Chris Smith

The founder on his new online recruitment marketplace

Name:Chris Smith
Staff numbers:
Company description:

Company name:  Founder: Chris Smith  Age: 39 Based: Milton Keynes Staff Numbers: 5 Date started: May 2010 Turnover: First year forecast circa £2m

Tell us what your business does is an online recruitment marketplace that connects employers to a nationwide network of recruitment agencies and headhunters. Employers post a job, free and anonymously, along with the fee they are prepared to pay to fill the role, and then recruitment agencies and headhunters bid to get engaged to fill the role.

Where did the idea for your business come from? I had been thinking about how the recruitment industry needed to change in the UK and how enabling an employer to harness true market forces could do this. is the result.

How did you know there was a market for it? What’s your USP (unique selling point)? I have worked in recruitment for over 15 years and the one constant is that employers want more value and better service.  There are a number of USPs, the biggest ones being that our recruiters can bid lower than the fee that the employer wants to pay and that they can have absolute confidence in who they engage with through our YouRate system, which is an ‘eBay-style’ rating from employers who have used the agency before.

What were you doing before starting up? I’d taken a year out after selling ecrmpeople, which was a recruitment business I started in my bedroom and built up to a £12m enterprise – it was acquired in 2007 by the Interquest Group. I left at the beginning of 2009 to spend some time with my wife and kids.

Have you always wanted to run your own business? Yes. You truly become the master of your own destiny and if you get it right and always delight your customers you can make a lot of money!

What planning did you do before you started up? I spoke to a lot of employers, to recruiters of all shapes and sizes, and to some trusted industry leaders.  The general sentiment was threefold; employers want to save money, recruiters want more and new revenue opportunities, and fundamentally, recruitment agencies source and deliver the best talent into any business.

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With regards to a business plan outside of the numbers, we generally keep things fluid. It’s crucial to me that change is built into everything we do, it keeps things fresh and drives us to innovate.

How did you raise the money? I have funded the business with some of the proceeds from selling ecrmpeople. 

How did you find suppliers? The opportunity for recruiters to capture new revenue that they otherwise would not have is quite compelling. As such we have been able to screen and select only the best companies to join the marketplace.

What challenges have you faced and how have you overcome them? The greatest challenge we face is simply getting the brand out there. All the employers who have used the site have been blown away by the way it delivers and have come back. We are all working to build awareness and we now have significant traction and momentum in the market.

Where is your business based? We are presently in Milton Keynes and Newcastle. We are also exploring the possibility of a number of international partnerships mostly in emerging markets.

How have you promoted your business? What has proved successful and what won’t you do again? We are pretty much ticking as many boxes as we can, ranging from face-to-face sales and networking, through to telesales and various web marketing activities. We spent several thousands of pounds on SEO far too early – we would have been wiser to hold off doing that until we had initial traction.

How much do you charge? How did you decide this? is free to use for both employers and recruiters. Employers only pay the fee upon success and we take 15% of said fee passing the rest through to the successful agency.

What about staff – how many do you have? Presently we number five staff, which is expected to increase again towards the end of the year.

What has your growth been like? Growth has been great – we are seeing more and more employers “recruiting smarter” through us and we are right on forecast to date.

What’s the impact on your home life been like? Honestly I can become a bit obsessed with the business at times, but my family are great and they are, after all, the reason I push myself forward.

What would you say the greatest difficulty has been in starting up? In starting this business I was guilty at times of assuming it would be a same and similar experience as starting my previous one. I learnt very quickly that building an online business requires a very different set of skills.

What was your first big breakthrough? When we made our first placements – that was a real Eureka moment because we knew it worked!

What would you do differently? I would be more selective in choosing PR partners – the guy we have now is great, but if I’m honest my inexperience in that space showed in the first company we engaged.

What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs? Do it and fear nothing – it’s better to fail than not try!

Where do you want to be in five years’ time? Do you have an exit plan? We want to become an established normal way to recruit staff and save money! We also want to raise as much as possible for our charity partner – Make a Wish Foundation UK.



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