Graduate careers-finding app Debut replaces outdated job applications and assessment days with social gaming and direct interaction with employers.
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Charles Taylor, CEO and founder of careers app Debut explains why the old way of finding your first job is ripe for a 21st Century update.
Debut is an innovative careers app dedicated to students and graduates. The app helps millennials directly connect with potential employers. Users can sign up once and have big name employers come to them.
Employers gain an effective tool to reach and engage a wider, more diverse talent pool. Students and graduates can even land roles in blue chip companies simply by playing mobile games.
Where did you get the idea from?
The idea for Debut came about because it is something I wish I’d had access to when I was at university. Whilst in my last year of studying, I applied to 40 different graduate jobs and attended 10 assessment centre days. I found the whole application process was laborious and outdated.
We were all using our smartphones to order food, date, shop and connect with each other and I thought why can’t we do this to find a career? Mobile apps offer a personal, exclusive and exciting user experience. I also knew that 20 per cent of students didn’t own a tablet or a laptop, so I saw an opportunity to bring careers into mobile and make it as compelling as other mobile apps.
In particular, I thought it would be fantastic if we could sign up once to an app and not only have employers come to us, but also have the opportunity to play a game to win an internship.
Students and graduates are the most mobile audience in the world, but until now employers have been unable to reach them via this medium. What’s more, in 2014, almost 500,000 applications from students at just 30 universities inundated 100 companies. Yet despite the volume, 150,000 vacancies went unfilled.
Thousands of students are battling it out year on year for jobs and internships, but the application process has become tedious and repetitive. Students are becoming disillusioned and leading businesses are not getting the talent they need.
Plot the growth story to today.
Debut officially launched in the UK in November 2015 and is available to download via iTunes and Google Play. To date, we’ve gone through two rounds of funding, and are in the process of opening another round to further develop our technology.
We have an international team with 12 staff working in London, Buenos Aires and Florida. The expansion potential is huge and ultimately, our aim is to become the number one global app for student and graduate careers.
When Debut launched we already had partnerships with over 40 global employers, including L’Oréal, Credits Suisse, EE, Microsoft, Royal Mail, EY, and Lloyds Bank.
The Debut app gets around archaic job applications
We built these relationships on the potential mobile has to offer employers when it comes to keeping pace with technological advancements in the recruitment landscape, staying relevant in the eyes of their target market and attracting the right talent for business success.
Debut has already been downloaded 18,000 times by students and graduates. We have also had huge engagement through the two games that have been available on the platform to date. In total they received 80,000 game plays, with 1,350 hours played, in just over 3 months.
What is your market sector like for new entrants? Is there a big opportunity and what do you hope to achieve in future?
The future looks set to be a very exciting one! Our vision is to become the number one global app for student and graduate careers. There are a number of exciting new features coming to the app and lots more games from great brands on the way.
Our main priority is to build a product that will benefit as many students, graduates and employers as possible and enable them to find a career they will love and the talent that they need.
What have been the major bumps in the road (be honest) and how have you overcome them?
Time - trying to fit in many priorities in such a short space of time.
Organisation – working out where best to spend your time.
Managing expectations – not everything is going to work out, being able to manage the expectations of multiple stakeholders at the same time after a long day!
How have you marketed the business?
We have focused on testing a variety of channels and working out the right balance of digital and traditional channels for us. The key is remembering there is no silver bullet in marketing and that the impact of any given channel can change overnight, so always be ready to change and adapt to move forward.
Of course we have had some quirky campaigns that have been a lot of fun along the way, for example WTF-Jobs, a microsite we built to showcase some hilarious examples of real job adverts.
What is the hardest thing about running your own business and what makes it fulfilling/fun?
The pace of technological change is incredible and the phrase “time is money” certainly holds true when you’re a startup. Keeping on top of the constantly evolving landscape is therefore a big priority for me, so I’ve been focusing on improving my time management and organisation skills.
What drives me is seeing the product we created from a simple idea being used by big brands as an effective method to uncover long-lasting hires, as well as supporting students and graduates to find their own career path.
What one thing would you change about doing business in the UK?
The law: I think it should be mandatory that large multinationals pay small businesses different payment terms, small businesses can go under due to cash flow in a month or two. Large businesses should be made to prioritise invoices to small businesses.
After all, small businesses contribute more to overall taxation and GDP, they should be supported.
Late payment hits small businesses harder
What is your biggest mistake?
There have been many mistakes along the way, but thankfully no big ones. Small mistakes and failures are a critical part of entrepreneurship, I try not to get hung up on them and make sure I learn from everything I do.
What sets your business apart from the rest and how have you nurtured that point of difference?
Debut is a mobile recruitment app that was specifically designed for the millennial generation and we are student-focused.
Driven by convenience and consumer technology, this digitally native, mobile-first generation desire an engaging path to connect and be heard by employers and the brands they respect – Debut provides this. No other recruitment process is as fast, easy and engaging.
For brands, Debut provides a much broader, more diverse talent pool, enabling employers to reach candidates who would not have necessarily considered them. No other recruitment process gives the diversity, granularity and reach.
How you developed your staff - how do you recruit, how do you inspire your people and what incentives do you give them to stay loyal?
All our staff own their area of the business. We are embarking on journey together. We have a great environment, where all are free to be themselves and regardless of what they are doing they get stuck in to all areas of the product and the business, helping to identify new and exciting areas to explore.
How do you rate government support for growing businesses and why?
7 / 10 – great R&D and EIS.
What are your top three tips for people starting a business today?
Have a passion. Passion is a key driver and motivator when things aren’t going quite right. We all have days where we think “what’s the point?” but having a passion will push you through and allow you to overcome any obstacle.
Be open minded. Not every idea you have is a good one and you may come under criticism. It’s easy to be stubborn and ignore negative feedback, but the way businesses and people grow is by taking this on board and adjusting according to these insights. We’re not saying divert completely from your idea, but having a second, and even third, pair of eyes can enable you to see things you were unaware of.
Of course, network, network, network! It is still a sad fact in this world, but the majority of great business opportunities come from who you know, not what. This isn’t necessarily the most comforting of phrases, but we take an honest approach to business.
Being able to speak to your connections to either test new business ideas, collaborate on a project or simply to get an introduction to a potential investor, is a priceless.