Job Forward launches Startup Essence with ‘6-figure’ seed fund
By A. Asohan February 9, 2015
- Singapore startup out to ‘transform social media recruitment’ with boost from Coent
- Other Asean markets to be tested too, but aiming for critical mass out from Singapore
SINGAPORE-based online social recruitment platform Job Forward said it has secured “six-figure” seed funding from Coent Venture Partners and has launched its Startup Essence service.
Startup Essence would empower startups and SMEs (small and medium enterprises) to create recruitment pages to attract and engage talent, Job Forward said in a statement.
The company aims to establish a new channel for startups and SMEs to reach out to talents with the perfect fit for their company culture, it added.
Job Forward was coy about the exact funding it received from Coent Venture, citing a disclosure policy with its investors, but chief executive officer Yoshiaki Ieda said the seed funding will not only be used for product and business development, but also potential market expansion.
Testing will be done in “multiple Asean countries, with the goal of expanding further into the region from Singapore,” he told Digital News Asia (DNA) via email.
Ieda said the team is now spread across Malaysia, Vietnam, India, Nepal, and Singapore, “with no specific plans to further expand with this particular investment funding.”
Job Forward was founded in December 2013, and prior to this seed funding round, it had two individual angel investors. It also won the People’s Choice Awards at Echelon 2014 in Singapore.
According to a Manpower Group survey in 2014, 36% of employers have difficulties finding candidates to fill open positions, with particular issues faced by the startup community such as a limited network to tap into.
Job Forward said it aims to solve this hiring issue by addressing an obstacle that is oftentimes overlooked: The importance that company culture plays into attracting passionate talent.
The Startup Essence tool allows startups and SMEs to create customisable, visually impactful company recruitment websites that showcase the key characteristics of the company to potential new hires, and to make it easier for new hires to identify the chemistry that might pull them to one company over another.
It not only integrates social media and online recruitment, but is also a solution for companies that are struggling to engage with the right pool of talent, Ieda said in an official statement.
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Ieda (pic) was previously regional marketing manager at Procter & Gamble, and before that was with Japanese information services and recruitment company Recruit.
“With my experience at the No 1 HR (human resource) conglomerate in Japan, and with my experience in the South-East Asian region for three years, I realised that the online recruiting market in Asean was not as mature as it is in the United States and Japan, and from there saw opportunities to improve the market,” he told DNA.
“As the startup ecosystem in Singapore is picking up, so is the need to have brilliant, innovative minds run and support them [startups] – there formed a natural problem to find the right talent for this specific ecosystem.
“Job Forward seeks to leverage the growing trend of social media to revolutionise the way startups are finding these talents,” he declared.
Ieda has been living in Singapore for more than three years, and chose Singapore as the first market to launch Job Forward.
“Firstly because we can offer our product in English, and secondly, because my personal network extends here, so I will hopefully be able to reach a critical mass for Job Forward … we aim to become the No 1 social recruiting platform in all regions,” he said.
But what exactly differentiates Job Forward from the countless online recruitment sites already out there, and which have become a way of life for both job-seekers and HR professionals? And what value-proposition does Job Forward offer that isn't already available on LinkedIn, which is being increasingly used as a recruitment platform?
“Online recruitment sites are simply job listing sites. Job Forward’s focus is to distribute job opportunities through social media – to connect job-seekers to employers through multiple social media channels, with LinkedIn just being one of the many platforms that Job Forward will use,” said Ieda.
“Typically, only active job-seekers will leverage traditional job listing sites. Through distribution via social media outlets, Job Forward is able to reach out to not only active job-seekers, but also passive job-seekers who might not know of better opportunities because they are not actively looking, but would be interested once they saw a better position available.
“Given that Job Forward is a platform for job post distribution, and because content and distribution are equally important, by leveraging Startup Essence, startups and SMEs can create the content that will further retain the interest generated by the distributed job posts,” he added.
With Job Forward’s focus on startups and SMEs, what else would it be doing to reach out to these two communities?
“One of the challenges of startups and SMEs is that their network of talent pool is much smaller than larger [companies and] multinationals,” said Ieda.
“To help them overcome this issue, we are seeking to partner with big recruiting firms to create more job posts to distribute among these networks, to not restrict the talent pool to only larger companies, but allow startups and SMEs to enter as well,” he added.
From a Japanese conglomerate and a multinational background, what challenges did Ieda face with his venture into entrepreneurism?
“Forming the first team was not very easy because I did not want to compromise skill set for vision. I needed people who could share my passion, and dedicate several years of our lives to it – and also, I needed a specific skill set to achieve this vision,” he said.
“So finding the first team members who could share my vision and my skill set were very tough – especially since as a startup, and being relatively new to Singapore, I had a small talent pool to draw from,” he added.
Filling a gap
Coent Venture Partners provides seed and venture-stage funding. Its previous investments are Prenetics, a bio-technology company focused on providing parents a higher level of pre-natal care; and QLL Pte Ltd, a Taiwanese company which develops language learning apps.
“With Job Forward CEO Yoshiaki Ieda’s global experience in HR and marketing, we have great confidence that he will be able to drive Job Forward towards innovating social recruiting in Asia,” said Coent Venture Partners cofounder and chief executive officer Hideki Fujita (pic).
“We strongly believe in Job Forward’s initiative to take advantage of the space between social media and online recruitment to grow a solution that we see a lot of startups and young firms face – they simply are not able to cast a wide enough net to seek out suitable hires.
“Startup Essence delivers a solution that is extremely intuitive, but fresh – which is something we like seeing at Coent,” he added.
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