of London’s emerging start-up communities is the quickest way to get exposure for your business within the UK.

What advice would you give to students wanting to come out of uni and start their own startup?

Whilst some of the most notable success stories within the start-up world come from uni and school drop-outs, most businesses started by students straight after uni fail, and while it can be a very valuable experience to just give it a go and “fail fast”, I think more often than not it’s important for students to get at least a little experience of working in another company – perhaps a year working within another start-up – before launching into their own venture.

There are lots of lessons to be learnt that will help avoid experiencing that statistically likely failure of your first start-up, particularly in terms of professional discipline when it comes to the execution of a start-up idea and really learning how to work in let alone build a team.

That said, plenty of bright students are able to figure these things out as they launch their idea, and often ideas are time-sensitive and waiting for 12 months might make it a lot more difficult to compete.

I think very few people launching their first company really do enough research into just how time-sensitive their ideas are and just how many competitors are out there.

Almost every start-up I’ve come across tends to discover an increasing number of competitors that had already existed several months into starting to work on their project.

The advice I would give in this sense would be two-fold – really do your research, and in the likely event that you find competition, really figure out exactly why your product or service will be valuable and to whom.

In most cases, there will be a way for you to differentiate yourself in a way that’s valuable to some group of people, and it’s important to work out what that way is (and for many ideas it’s worth working out whether people are willing to pay for it), and to test it out on the customers you expect to find it valuable before deciding that something is really going to work.

I think first start-up founders too often ignore the “build and test an MVP” advice, and I think it’s especially important to students coming out of uni. It’s tempting to dream big, but it’s typically better to start off patiently focusing on the details of an initial version of the product and getting some early validation and traction before figuring out how best to scale – or more often, how best to pivot the product and to go through the testing process again.

Beside recruitment, what startup opportunities do you see emerging in London right now?

There are obviously lots of emerging businesses in London, but I’ve noticed some particularly interesting businesses within the financial technology space, with some emerging bitcoin businesses being the ones I find most exciting, as well as within fashion, from apps to wearable technology.

What’s next for Seed Jobs?

Seed has been growing quickly, and the response from our users has been fantastic, but we are still in beta – a closed beta to employers – and there are many exciting features that we are still to release over the next weeks before we open ourselves to broader adoption. We are currently looking into expanding Seed beyond London, and the next 6 months look pretty exciting.

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