Start-up that links employers with job seekers comes of age

When global tech giant Nokia wanted to hire a driver to chauffeur VIPs attending the 2010 Open Innovation Conference in Nairobi, it aertised for the position and received 1,500 applications.

The then Nokia vice president in charge of corporate affairs for Africa, India and the Middle East region, Jussi Hinkkanen, agonised with fellow organisers of the conference over how to select the best person for the job.

The difficulty planted an entrepreneurial idea in the Finn that would five years later blossom into an IT start-up that matches job applicants with potential employers.

About 40 days after the launch of Fuzu.com in late September, the portal has attracted 30,000 Kenyan users who have posted their CVs hoping to land their dream jobs.

Mr Hinkkanen, who quit Nokia in 2013 to co-found Fuzu with fellow Finn and former colleague at the tech giant Jussi Impio, describes the start-up as a “Kenyan-Finnish company that aims to change the landscape of job search and recruitment by turning hopeless job-hunting into an inspiring journey of self-discovery.”

The driver recruitment experience revealed that both employers and job seekers were having difficulty finding each other. Fuzu.com uses an automated algorithm to match job applicants with potential employers based on an analysis of their CVs and metric tests scores.   

If the driver vacancy was, for example, aertised on Fuzu.com, Nokia would have been in a position to see the top 10 or 15 applicants as ranked by the automated algorithm, from which it would have been easier to draw a shortlist of interviewees.

At least 16 big Kenyan companies have bought into the Fuzu.com idea and are already posting job vacancies on the portal, including Equity Bank, G4S, Swissport, Techno Brain and Accenture.

The company’s Facebook page has attracted nearly 41,000 likes, and the founders’ ambition is growing.

Fuzu plans to have expanded into Uganda and Tanzania by early next year, spreading into West Africa later in the year.

Mr Hinkkanen estimates that starting the business has cost up to Sh10 million, most of which has come from shareholders who now include Robert Kimani, former chief executive of rival online job search portal BrighterMonday.

Mr Kimani joined Fuzu as the company’s president for business development.

The Rockefeller Foundation and a “Finnish public funding institution” have aanced grants to the start-up, while the number of shareholders has grown to about 10 but the two Finnish co-founders retain the majority stake.

Mr Hinkkanen, 40, and his co-founder hope to seal partnerships or funding that could help drive Fuzu’s growth at the ongoing November 2015 Slush Conference in Helsinki, an annual summit held in Finland to showcase emerging cutting-edge technology and IT start-ups from around the world.

Interactive portal

The company has a staff count of about 15, one third of who are Kenyans while others include Ethiopians, Nepalese and Indians working in the background to make the website a robust, interactive portal which also offers career-training courses and links to suitable news sites for job applicants.

Uploading CVs and cover letters on the site is free, while companies get a freebie for the first vacant position that they aertise on the portal. Job applicants can however pay to access a range of premium services on the website.

It, for example, costs a job seeker about Sh299 to gain a one-off access to an analysis of competitors’ ranking for similar position matches, and a monthly fee of about Sh999.

By seeing the strengths of their competitors, job applicants can learn their weaknesses and polish their CVs further to improve their rankings.

Employers also pay different rates depending on the range of services they wish to access on the portal.

To have the website test and rank candidates for a vacant position, for example, costs Sh15,000.

Companies can also pay about Sh5,000 per month to have direct communication and access to CVs of job applicants. Mr Hinkkanen said that a similar service would cost about Sh40,000 on LinkedIn, which does not offer testing, ranking and matching for employers and job seekers.

Fuzu’s rivals include BrighterMonday, Careerpoint, My Jobs in Kenya and Monster online job application portals.

The firm’s co-founder, who has about 11 years working across Africa, India and the Middle East describes Fuzu — which is Swahili for success — as a social impact enterprise that has adopted a sustainable and profitable business model.

“The reason we’re focusing on Africa is that there are hundreds of millions pouring into the job market with no proper education and training,” says Mr Hinkkanen.

“If these people are not helped to find jobs it could lead to social strife,” he says.

He says Kenya was a fitting launch country due to its growing clout as an IT savvy population that could offer insights into demands by employers and job applicants for replication on the continent.

The portal does not just post vacant white collar jobs, but even blue collar openings for less skilled workers.

SOURCE: BUSINESS DAILY