"You do have to look for funding, but funding can never make a company"
obile-first hiring platform Job Today raised $16 million in a Series B funding round extension from New York-based VC firm 14W in September 2018. But Polina Montano, cofounder of Luxembourg-based Job Today, says there’s much more to building a company than securing funding.
“With the flow of money around the world, funding opportunities occur every day,” Polina told Startup Guide in a telephone interview. “There is so much potential out there for funding, but the tricky part is actually finding a company that is interesting.”
After successfully running a series of retail businesses in the past, Polina realized traditional recruitment methods were too slow and inefficient to keep up with the high labour turnover in the retail and hospitality industries.
Along with cofounder Eugene Mizin, Polina consequently founded Job Today in 2015 to provide a streamlined, efficient recruitment service for employers and candidates.
As an employment agency, Job Today uses mobile GPS technology through its app to immediately connect candidates to local jobs within 24 hours. The company currently operates in Spain and the UK, where it has been named as the number one hiring app, and has raised $81 million overall in four funding rounds from a variety of sources.
“Job Today is essentially a specialist that provides a very unique customer experience for both candidates and employers, while looking to fill positions fast,” Polina explains. “Our company is built around immediacy, in particular in the field of casual jobs.”
Funding as a consequence of success
But while there are certain strategies that can be put into place to help companies secure funding, Polina believes much of it comes down to the ambition and expertise of the company itself. “I think if you are doing something valuable and you are building something interesting, money is going to come as a consequence,” she says.
According to Polina, funding opportunities are abundant in every ecosystem. Investors, including business angels, venture capitalists and private equity firms, are always looking for companies that stand out and “unique propositions which are scaleable, serve a purpose and are sought out by certain customer segments.”
Entrepreneurship is not a walk in the garden. There are many surprises and challenges. It's going to get tough, so you better like what it is you're doing.
But a company’s ability to attract funding lies with the people in the team, the quality of their ideas, and the execution of these ideas, Polina says.
“Yes, you do have to look for funding, talk to the right people, reach out and scream from the rooftops about how interesting the thing you are doing is. But funding can never make a company.”
“Money is nothing but an enabler,” Polina says, adding that it simply allows you to “implement whatever it is you are trying to implement.”
Choosing the right investor
When seeking funding opportunities, it’s important to not only have a clearly defined vision of your company. It’s equally important to communicate that vision to potential investors.
“When you are building a company, you should really ask yourself how you are creating value and who your customer is. These are the first questions to ask,” she says.
Investors for Series B funding will look for companies that have a clear understanding of their market, according to Polina. Being clear with your communication is essential to bringing in clients and demonstrating the scope of the total investment opportunity.
“When you are talking to investors, explain to them how your proposition is valuable, how it is scalable and why it makes a difference in the industry and the world,” Polina says.
But in addition to having a clear strategy to present to investors, it’s equally important to select one that shares your vision and is capable of enhancing it. For young entrepreneurs seeking funding, Polina emphasizes the importance of initially picking the right investor.
“Be very clear and transparent about what it is you are planning to build, what your eventual goal is and what kind of company you want to be in this world. And make sure your investors are actually on board with this so they can properly support it.”
Staying on top of innovation
Job Today has experienced a 101 percent spike in user growth since integrating with Google Jobs, which has helped them become more visible in their operating markets.
Released in several countries last year, Google Jobs is a job search tool that enables job postings from employers to be found by millions of candidates who search on Google every day.
While Job Today leverages technology to help people access local jobs, they also embrace innovation.
“Innovation is really important for us to stay in tune with the industry, and in many cases try to be ahead of it,” Polina says, adding that Google Jobs is a clear example of innovation in the hiring realm.
Integrating with the Google Jobs algorithm enables jobs from Polina’s company to be at the top of the search page, providing more exposure for the positions advertised on the platform. In the first month of integrating with Google Jobs in Spain, traffic to the site doubled, with approximately 2.6 million viewings of job listings.
When Startup Guide spoke to Job Today last year, they mentioned plans to broaden their footprint in other marketplaces, such as Germany and the US. Polina says that while these plans are still in motion, they are taking every opportunity to learn from their current markets to inform their expansion into other ecosystems.
“At the moment we are still focusing on our core markets, because we want to be at the top of our game and provide the best experience. We are also learning a lot and focusing on marketing efficiency, and from the technology perspective, there are quite a few elements which allow us to do it much better now than we used to do it before.”
A lot of the success of Job Today can be attributed to the company’s comprehensive knowledge of their current markets, especially ones which are so diverse. Polina says that Spain, as the company’s main market, is an employer economy because of high levels of unemployment. Meanwhile in the UK, it’s the exact opposite.
I think if you are doing something valuable and you are building something interesting, money is going to come as a consequence.
“The UK economy is very, very strong. As a country with a candidate market, it is actually employers that have to work doubly hard to attract people to their companies.”
Job Today has experienced quick market adoption in both markets, which has allowed them to prove to investors that they are a universal proposition.
Read also: How to raise venture capital
“We are solving a universal problem of connecting employers and people who are looking for jobs fast and conveniently from a mobile device, which gives us a lot of insight of how to go about our expansion.”
Experiencing first hand how two very different markets function has given the company a roadmap of how best to prepare their market plans for other marketplaces. “Once we are satisfied with our learning on the marketing efficiency side, that will be the moment where we are ready for expansion into Germany and into other European markets, as well as the US.”
It’s not just about the money
Building a company with global ambition is “definitely something that can help you with capital, especially if you are working with venture investors,” says Polina.
Raising Series B funding can allow a company to build on their current successes, expand into new markets and develop their technical capabilities. But obtaining funding shouldn’t be about the money alone, according to Polina.
“A good investor can bring you so much more than money. They can bring you wisdom, expertise, support and connections,” she says.
One of the most important things to remember throughout the entrepreneurial journey are the reasons why you are building your company, Polina emphasizes.
“If you don't have passion towards what you do, you will inevitably struggle. Entrepreneurship is not a walk in the garden. There are many surprises and challenges. It's going to get tough, so you better like what it is you are doing.”
But beyond passion must also be tenacity. “I would love to encourage all entrepreneurs to go and pursue their dreams. If they are really passionate and they really believe in what they do, they should never take no for an answer,” she says.
This interview is included in the first volume of Startup Guide Luxembourg, alongside other exclusive insights. Order your copy now!
All the photos: Startup Guide