Rwanda’s MindSky promoting smarter hiring for SMEs

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Rwandan startup MindSky is offering a smarter way for employers to find vetted, pre-screened talent, and plans to expand across East Africa.

“The regional economy is powered by small-to-medium enterprises. But these small companies struggle with a small or non-existent HR department that typically runs a tiny recruitment budget,” co-founder Anastasia Uglova told Disrupt Africa.

“They can’t afford to work with a recruiter, so they take out ads in newspapers and local job boards and end up inundated with unqualified, poorly-written CVs. The best candidates flock to bigger, more recognisable brands, while the SMEs compete to get their name out in front of the right people.”

This was an issue experienced by Uglova and fellow co-founder Elizabeth Dearborn Hughes while working together at the Akilah Institute. Their solution is MindSky, a matching platform that provides employers with pre-screened candidates for jobs.

“Staffing was one of our biggest challenges at Akilah as we always struggled to find great hires, despite the hundreds of applications we received for every position,” Uglova said. “Recruitment agencies were expensive and didn’t always understand our company mission or hiring needs. Job boards and newspaper ads promised certain death by drowning in unqualified CVs.”

The pair developed and launched MindSky over the course of 2015, aiming to combine the high volume and affordability of job boards with the targeted matching and quality control of a bespoke recruiter. Just like a job board, any company can post jobs and anyone can apply. But unlike traditional job boards, not all applications make it to the hiring manager’s desk.

“Our algorithms ensure there’s a basic match between candidate and job post, and our Talent Advocates evaluate soft skills and potential to succeed in the workforce. Users who need a bit more help can work with their Talent Advocate to improve their interview skills and be more strategic in their job search,” said Uglova.

“The result, and our goal, is to make life easier for busy, overwhelmed hiring managers.”

  

She said MindSky had found a market need for an in-between solution.

“Because MindSky was inspired by our experience helping Akilah graduates find jobs, we have a brutal unfair advantage: we understand both the job seeker and the hiring manager, and we know how to bring the two sides together effectively,” Uglova said.

The startup has met with a positive reaction, raising a seed round of US$700,000 last year and taking part in the MTN Mobile Bootcamp in South Africa last month. MindSky was operating in private beta until September, when it was opened up to all interested job seekers. It currently has over 3,000 users and more than 100 companies using the platform.  

“We have kept our marketing efforts really limited. It has been mostly organic growth through personal recommendations, in fact, 42 per cent of our users are referred to us by existing MindSky users. That’s a US$0 acquisition cost and we’re thrilled that our users enjoy what we offer and recommend it to their friends,” said Uglova.

“We continue to build and improve our features and want to ensure that we have a strong product before pursuing large-scale growth. It’s currently more important that our initial users have the best experience possible. We provide concierge service to all of our users. Although this isn’t scalable in the long run, it’s critical in the early stages to get your early adopters to be your loudest ambassadors.”

The startup has been using Rwanda as its “innovation lab”, as this is where the co-founders have long-standing relationships and deep market knowledge. However, MindSky is also currently piloting in Kenya, with Uglova saying the team plans to have a regional footprint across East Africa.

“We are also seeing significant potential further afield, for example in Ethiopia and Nigeria,” she said.

MindSky charges employers a fee to post on the platform, and will soon add advertising revenue on its online career magazine. The service is totally free for the job seeker.

“We do not plan to be profitable in our first few years because we are investing a tremendous amount of resources into the development of our technology platform,” Uglova said. “As we increasingly automate our recommendation engine, algorithmic matching, and skills assessments, the costs to serve per MindSky user decrease.”

Data is at the heart of the company’s future plans, namely credit scoring and affordable lending to the unbanked.

“With granular data on salary history, psychometrics, device and location info, and social graph, we will be able to develop predictive credit scoring models that form a more three-dimensional picture of a borrower than just looking at mobile phone behavior alone, or conducting expensive home visits and taking paper applications,” Uglova said.

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Passionate about the vibrant tech startups scene in Africa, Tom can usually be found sniffing out the continent's most exciting new companies and entrepreneurs, funding rounds and any other developments within the growing ecosystem.

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