Another recent graduate of the Founders Institute program was Jeroen van Zon from Hiresquare, who launched last week. I was pleased to grab some of Jeroen’s time, to give us a little insight into what Hiresquare is, and what their plans are.
//SN: Tell us a little about yourself. How did you end up becoming a startup founder?
After 8 years of working for IT companies, agencies and retailers in the online industry, I got a bit frustrated by the fact that you are only providing real value half of the time. Sitting around from 08:00 to 17:00 squeezing profits from customers simply because your boss tells you so didn’t quite cut it for me. Besides, I find that ‘contract hours’ truly limit your work-life balance. I like to be out surfing on the water and weather conditions don’t play by agenda. I don’t mind working evenings and weekends, but if there is good wind and swell coming in on a Thursday morning, I would like to enjoy this as well. As such, I longed for flexible time schedules and decided to operate as an independent consultant about two year ago. One thing led to another, and now we have started an exciting journey with Hiresquare.
//SN: What was the inspiration behind Hiresquare?
My co-founder Rick and I have been in the online business for quite some time. After working for companies in the rental industry, we noticed that they are really struggling with their online presence and that PPC and SEO efforts quite often don’t give the required results. This is simply because many consumers are ‘orienting’ online and thus haven’t reached the transactional phase in their purchasing journey yet. This orienting traffic is often too expensive too capture for most local businesses.
Additionally, consumers seem to get a little ‘Google tired’. Who enjoys searching Google and request/chase quotes? We’re all used to it, but it is very time consuming and very boring to do.
We decided that we could use our expertise in the online world to build a platform that helps both consumers and businesses. We want to make searching for rental products a bit more fun and definitely a lot easier. We take care of the boring time consuming work and connect you with local rental companies.
//SN: You’ve just launched; what has been the feedback so far, and how did you determine you were ready to launch?
I don’t think you ever consider yourself ready to launch. Our backlog of features is very long. However, at a certain point you just have to tell yourself it is time to start pushing it out there. This is the only way to obtain quality feedback. The learnings we have taken from our customers just one week after launch proved this. We changed our revenue model after just a few days and discovered some serious issues with our registration and lead forwarding process. We were able to make these changes quickly by staying in contact and proactively reaching out to our launching customers.
Most businesses seem to welcome our solution. They understand the potential and are eager to jump on board early. We did some serious validation and research before we decided to write one line of code. Yet, you never know for certain when you build the thing and reach out to new customers. With our launching customers, we have been very clear that we initially created a rough diamond that needs a lot of polishing. We also asked them if we could actively engage them in the product development process. People appreciate this honesty and we manage to sign up more than 60% of the businesses we reach out to at this stage. This makes us very happy of course.
//SN: Who is your perfect customer, and what problem or challenge does Hiresquare solve for them?
As a marketplace, we serve both consumers and businesses. The perfect consumer is the one that is tired of searching and scouring Google and the Internet requesting and chasing quotes. We simply save them time. Fill out a free product rental request, and we’ll get back to you with local businesses and quotes.
The perfect business customer is any hire/rental company that rents out products to local consumers and understands that portals are becoming the prime location for consumers to find businesses.
We make it easy for them to get relevant local leads. And unlike Google, we only ask for a small fee when a business chooses to respond to a lead that interests them. So they are charged a small lead fee on a no-cure no-pay bases.
//SN: What are you most focused on at the moment: the right market, the right product, or the right team?
The main focus would be the right market. We are aware that we cannot take on the entire hire/rental market in 1 go. So we maintain a focus on certain verticals and build the two-sided marketplace city by city.
In the background our product development continues in small iterations. Currently we believe we have most of the skills to get going, but we will be looking into expanding the team in the near future.
//SN: How do you plan to get your first 100 customers?
After our first week of launch we managed to subscribe our first 25 companies. We hope to increase this number to a few hundred in the coming months. We spend a lot of time on the phone cold calling businesses and explaining our proposition. We then proceed giving them a free trial so they experience the platform.
Increasing the consumer is relatively easy for us due to our extensive online marketing experience. We apply everything from SEO, SEM, Social Media and online PR.
//SN: If there’s one tip that you would suggest to someone with an early stage startup idea, what would it be?
Talk to everybody about your idea and solution. Don’t be afraid that someone is going to steal your idea (frankly, nobody really cares) and try to get honest feedback. Most people will state that you have a great idea simply because most people are polite. Ask them what sucks about your idea to get a bit of true honesty. Lastly, stay in touch with your early clients and get feedback. Solving their problems and including this in your product/service is better than the most fancy feature that you can develop yourself.
Thank you so much for your time, and good luck Rick and Jeroen! We look forward to following Hiresquare to success.