FIRING SQUAD: SBOJ.com's CEO Nick Gray
There's already too many staffing solutions in the UK, right? Nay! says this month's Firing Squad guest, SBOJ (it's jobs backwards, get it?). Let's just see how right this start-up really is on this Talroo exclusive.
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Announcer: Like Shark Tank? Then you'll love Firing Squad. Chad Sowash and Joel Cheesman are here to put the recruiting industry's bravest, ballsiest, and baddest startups through the gauntlet to see if they've got what it takes to make it out alive. Dig a foxhole and duck for cover, kids. The Chad and Cheese Podcast is taking it to a whole other level.
Joel: Aw, yeah.
Chad: Here we are.
Joel: Let's do another Firing Squad because our fans love it. All right, guys. Today we have, geez, I'm going to say this wrong. SBOJ, which is-
Joel: Yeah, Spooge is what we're calling it. But it's SBOJ.com. We have Nick Gray, CEO and Londoner. Nick, welcome to the Firing Squad.
Nick: Hey, and thank you very much for having me. It's an honor.
Joel: Hope you've got your bulletproof vest on today.
Nick: Yes. Well, there's plenty around in London, so your president tells us.
Joel: Yeah. Hey, with your prime minister, I'm not sure you can talk.
Nick: No, exactly. You're not wrong. He's the Britain Trump, isn't he?
Joel: Yes, yes. Well, we know that you know the rules of the firing squad, but some of our listeners don't. So Chad, why don't you run through the dilly dilly?
Chad: All right. All right, Nick, you will have two minutes to pitch SBOJ, Spooge. At the end of two minutes, you're going to hear the bell. Then Joel and I are going to hit you with rapid fire Q&A. If your answers start rambling, then Joel's gonna hit you with the crickets, and that's your signal to move along and tighten up your game. At the end of Q&A, we're going to grade you with either big applause. You should at this point, get your bank account ready because you knocked it out of the fucking park. A golf clap, you're getting there, but you can do better.
Joel: Got some work to do.
Chad: Yeah, you have lots of work to do. Or, the firing squad. Hit the bricks, close up shop, pull out the drawing board because that shit sucks, but that's the firing squad. Do you have any questions?
Nick: No, that all sounds very clear. Hopefully I don't get the last one.
Chad: Excellent. Okay, Joel, let's do this.
Joel: Ready, Nick?
Nick: Yes, go for it.
Joel: Two minutes starting.
Nick: SPOJ.com is a new platform which disrupts the employer-recruiter relationship. Taking the example of real estate, 15 years ago when you were looking for a property you'd visit the local estate agents, who would then send you houses in your budget they thought that you'd like. Now you use an online platform, such as Zoopla in the UK or Zillow in the U.S., and you search for the house you'd like, and are then put in touch with the agent that represents it.
Nick: Essentially, staffing firms still work in the same way that realtors used to. Employers recruit in three ways, one by advertising roles and getting direct hires; two, by using an in-house team to scrape LinkedIn, their network, and to leverage referrals to find direct hires; and three, by using recruiters or staffing companies.
Nick: SBOJ just focuses on number three. It's a tool for in-house teams to use alongside their ATS which aggregates and manages all of their applications from recruiters. There are lots of staffing firms, so employers manage noise from recruiters by having a PSL, a list of recruiters they can deal with. I always thought this was kind of stupid because, one, the perfect candidate might be using a recruiter they don't deal with, and two, all of the recruiters who are not on the PSL constantly call up the employer to try and get on it.
Nick: SBOJ screens existing relationships, manages duplication, and reduces conflict with recruiters, plus allows an employer to use any recruiter on guaranteed terms. No humans are involved; everything is processed by algorithms. SBOJ just manages the introduction. Recruiters still do the same stuff they do now, and employers can still protect their employer brand in the same way. The difference is just that the starting point for the relationship is our platform.
Nick: For employers, SBOJ immediately manages all noise from recruiters and in the longer term will allow them to search an aggregated database to recruiters candidates, like you now do on Zillow for houses, which isn't something that they've been able to do until now. SBOJ is completely free for employers to use, so it's been conceived as a bit of a no-brainer. There are also a lot of reasons why recruiters want to use it too. We just got a big investment from a former Dragons' Den investor, which is obviously a huge stamp of approval. To find out more, please visit SBOJ.com or email me, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Chad: Very good.
Joel: Tight patch. Did you write that down?
Nick: I've been doing it all morning.
Joel: That's what I'm talking about.
Nick: Thank you. I tried it with my girlfriend earlier, and I was sort of adlibbing it, and I'd got about a third of the way through it and she's like, "That's two minutes."
Joel: Yeah, we are typically disappointed by CEO pitches, but that one was pretty damn good.
Chad: Significant investment from Dragon's Lair star, is it Richard Farleigh?
Nick: Yeah, Richard Farleigh. Dragons' Den is kind of the same as your Shark Tank. I think, well, we kind of invent ... Well, I think actually the Japanese invented it. Then we had Dragons' Den, and then you had Shark Tank like three or four years afterwards.
Chad: Yeah, so were you on Dragons' Den?
Chad: How'd you get his attention?
Nick: No. So basically, we kind of knew a couple of sort of mutual people on LinkedIn and I sent him a few emails and he said, "Oh yeah, yeah, yeah, it sounds kind of interesting," and then he didn't really come back to me at all. And he kept looking at my profile and I was like, "Well, you know, if you're going to look at my profile then you need to hear what I want to say." And so effectively I went along and met him and another guy.
Nick: It took about six months of loads of meetings and so on and so forth because I think he's very careful with what he does, obviously, which is why I didn't get into the position he is. But he's backed a lot of companies. He tends to do larger investments with far more established companies. But he's a nice guy. We kind of get well, and I think he can see that he can make a bit of a difference with it and we can perhaps do something cool with it.
Chad: Do you know if he's investing in this industry at all right now? Are you the only investment he has in this industry?
Nick: I think I'm the only investment that he has specifically in recruitment. I don't know a sort of recruitment tech, but I don't really know. He's got his fingers in a lot of pies, put in that way. Funnily enough, actually, I think he was replaced on Dragons' Den by James Caan, who came up in one of your recent podcasts, I think, cause you were mentioning his name, saying, "Oh, Caan. Is that the actor or ..."
Joel: What was it about you guys that that kind of sold him? What was the appeal?
Nick: Well, I think it's because it's a market that everybody knows and a lot of people have dealt with. I think a lot of his companies obviously deal with it from the other end of the stick, in the fact that they have a lot of recruiters that are chasing them around and not necessarily always giving them a great service. But often, they want to use recruiters cause they've got good people and they want to hire people. And, obviously, it was my natural brilliance and so on and so forth that pushed him in my direction. But it just kind of, you know, we got on well and it was a point where we needed some money because it's been a very difficult thing to develop and it's cost us a lot of money and time and so on and so forth.
Chad: I got to get to the name. So I initially thought it was Spooge.
Chad: It's SBOJ.
Nick: Yeah, SBOJ.
Chad: If you get the firing squad, you can always pivot to Spooge and make it a different content site. So how did you come up with the name? What's the story? Is it a pain in the ass on sales calls to say, "Hey, I'm Nick with SBOJ"?
Nick: Not really. I don't think it's been much of an issue. I think having a short domain and obviously a .com is, because we've got plans to be able to just not do things outside the UK. So having that was ... And, obviously, it's jobs backwards. So it was kind of-
Nick: ... That was kind of the pull. Actually, one of my colleagues came up with it rather than me. But I tracked down the guy who owned it in the States and we paid him a bit of money for it, and it was literally about 10 years ago we bought it.
Chad: So anybody with dyslexia would have known what the name was. I mean, that's pretty ... Because until you just said that, I was like, "Oh shit, you gotta be fucking kidding me."
Nick: Yeah. Well it's jobs backwards. It's one of those things. And really, it's not something that you kind of ... It needs to be explained to you how it works and how we fit into the ecosystem. So when I go along to people and say, "Oh yeah, well it's called SBOJ cause it's jobs backwards, people are always like, "Ah, great. Okay, it makes sense now. Yep."
Joel: That should be part of your logo, literally. It should be SBOJ, and then at the bottom, jobs backwards.
Chad: There's no question.
Nick: Yeah. It's jobs backwards. Otherwise, you'd just come up with a random name.
Joel: Now we've fixed your company. We're good to go. Thanks.
Chad: BountyJobs has worked this concept for about a decade, probably over a decade, and they're still not a big player. What makes you think SBOJ can break out and make it big?
Nick: Well, I think there's some differences with BountyJobs. I'm not massively familiar with it, but a lot of the things that have, they kind of ... What SBOJ does is it aggregates the noise. So what we do is we look after all of an employer's hiring of recruiters, like kind of from the moment that they start using us. So we can guarantee that there'll be no conflict with people. And we use it from an employer's perspective. So the employer is kind of the dog that wags the tail, so to speak. And so effectively, we get a good company to use SBOJ, and effectively the recruiters want to work with that company anyway. So it's just a way of aggregating that data.
Nick: Bounty is massive in the UK, and I'm sure there are ... Probably the closest thing to SBOJ is something like a recruitment marketplace, which there are quite a lot of those. Effectively, what happens with a recruitment marketplace is, one, there are a lot of humans involved in it. So effectively, a company publishes a vacancy on one of these marketplaces ... I think Bounty is much more like a marketplace ... And then companies tender for the role.
Nick: Now, that kind of puts a lot of the recruitment companies off because, one, they haven't really got any more control over applications or ownership of candidates than they had in the first place because it's all managed by humans and it can still be kind of a black hole when they're putting applications into an ATS; and, two, a lot of the good recruiters just won't use it because there are costs involved in doing so and blah, blah blah. So it's kind of an evolution. And if we'd probably been sensible, we would have maybe created a recruitment marketplace and then created SBOJ. But it's like a recruitment marketplace on steroids, effectively, where everything is processed by algorithms rather than by people. Sorry.
Joel: You said something while you were talking about the investment, something about like you guys needed the money or you were sort of in dire straits. Expand upon that, and how big is the team? What does it look like, how much money have you raised, how much money are you looking to raise? Talk about your financial health.
Nick: Basically, we've done ... Effectively, most of it has been input from the founding people who came up with the idea. I've been in recruitment for a long time. I did quite well out of that and had some money that I always wanted to invest in building SBOJ. The problem has been the technical stuff has been by far the hardest thing to do because we've had four teams of developers, and only the fourth one has managed to actually do the stuff we can do.
Joel: Are those contracts?
Nick: Well, no. We've had all sorts of arrangements in terms of being able to give them some equity and la, la la. The developers tend to do the sort of easy bits, but then the hard algorithmic data that we need and that stuff is things that you have to pay 500 pounds a day for. And we've just never really been able to afford it. So to answer your actual specific question, we've spent a lot of money on it but now we've got a thing that actually works really well, in fact, in some ways better than we thought it was going to.
Joel: Are you guys profitable?
Nick: Is what, sorry?
Joel: Are you profitable at this point?
Nick: So at the moment, basically, we've been running a beta for about six months and that basically just, we kind of wash our face with that. But, effectively, because it's quite complex, we had to just kind of check to see if the beta actually worked properly before we're pushing out. But we just really, I've been marketing it more actively for like the last two weeks. So we're actually only sort of moving into the market now.
Chad: Okay, Nick. Quicker answers.
Chad: Are the recruiters vetted?
Nick: No. There is a tool on the system where companies, if there's a particular recruiter they hate, they cannot receive applications from them.
Chad: Okay. Are the recruiters ranked?
Nick: Well, that is a thing that we'd like to do in the future, but obviously we need more data to do that. That's really a data issue.
Joel: Can employers rate them? The employers that work with them?
Nick: Yeah. That is basically, when we've got a lot more people using the system, that's exactly what we want to do, is allow employers to rate the recruiters so they can see before they use people. But really kind of the point of SBOJ in some ways is that they go for the candidate because we want employers to be able to search a database of candidates because obviously I'd like them to have the candidate rather than the recruiter.
Chad: Right. The website says, "Free for employers to use." So how do the recruiters get paid?
Nick: Basically what happens, it's the same as a normal transaction. Say a recruiter is introduced through SBOJ. They make a fee. Say it's a 10,000 pound fee. It works with contract and perm, but on a perm example, the company then pays me the 10,000 pounds. I take 10% of that off, and then I pay the recruiter the 9,000 pounds. So they pay me 10% on success, which is kind of in line with a referral fee.
Chad: Okay. On the site, though, it says, "Free for employers to use." That's got kind of a gray air. So how is SBOJ a 24/7 marketing tool? How do you help the market from a marketing standpoint?
Nick: So, for example, if you're a recruiter who's kind of started up your own small company and you don't have access to a lot of people's PSLs, great contacts in some of these big companies, then assuming that that company's using SBOJ, then you can still use ... It's like a way that ... Recruiters add their candidates to SBOJ and then employers can search them. So effectively, it's like having a shop window for recruiters to be able to advertise their wares, so to speak.
Joel: The website also says, "Access the candidates of every recruiter on the planet." How is that possible?
Nick: Well that's probably a slightly bold claim, but-
Chad: Come on, man.
Nick: But obviously, if recruiters choose to use SBOJ, the point is that we focus on getting good employers onto SBOJ, and then effectively, if you want to deal with that employer, you go through SBOJ. We focus on securing the employer first, and then we manage their recruitment from there outwards. So the more people that use it, the better. And obviously, if you do banking recruitment and we sign up five big banks in London, then you're going to be using SBOJ.
Joel: In terms of marketing, and you talked about outreach to recruiters, how are you marketing to, I guess, both recruiters and employers? What's sort of the marketing strategy that you guys are implementing right now?
Nick: Really, as I said, we're kind of starting out a bit. So we're learning a lot of those things. Really what we're trying to do at the moment is secure some really good employers to use the system. After that, it's really been more of a case with our beta version that we were talking to the recruiters about the system so they weren't worried that their stuff was being stolen off them or lost or they were still going to get a fee, or et cetera, et cetera.
Nick: So I think the whole thing in terms of marketing to recruiters is something that is an important part. But obviously I've got a background in recruitment and I know that they don't want to get ripped off. So SBOJ does actually for the first time stop that happening because recruiters can always upload things into people's portals, but they've got no idea what's really happening with that data. And ours is run by algorithms, not people. So we can't cheat the system.
Chad: So recruiters add the necessary data, slash the candidates, and then the algo takes over. That's correct, right?
Nick: Yeah. We match the candidates if they're matched, and then ultimately, obviously, we can't do it at the moment because we haven't got like a billion users, but ultimately the idea is that if a company wants to hire an engineer in Taiwan, that they can just search that database and find a candidate from a recruiter. So effectively, it just creates another stream that an in-house team can use.
Chad: So humans are just adding candidates into the database. Why not just skip the humans/recruiters and buy into a big database of profiles?
Nick: Well, because recruiters, it's one of those things, and I think recruiters do useful stuff. Other than making introductions, which is what I'm hoping SBOJ will take over and do, recruiters oil the wheels of a deal, do the negotiations, stuff like that. That's why recruiters exist. Recruitment's obviously a massive industry, and I don't think anybody's going to come up with a golden bullet that's going to kill that. All SBOJ is trying to do is make that more manageable and more palatable.
Joel: So you also have the chicken and egg dilemma, right, Chad, where if you don't have candidates, employers aren't going to use it. If you don't have employers, recruiters aren't going to care. So how are you balancing that now?
Nick: I think ... You're right, obviously. It's a chicken and egg thing, but having candidates to search is a thing that we'd like in sort of six or 12 months. For example, now, just from our beta, for certain technical roles in London, employers could search them now. Because we create the link with an employer that manages their recruitment, we automatically get agents that use the system, which creates a database. So without us having to spend loads of money or buy a database or la, la, la, we're buying current data from recruiters that are currently recruiting.
Chad: But it's like you're really using humans to seed the system that could be 100% automated, more like a marketplace. How long until you're there? SBOJ says it's simple, but wouldn't it even be more simple just to automate the points of, and reduce the human friction? Because if you have the data from the actual jobs, from corporate career sites or what have you, and/or the actual data from the candidates, why do you need any type of human interaction whatsoever? Allow the system to do what it's built to do.
Nick: Well, I think there's two answers to that. One is that the data is added by recruiters. It's their data. So it's not up to me to steal that data from them in the future. If an employer wants to recruit somebody who a recruiter's added, they're going to pay a fee to do that. So that's their data. And, two, the human interaction element is why I think recruiters are good. Like I say, oiling the wheels of a deal and explaining the employer brand, all that sort of stuff, fine. And that's why recruiters exist. I don't think there's anyone who's going to come up with a silver bullet system where recruiters are just going to disappear off the face of the earth. In my opinion, they do good stuff, and SBOJ helps that.
Joel: They do good stuff, and there's also a high level of competition, particularly in the UK, and sometimes I feel like I don't appreciate the impact and the importance of headhunters and staffing firms in the UK. Talk about the competition and the competitiveness. Because my guess is you're competing against a long line of well-established, well-known, highly-funded, or well-funded staffing firms there in the UK that makes your job that much more difficult to break through and cut through the clutter and be successful. So talk about the competition, what's your differentiator, and what's your plan on cutting through the clutter and getting noticed in a pretty competitive market?
Nick: Well, really, it's just a case of doing what we do well. We've thought of doing some other things, but we've concentrated solely on this managing the data of recruiters because the noise from recruiters is a big problem, and companies find it very difficult to manage that noise in an effective way. You have recruiters constantly phone up their staff, and they don't go through the proper channels, and it can be difficult to manage that noise. So, really, our model is to seal the deal with key employers who want to manage it in a more efficient way. Because obviously the key thing for internal talent teams is that they're supposed to recruit people directly. They're not supposed to just sit there and take people off recruiters, are they?
Nick: And what SBOJ does is it puts that element of managing that section. It makes it a thousand times simpler. From the employer's perspective, it cost them nothing so why wouldn't they do it? So there's no more arguing over terms, there's no more duplication of things, "I interviewed this person six months ago," stuff like that. It just cuts out the difficulty.
Chad: Aren't marketplaces like Uber Work, Upwork, Communo, Working Not Working, and Indeed, through their new acquisition of Syft, which was obviously there in the UK, won't it make it harder for recruiters to get placements since these apps are actually going through that algorithmic phase and really getting rid of the human friction? How are you going to combat those types of actual marketplaces with humans involved?
Nick: Well I think that, I mean this is one of the prime reasons why I wanted to talk to you two about it because obviously, you've just come up with a load of things that I haven't got a massive knowledge of. You have encyclopedic knowledge of these things, but the fact remains that, for example, Indeed, what Indeed generally does is they'll try and attract people directly, so direct hires. So a talent team will use that to try and take people on directly.
Nick: There's still all these recruitment companies around that are still trying to function and work with them. All SBOJ tries to do is to manage that sector. However things develop in the future in terms of being more accurate in terms of direct hiring, then fine. SBOJ is just focused on dealing with recruiters. Applications, recruiters, nothing else.
Chad: Gotcha. Okay, so last question from me is, so you talk about the system manages duplication. How? What if a recruiter gets a candidate in the database first, but the profile is stale where another recruiter enters the same candidate data in after, but it's a more updated profile, it's a more fresh profile? Who wins?
Nick: Yes, that is a good question. There's a whole ownership algorithm that deals with that. It works first come first served as you say, but ownership of a candidate only lasts for a specific period. I'm not going to tell you what that is, but it only lasts for a specific period, and the applications and activity that happen during that period are logged and still work. And then the ownership changes, the idea of which is that it keeps the data fresh. If you send your CV to a recruiter who's crap who adds their CV onto the system and basically nothing happens, in a certain period of days that will change and a new recruiter can take over. So there's a whole complicated algorithm that deals with that.
Joel: All right, Nick, I think we're done with our questioning.
Joel: It's time to face the Firing Squad. Chad, you want to take the first honors?
Chad: Yeah, yeah, I certainly do. Nick. Hey, we really appreciate you bringing SBOJ, SBOJ, jobs backwards, to the firing squad. There are a ton of things that are happening in the industry today. Here in the U.S. we're seeing some things, and obviously that translates differently over to the UK. Becoming a true marketplace, which is, it seems like where you want to go, is going to be much more automated. It sounds like you have some great automation in place, but going toward becoming a true marketplace will mean that you have to get rid of more human friction. It's all about the easy button.
Chad: And I understand the want and the need to keep the human involved, but you're going to have to find different ways to do that. I think that the staffing culture in the UK, if you were pitching this in the U.S. and you were mostly U.S. based, you'd have the guns in a heartbeat. But, because the UK staffing culture is so much different, I think you have a shot at this concept in platform if you move quickly in the next 18 months. So I'm going to give you a golf clap.
Nick: Thank you.
Joel: The English are so polite.
Chad: They are.
Joel: Thank you for a neutral rating. All right, Nick, it's my turn.
Joel: Have you seen the movie The Untouchables?
Nick: Of course, yeah.
Joel: With Sean Connery and Kevin Costner and the like.
Joel: There's a scene in that movie where Sean Connery's with Kevin Costner and he says, "Do you really want to open this box and go after Capone?" And he says, "Yes." And Sean Connery says, basically, "If you want to get Capone, he pulls a knife and you pull a gun. He puts one of yours in the hospital, you put one of his in the morgue."
Joel: So when I'm listening to you pitch this company, I can't help but think about the fact that you're bringing a knife to a gunfight. It's really hard for me to wrap my head around the amount of technical teams that you've had. You're not a technical person by nature, yet you're building a technical or a technology-based company. I think that the competition that you're facing from almost a two-front war. You're facing a battle with some really well-established staffing companies in the UK, but you're also fighting a battle on the tech side competing with some like Syft and some of the other ones that we've talked about in the call. So for me, I will say one thing is I like the name now where I didn't like it before, and I definitely think you need to have like jobs backwards on the logo somewhere because it's very memorable to people if you do that.
Joel: But for me, man, I think you're bringing a knife to a gunfight. And unless that venture capital and the Dragons' Den guys back up the brink's truck, it's going to be really hard for you to make this thing work. So for me, you're a nice guy, Nick, I think you're going to make some something happen somewhere. But this, for me, is not the gig. So for me, it's the guns. Take that for what it's worth, but I think you'd be better served doing something else.
Nick: No, cool. Really, I wanted your opinion. It's kind of difficult to always push it through in the right way. And you're right. It's a big market and there's a lot going on and, and I've learned that from you, but we've got some interesting tech. So, you know, I think ...
Joel: Like I've said before, nothing would make my heart sing more than if you could come on five years from now and say, "Fuck you, Cheesman. We're a multibillion dollar company." I would love that. But for now, we'll have to wait for five years. For those out there that want to want to know more about [Spooge 00:31:00], I mean SBOJ, Nick, where should they go?
Nick: Just visit our site, spoj.com, S-P-O-J.com. It's jobs backwards.
Joel: I love it.
Chad: There you go.
Chad: We out.
Joel: We out.
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SFX: Shall we play a game?