2Vouch - Linkedin of Australia

Today we showcase an exciting and interesting startup from Melbourne, Australia, 2Vouch - a social recruiting site that helps employers and recruiters find hard-to-reach people. It was founded by Riges Younan.

I further explored 2Vouch and how Riges is progressing with his venture in a candid interview with him. This is what he has to say:

• Please tell us about yourself, your background and interests?
I am currently the founder and CEO of 2Vouch a Social Recruiting site. I have over 12 years of professional executive search and recruiting experience gained in Sydney, Melbourne, London and New York. I have been responsible for the successful launch of five start-up recruiting offices for various firms as well as the development and deployment of sophisticated sourcing techniques & processes that lead to superior results for clients. I bring deep industry knowledge and extensive sales, marketing and management experience to 2Vouch.

• What is the name of your venture/company?
2Vouch – vouching is what we are asking our members to do when they recommend someone they know and trust for a job.

• Please tell us about your venture/company?
2Vouch is a social recruiting site that helps employers and recruiters find hard-to-reach people. It uses social networks to provide referrals to people who would consider a better opportunity if it is presented by someone they know and trust. Customers pay 2Vouch for successful placements, and 2Vouch rewards the referrer with cash incentives.

• Who are the people behind this and how it started?
Over a decade of executive recruiting experience has clearly shown that referrals are the best source of talent. Many firms have informal internal employee referral programs and every professional has received calls saying “Hey, I’m trying to find an XYZ person, do you know anyone?”. The process, technology and tracking of those referrals, however, were ad hoc and inefficient. So we decided to help solve the problem of sourcing people in talent-short industries (like IT, engineering, etc) by building a web-based system that uses referrals, social networks and rewards to bring employers & recruiters together with “passive candidates” automatically, quickly and cost-effectively and 2Vouch was born!

About a year ago I met Jeremy Samuel via a ‘referral’ and after an hour's lunch we decided to work together, Jeremy has made an extraordinary contribution to building 2Vouch and we make a great partnership.

Jeremy brings over 11 years of experience in marketing, sales, product and project management and consulting in the information technology and telecommunications sector. He has launched three start-up businesses, delivering large-scale projects, and business strategies and has been responsible for selling complex technology solutions to leading corporate clients. Jeremy has a Master of Science in Cognitive Science and an MBA.

• How long it took before it was up and running?
2Vouch was incorporated in September of 2006 and is due to launch in July 2008.
What is the main objective/mission behind your venture?
Our Vision: 2Vouch will provide high-quality & relevant referrals for every professional job vacancy in the world

• What services does it provide for consumers or customers?
2Vouch offers employers and recruiters the ability to reach passive candidates who come with personal recommendations. We deliver a wide distribution of their job listings through blogs and social networks and provide tools to review and manage referrals. Best of all, clients pay nothing until they hire or place someone.

For professionals, the offer is cash rewards (and enhanced social capital and network standing) for referring people they know and recommend to job opportunities. We allow members to automatically track their referrals and payments, manage their contacts, show interest in positions and apply directly if they wish. The system allows referrers to donate some or all of their referral reward to a charity of their choice.

• What type of customers you are targeting?
Companies want to hire skilled and professional talent, and recruiters looking for the same talent for their clients. Our focus initially will be the ICT community.
Professionals – People who like to help friends/colleagues (and be rewarded both financially & reputationally for it)

• How many people are using your services?
N/A launch in July 2008

• What sort of marketing you are using to spread the word?
2Vouch will be promoted primarily online via email, pay-per-click advertising and content distribution to a wide range of publications and blogs. The online promotions will be supported by a tiered publicity campaign that will focus on reaching key influencers directly, providing targeted relevant stories to industry-specific publications and general publicity to the business press. We have also built partnerships with key associations, charities and business schools.

• What is the monetizing/revenue model? Is there any new model, which is being tried?
We are introducing an innovative Pay Per Hire Model. If free to use and advertisers only pay when hiring or placing someone. We also provide a money-back guarantee

• Which are the main competitors or major players in this market segment?
We have competitors in the UK and the US

What are the main technologies used behind this venture?
Our platform is written in Python under the Django framework. We use a range of open-source development tools and databases along with some key commercial tools.
What has been the easiest to use, out-of-the-box and helpful technology? n/a – it’s all custom development

• What is your operating environment (operating system) and what type of database you are using?
We have a mix. Some of the platform runs on Linux and some tools use Windows. Our main database is on PostGRE.

• What’s your thought on being an entrepreneur? How tough it is to start a venture in Australia?
My view is that there is a major gap between the 3F / Angel round and the VC round when seeking funding in Australia. This is a very challenging growth stage and access to sufficient capital to get to scale and compete with global offerings is challenging.

• What’s your thought on the start-up culture and innovation coming out of Australia, especially in media and telecom?
I attended the Aussie top 100 Web 2.0 apps launch in Sydney recently, and I came away with a very reassuring sense of community with the Web 2 space. There are some very interesting businesses being built in Australia that are world-class. There seems to be a great willingness among web2-preneurs at various stages to share ideas, lessons and information to help the community as a whole develop. Let’s hope that the investment community backs these ventures.

• Do you have any advice for people who want to start their venture?
Talk to customers first, understand their problems, find out how much they would pay to solve that problem and then try and solve it. Fail fast, cheap and iterate.

• How many business partners do you have?

• Any women business partners?

• Any external funding – from VC, Govt, Self-funded
Received a COMET grant. Then self-funded.

• Which City you are based in?

• Do you have any business advisor/mentor?
Yes, and we are about to announce some high-profile people joining our team very soon.

Thanks, Riges for sharing your thoughts with us. All the best for the future.

For coverage on other Australian startups, innovation, and tech trends check this out our coverage on interviews can be found here