Digerati50: No wobbly ground for the youths

  • Derek Toh positions WOBB as the answer for those seeking millenial talent
  • Guided by vision to eradicate Asian youth unemployment, increase worth  

The vision to eradicate youth unemployment and increase their worth compelled Derek Toh to leave his corporate job two weeks after dreaming up WOBB.

Digital News Asia (DNA) continues its series that profiles 50 influencers who are helping shape Malaysia’s Digital Economy, from Digerati50 2020-2021 (Vol 4), a special biennial print publication released in July 2020. The digital copy can be downloaded from the sidebar link.

The following article is an expanded version of the print edition.

Derek Toh wants millennials to work things out. More specifically, he wants them to work things out in an environment allows them to retain that youthful spark and energy. He wants them to find the right jobs, so that they have the strong foundations to make good life decisions.

The result of that is WOBB, the Gen Y-specialised job search portal that he founded and is chief executive officer of. WOBB, which stands for “Working on Bean Bags”, is focused primarily on work culture – the platform essentially allows job-seekers to immerse themselves in a workplace, to understand its culture and quirks, before they make a decision.

This focus towards the transparency of company culture has spoken well to the hearts of jobseekers, employers and investors alike. WOBB was founded in 2014, with the website and mobile app launching in 2015. In about two years, it went from 3,000 to 60,000 jobseekers. As of end June 2020, the platform recorded over 2.3 million job applications.

Derek first raised funds in 2015 from angel investors in Hong Kong and Australia, coupled with two grants from Cradle in 2015 and 2017 that total US$157,000 (RM650,000). In August 2019, WOBB announced a Series A investment of US$1.3 million (RM5.4 million) from CAC Capital, Accord Ventures and Actcelerate International Group, from a funding round arranged by Cradle.


Making that job pairing more effective for employers & job seekers

Besides netting millennials jobs, WOBB is also addressing a gap in hiring. According to PWC, millennials will form 50% of the global workforce by end 2020. What WOBB does is more effectively pair employers to jobseekers that meet their needs.

“Businesses want to hire quality young talent for many reasons. Whether they are already a digital business or currently pursuing digitisation of their business, or whether they need their workforce to be able to relate to their consumers, many companies increasingly recognise the need for young talent to help them adapt to the new world. Covid-19 has clearly accelerated this need,” he says.

“And to succeed in hiring these young talent, businesses need a platform that specialises in them. Mass market, text based platforms don’t offer the experience and that critical human touch that young talent want.”

That’s not to say that WOBB isn’t technologically-minded. In 2018, WOBB announced their proprietary artificial intelligence (AI) driven virtual interview platform called Aivi. This is combined with analytics in the back-end to improve the accuracy of matching employers and jobseekers. The human touch, however, is still emphasised.

“Our belief, however, is that both employers and jobseekers want much more than just better matching, and matching by itself doesn’t solve recruitment problems. When it comes to recruitment, we are focused on bringing the human touch to the digital world,” he emphasises.

This can be seen through WOBB’s work culture focused features, such as allowing jobseekers to watch videos ­and view photos of the workplace and its employees. This leads to a more recent inclusion of a video cover letter feature, affording employers the same rich media experience.

WOBB is also actively encouraging positive practices in the realm of job searches. For one, the platform promises fast employer response rates – a feat achievable by focusing on a specific group of employees rather than going for volume.

“Employers, therefore, get less CVs but higher quality and more relevant ones. That makes it easier for an employer to get to the right talent faster, and therefore respond faster. We believe flooding an employer with irrelevant CVs makes it slower to find the right one, and employers often miss relevant CVs because they are overwhelmed,” he explains.

The Series A funding is for WOBB’s plans to dominate Gen Y hiring in Asia. At the moment, it is operating in Malaysia with an online presence in Manila. An Indonesia presence was planned for late 2020, but owing to the Covid-19 outbreak, the timeline has changed with a direct approach less likely versus appointing a country partner.


Goal – eradicate Asian youth unemployment, increase their worth

WOBB has big goals – the key one being to eradicate Asian youth unemployment and increasing their worth. It’s a mountain which Derek has described as “a vision to guide us about what we want to achieve in future, and helps us think about how we build our foundations to achieve that vision.”

This vision is what powers him and compelled him to leave his corporate job two weeks after dreaming up WOBB. He was an executive with Ernst & Young UK, as well as an associate director (Technology and Human Resources) with Robert Walters Malaysia.

A part of the pioneer batch of founders who went for the Stanford-MaGIC Entrepreneurship Programme, he has also served as a mentor for McKinsey & Company’s Youth Leadership Academy.

He can’t imagine doing anything else besides this. “I’m quite lucky because WOBB is a commercial business that has a very important social element to it - helping people get the right jobs and building a career. I would not say we are a social enterprise but it often feels like it, and it gives me a lot of meaning,” he says.

“Also, our goal of trying to scale that human touch to the digital world brings a certain magic to my work, I can’t imagine anything else more interesting than this right now.”

Keeping this humanity in mind is a perspective that running WOBB has inculcated into him. “Building a tech startup in recruitment is significantly different from other internet based businesses, and much of the common advice that’s effective for other startups won’t be enough for a recruitment startup,” he says.

“Simply because we are dealing with people, not products. People who are diverse in mindsets and skillsets, and have a choice whether they want to apply to certain jobs or not. Which comes back to my earlier point that simply ‘matching’ job vacancies to the right talent is just scratching the surface. It doesn’t take into account the human element of the recruitment process. “

While he is focused on helping millennials to build better careers, for those who want to take the road less travelled and rocky and venture out as entrepreneurs, he has this piece of advice.

"Be someone that great talent want to work for. This is a major factor in determining whether a company just stays as a small business (and eventually gets overtaken by competitors), or be one that can scale into a large formidable company."

Digerati50 2020/2021 is proudly sponsored by Maxis - Powering Malaysia's 5G era.

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