The Entrepreneur: Doug Monro, Adzuna
"Starting a business is stressful, overwhelming and not for everyone": The job search engine co-founder opens up on the highs and lows of business...
Co-founder: Doug Monro
Description in one line: Adzuna is a search engine for job ads used by over 10 million visitors per month that aims to list every job, everywhere.
Describe your business model and what makes your business unique:
Adzuna is a search engine for jobs created in 2011, by myself and Andrew Hunter, with the aim to list every job, everywhere and provide smarter search tools and powerful data about the job market to help job hunters take control of their careers.
What is your greatest business achievement to date?
There have been so many highlights in the last five years of the Adzuna journey, it’s hard to pick out just one. I think for me though, seeing our first international sites go live was one of the most memorable. After years of working in fast-growth, disruptive international businesses, finally taking my own venture international was a massive buzz. And that’s still the case today, 11 countries and five years later!
A close second place must go to Adzuna’s successful crowdfunding round in 2015, when we raised an additional £2.3m of finance and gained a wealth of new shareholders of all shapes and sizes – including a bunch of founders and CEOs of some incredible companies and even a celebrity DJ.
Opting to go to the crowd after previous VC rounds was a carefully thought out decision for us. Our users are of the utmost importance to us, and this move allowed them to become shareholders – we love the fact that crowdfunding brings a bigger community of people together to appreciate, and support, Adzuna's business model and become a real part of ‘Team Adzuna’.
What numbers do you look at every day in your business?
As well as revenue and traffic numbers, I like to look at how our users are engaging with the different elements of our site.
Stats on how many registered users we are gaining and how many potential job-seekers are reviewing their CV with our fantastic ValueMyCV tool are always interesting for me too.
To what extent does your business trade internationally and what are your plans?
Adzuna has grown at a pretty amazing rate – five years ago, the company was just myself, Andrew and a great idea. Today, we are in 11 countries, with millions of monthly users, and over 50 superstar employees. We manage all of these markets from our London office where we have a diverse, multi-national team, which creates a really special environment.
As for future expansion we are always looking at new countries … watch this space!
Describe your growth funding path:
We are unusual in having benefitted from almost the full range of different funding options – friends and family, business angels, government grants, seed funds like Passion Capital, top tier tech VCs like Index Ventures, and crowdfunding.
In our early days of seeking seed funding it would have been hard to believe that a few years down the line we would have multiple successful VC and crowdfunding rounds behind us and a business that now largely funds its own growth – but that is the reality.
What technology has made the biggest difference to your business?
Adzuna is founded on the idea that technology can solve problems, and we pride ourselves on using smart search to help people find more fulfilling jobs and take control of their career. To do that, we have developed all of our own proprietary technology to ensure the user experience is as good as it can possibly be. Dealing with thousands of unstructured data sources and hundreds of thousands of new and expiring ads each day is a big data challenge. It has all been built by our team in Perl, on top of open source technologies like Linux, Apache, MySQL and the fast freetext search engine SOLR.
Looking forward though, the tech that is changing our business the most is undoubtedly artificial intelligence and machine learning. These power the algorithms behind Jobsworth and ValueMyCV, and increasingly our search and matching of jobs to jobseekers.
Adzuna is already observing declines in certain key occupations as automation kicks in (examples include: typists, translators, data entry staff, supermarket cashiers etc). We’ve also seen the beginnings of the impact within our business itself. The future is definitely coming – and, I for one, am pretty excited about what that will look like.
Where would you like your business to be in three years?
Adzuna has big plans for the next three years, and will be continuing to build its core team, create more innovations to help jobseekers seize control of their job journey and our clients to fill their jobs, expand our global operations and shout even more about our brand.
We want to be a household name, used by tens of millions of job seekers a month and with tens of millions in revenue.
What is the hardest thing you have ever done in business?
Four years into our journey at Adzuna, I found that that my co-founder and friend Andrew had a serious illness. Not only did I have to deal with my own shock, but I also had to tell the team – as well as all our investors, colleagues and friends of his – and then reorganise the way we do almost everything within the company to deal with his absence.
Taking on the unexpected and sometimes lonely role of founder/CEO without that daily sparring partner has been a huge change and a big learning experience, and has given me huge respect for those sole founders out there. We are looking forward to having him back and well soon.
What was your biggest business mistake?
I have made many:
- Waiting too long building my CV and collecting qualifications when I should have struck out on my own sooner.
- Not always delegating enough.
- Hiring people we weren’t convinced about because we had a skills gap – or waiting too long to address it if that person wasn't working out. Unwinding people issues is always the most painful.
Piece of Red Tape that hampers growth most:
A simple one, but it's meetings. I’m sure it’s a pain point in almost every fast-paced business and every start-up begrudges lengthy and directionless meetings, but this is a particular bugbear of mine!
I once proposed that all meetings be capped at 25 minutes and be exclusively held standing up … but strangely, there wasn’t a lot of enthusiasm for this.
What is the most common serious mistake you see entrepreneurs make?
Without a doubt, underestimating how much time small everyday concerns can absorb, leaving alarmingly little opportunity to think strategically. It takes foresight, discipline and a great plan to avoid slipping into that trap.
How will your market look in three years?
The job market is changing before our eyes, and in just a few short years will look very different to the world we are used to. The advent of online and mobile job searching mean users expect instantaneous results, relevant jobs and excellent access wherever they are in the world.
Smart search, machine learning and automation of processes will continue to play an ever more important role in the coming few years. There are many administrative or manual steps currently done by people in the recruitment process that can be solved with technology.
What is the single most important piece of advice you would offer to a less experienced entrepreneur?
Don’t do it! Starting and running a business is stressful and overwhelming and not for everyone – it’s not the glamorous lifestyle choice that some make out.
If you must do it, be prepared for a tough journey, find a way to stay sane and don’t get distracted from the big picture.
Time. Time is tragically undervalued, and always in short supply!
Executive education or learn it on the job?
Learn it on the job. I think executive education can be extremely valuable but, for me, with a background in fast-growth technology companies, there is nothing that quite compares with the real-world experience of being a part of an exciting, disruptive organisation.
Five years in, with an MBA and decades of business experience under my belt, I can honestly say that I still learn something new every single day.
What would make you a better leader?
A crystal ball would be really handy and possibly a time machine too! In all seriousness, I am a great believer in investing time and trust in my team, and enabling them to make great decisions and believe in what we are building together.
Every employee at Adzuna, regardless of role, experience or length of tenure, is treated like an owner – and expected to act like one. It’s one thing about our business that I am extremely proud of.
What one thing do you wish you’d known when you started?
That sometimes there is no silver bullet.
One business app and one personal app you can’t do without:
I like Workflowy, a work list app that helps be keep on top of upcoming tasks – it is super-simple, and works well for both personal and professional projects, and that’s good enough for me. After all, what more can I ask of an app that is designed to make life easier?
I’m quite a fan of Contagious: Why Things Catch On by Jonah Berger but I’m always looking to expand the library so am open to suggestions!