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Our pivot: The start of a SaaS adventure

November 26, 2014

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Our pivot: The start of a SaaS adventure

6 min read

This post is part of an on-going series on creating a SaaS company from scratch. We don’t write with hindsight, but right from the actual battleground. Here, we share our enthusiasm, our challenges, and our mistakes. Let’s not hold back on company insights. We invite you to laugh, cry, and from time to time, celebrate with us.

Current Stage

Number of clients: 58. That’s the current state of our new project, Recruitee. But there’s a purpose behind these numbers. They represent new ideas and upcoming challenges. They are the result of a radical change in our business. Let’s try to make sense of this recent U-turn by sharing a bit of our background with you.

Entrepreneurial Dating

If you have a background in Business, it’s not a bad idea to search for complementary skills by finding a technical co-founder. When you consider the amount of time that you will spend together with your co-founder, it’s fair to say that finding a co-founder is a bit like finding a wife. A marriage with ups and downs that will be tested on a daily basis. To put it differently, in the words of Paul Graham it in one of his essays:

“It’s like we’re married, but we’re not f*cking.” – Paul Graham

But no marriage goes without a first date. So after graduating, I set out and spent about six months looking for like-minded people that were on the lookout for new startup challenges. I studied the incubator/accelerator landscape in Europe, joined a few hands-on programs like Startup Weekend, and visited tons of co-working spaces. But unfortunately my counterpart wasn’t there. Then I stumbled upon Founder2be. Pawel, having a background in programming for over eight years, had just posted a request to brainstorm on a new idea. After a Skype talk, Pawel jumped into his car and drove ten hours to visit me in Noordwijk. When he drove back three days later, it was clear that we had passed the dating test and decided to give it a shot by setting up a remote working structure for our project.

Our First Baby – Mobile app for activation games

If your first date felt weird, imagine how we felt after deciding to set up a company with a complete stranger. We spent about two months developing the first product: GeoRun, a location-based game scenario that allows users to pick up virtual items with their smartphones. By making a real-time interactive game and allowing players to take items from each other, we aimed to use the software for commercial activation campaigns. Pawel set up the development team in Poznan, and I was responsible for sales in the Netherlands. Our first campaign in September gave us the numbers we were hoping for, and we decided to continue and set up a formal business structure. Within a year, we were able to roll out different types of game scenarios for clients like de Bijenkorf, ING, and Samsung. Mobile app development with a focus on activation games is what we turned out to be good at. Ever since, we have been working together on a remote basis.

A little preview of our mobile activation games- GeoRun.

Marriage Issues

After about two years, we sat down with our team for some brainstorming – via Skype of course. Like being on a red couch, we asked our inner selves if we liked the current direction of our company. It turned out that most of us didn’t. We started GeoRun with the idea of creating a scalable product. Along the way it had transformed into an agency that worked for clients. And if scalable technology is what you like, an agency is not a good thing.

Thus, we created a ‘criteria list’ of what our ideal tech company would look like. Drafting upon our experience in GeoRun, we wrote down five requirements that would fit our idea of a great software company. I wrote down things like “Can be sold online”, and “Can grow into a global company with a team of max ten people.”

During the next two months, we brainstormed on new concepts and threw away every idea that didn’t make the cut. Then, just like Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson illustrate in their book Reworkable, we decided to take a look at our own needs.

Baby number 2 – Recruitment software that works

Everyone that has been through the process of hiring new staff members should remember how complex and time-consuming these processes can be. Full mail boxes with motivation letters, Excel files full of candidates, and agendas jam-packed with interviews. We faced these issues ourselves, and started searching for online solutions that could help simplify this process. We found several handy tools, but none of them offered the overview we were looking for. As we found out, the idea of an Applicant Tracking System was anything but new. But can it be executed better? Can it be stripped down and made simple for a wide audience? Our fingers started to itch. Can we? We accepted the challenge, and off we went developing our own tool. From day one, we’ve focused on creating the tool in a way that we would use. Simple, but efficient.

In February this year, we moved into the Rockstart Accelerator office in Amsterdam. It’s an accelerator program with additional desks available for startups that like to be part of an ecosystem of tech companies. Two weeks ago we shared our first prototype there. Recruitee received great feedback. Like us, many startups are experiencing the complexity of the recruitment process. Now we’re on a mission to create the recruitment tool that will help many of these growing companies.

Next up

At the moment, we ourselves are using Recruitee to hire two freelance designers abroad. We just hired Glemm, an awesome Graphic Designer who currently resides in the Philippines and is a valuable asset to our team. We’ve been working remotely from day one and don’t see hiring freelancers as a bad thing. If managed correctly, the whole team can work remotely in a very efficient manner. For instance, we developed and executed a mobile campaign for ING in the Netherlands, while working from Poland and Spain.

In the next post, we’ll give you a tour on how you can leverage online platforms like OnlineJobs.ph, Freelancer, Behance, and Odesk to find you some great – and cheap – talent. Together with the right tools like Trello, Intercom and Toggl, you double the speed of work with half of your budget. Just like we did.

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Perry Oostdam is the co-founder of Recruitee. With a passion for tech and scaling teams, he has been active in the SaaS space as a founder, advisor and investor. Perry believes in the power of HR tech to help revolutionize the way companies and teams grow.