At Tech City News, we’re always keen to shine a light on those who make up the UK’s thriving technology community.
This week, we spoke with Matthew de la Hey, CEO and co-founder of inploi, a recruitment tech startup which we can exclusively reveal has just landed £250,000 in Seed funding.
De la Hey talked about the company’s funding journey to date and shared his advice on how best to approach investors for cash.
Tech vertical: Recruitment tech
Staff count: 11
Q: Tell me about your funding journey.
We have raised £450,000 to date, across two rounds. Our first round investors were largely friends, family and associates. This was used primarily to build our product ecosystem: two native apps and a comprehensive integrated web platform, to get our first users onboard and to build out the team.
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Our recent raise of £250,000 includes follow on investment from some first round investors and a handful of new ones, including a Swiss family office, the CEO of a large multinational hotel chain, and a client executive from LinkedIn. These funds will be utilised primarily to acquire more users and continue working on our product roadmap.
Q: What advice would you give other entrepreneurs looking to raise?
Fundraising is a total nightmare. Everybody says that, but I don’t think one fully appreciates it until they’re living it. In our experience it takes longer than you intend and is harder (practically and emotionally) than you expect.
We face the ‘chicken and the egg problem’ in building a marketplace business, but to varying extents this is applicable to fundraising too. Larger investors (particularly in Europe) want to see meaningful ‘traction’ before getting involved, which is often difficult to achieve without funding.
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So, in the early startup stages it’s a matter of hustling and doing things as cheaply as possible. By this I mean, calling in favours; relying on people’s goodwill; utilizing your savings; and doing high-impact free things.
Friends, family, and people who know you are a good place to turn for funding in the early stages as they’re more sympathetic and likely to believe in you. However getting involved with a startup is a seriously risky game (with huge upside potential too) so be really upfront and straightforward with them about things.
I think investors fundamentally want to see a few things: that the idea is novel; that you’ll be able to monetize it; that the market you seek to address is large (enough to make significant returns); that the team driving a project is committed and capable of executing on it; and that the company will be able to either disrupt incumbents, beat the competition, or, if applicable, create a new market.
Q: Where did the idea for inploi come from?
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Alex (Hanson-Smith, inploi’s co-founder) and I developed inploi in response to our own experiences as students trying to find work in the holidays, generally in the hospitality sector. It was far too difficult. We’d walk around handing out paper CVs, wait weeks for agency training days and apply to multiple roles on job boards which we never heard back from.
It occurred to us that there were places all over the country with paper signs in their windows advertising open positions, and countless people looking to work in places like that.
Looking into staffing in the industry – the country’s 4th largest employer and one with extremely high labour turnover – more deeply, we realised its inefficiencies were clear: it costs too much and takes too long for employers to find staff and it is too difficult for work seekers to find genuine opportunities. On top of this, intermediaries extract significant amounts of value.
Convinced that this situation ought to be different we set out to build a marketplace that made it easy for these two parties to find each other and interact.
Q: What has been the most challenging part about setting up your company?
In the first few months we had no funding at all and had to bootstrap with extremely limited resources, whilst trying to survive in London. I did some freelance writing for a PR agency, and Alex did some consulting for an advertising agency. That paid the rent. It made us lean and efficient when we did have some capital.
The challenge for us now is overcoming the perennial challenge of a marketplace business – each side derives value from the presence of the other and growing both simultaneously is seriously hard work. It is a bit like trying to build two companies at the same time.
Q: What has been the most enjoyable part about setting up your company?
We’re building something from scratch. I enjoy the excitement of that, the freedom to create and experiment.
We’re in direct contact with the impact of the work we do which is fulfilling. I suppose the flipside of that is that, at least in these early phases, is that we are surrounded by uncertainty and risk, and the team expects huge amounts of each other.
That is a stressful situation to be in for months on end but we have some amazing people working on inploi and we get through it all together.
Q: What are your plans for the next 12 months?
We’ve recently come out of Beta and released two new mobile apps: an Android version and an updated iOS one. These, alongside the web platform, mean that inploi is accessible to just about everyone, from wherever they are. You can post a job at your desk, and whilst heading home at the bus check out and chat with your candidates from your phone; or get a job on the go.
The next step for is to get a lot more people onboard using inploi, and beginning to grow outside of London. We intend to raise further funding in order to help us achieve this and to build out the rest of our product roadmap. It is early days yet!
Q: What advice would you give to those starting their own tech company?
If you have an idea which you deeply believe is capable of succeeding, have some support for this from the people who would be your customers, have the stamina to operate under conditions of extreme uncertainty and have some way of supporting yourself long enough to see a startup to the point of investment; then step into the void.
Who know’s where you’ll end up.