We give you a hit of fine Startup Juice direct from the people that are building interesting startups. We ask them a handful of questions about the things that get them going, how they do it and lessons learned to keep-keeping-on. It’s a free newsletter going out once or twice a month. Hit the button to enter your email and sign up.
Why did you decide to build YunoJuno and why is it different?
We started YunoJuno because we experienced a particular kind of pain when trying to find and hire the best freelancers for our creative and tech projects. In our eyes, the system favoured the wrong people. The people winning weren’t the people with the talent or the people with the great projects. But rather the system favoured the guys in the middle – recruitment agents – brokering deals based on what was best for them.
So we wanted to build a community and a tool that 1) allowed great freelancers to connect with great projects 2) made everyone’s lives easier, and 3) served a fully transparent service that allowed for people to simply get on with creating great work.
What’s been the toughest challenge so far and how did you get over it?
Our toughest challenge changes month on month. When we first started it revolved around how building a real community from scratch and build a truly worthwhile product for the industry. But we managed to answer that by dedicating a considerable amount of time in simply asking freelancers and employers what they would want in a system like ours. This then became our product roadmap and our YJ family is a truly engaged community pushing our product forward.
Our next challenge centred around completing the search-to-booking process through the system. Was our system going to work? Where people actually going to use it? Thankfully for us, the response was immediate. The day after we came out of public beta, we had our first live search and signed contract. And this has continued with a steady stream of bookings as well as new registrations from freelancers and employers on a daily basis. Momentum is starting to build.
How did you decide on the business model and has it changed?
Our business model has not changed since our very first meeting at a pub in Camden. There is no cost for our freelancer community and we charge employers a flat 5% commission on a booking. The 5% is part of our core values because we believe the industry is crying out for a fairer pricing structure to what exists today.
We’re also responding to the current angst in the industry around the lack of transparency. We don’t hide any additional charges in a magical ‘all-inclusive’ rate nor do we get in the middle of any rate negotiations between freelancer and employer.
Why have attempts to disrupt the recruiter model failed and why will Yuno succeed?
I’m not sure if I’m the best person to say why another model has failed but if they have, I would imagine it’s because they’re simply recreating the same recruiter model under a different guise.
For us, we’re hopefully creating something much larger – a community that works together in connecting projects to the most suitable talent. Any tool we build must facilitate that aim for us otherwise it’s simply a vanity project – and the world doesn’t need another one of those.
We’re not from the recruitment world, which we think is an advantage. This allows us to be a little non-conformist which suits us nicely. At it’s very basic, we’re just three guys who had a problem and thought it was time that someone fixed it.
Your communication is unconventional and hilarious. How’s that working for you?
Yes it may be different but more importantly – it’s us being ourselves. The three of us are a pretty easy-going bunch. I’m an Aussie so it’s dispensed at birth like Pez . Chris and Hugo are jaded enough fellas as well so a Monty-Python-esque approach to life simply becomes a vocational asset.
We’re serious about making a difference but if we weren’t true to ourselves YunoJuno and its community wouldn’t get the most out of us.
Getting noticed is one of the toughest things for startups. Can you tell me about your marketing techniques that have/ haven’t worked for you?
Well this is an area we don’t claim to be experts at so any techniques that we employ probably shouldn’t be used as a template just yet as the jury is still out on whether we’re doing things right.
But we believe in honest and frank conversations so we try and communicate that in any publicity we get.
Coming from the creative and advertising industry, I think we had a head start on how we wanted to come across to the world. The years spent in pitch and development teams held us in good stead when presenting what we are trying to build at YunoJuno.
Going for an idea takes commitment, what has it taken to get to here?
Well I think commitment is the key word but within it lies a lot of different aspects that we’ve each had to come to terms with in getting to where we have.
At the beginning stages of any idea, you’re simply dreaming on what it could become – which is good and necessary. But from there you need to progress. You get to put a stake in the ground and commit to doing something – even if it were the wrong thing or not what you originally thought your baby would look like. We definitely had those moments – whether that was producing an early stage registration site without any real promise of what YunoJuno would be, through to publishing a warts-and-all public beta. The learning is definitely in the doing.
Commitment also came in the form of putting our time (which also meant our money and security) where our mouths were. So towards the back end of 2012 we took that leap and resigned our jobs to work on YunoJuno full time. Obviously we saw a dramatic increase in our productivity but more importantly, we were able to make decisions quicker. This was a huge turning point in the business.
How did you find the team and what business mentors/council did you seek?
The phrase I commonly use is that I had a vision that Chris made commercially viable and Hugo made into a living, breathing product. Reason being is that my experience of the problem was only from one particular perspective. Chris and Hugo were also incredibly frustrated but from different vantage points. That joint frustration, along with each of us bringing different skills to the table, allowed us to have a fair crack at trying to solve the problem in a new way.
Having worked together for years in the same company as well continuing to collaborate on projects when we went to different organisations, we developed a level of trust and familiarity to the way each of us work that helps focus on what’s important.
We are also extremely lucky to have some very experienced and wise counsel as part of the wider YJ team. Jon Claydon (Work Club, Agency Republic, Claydon Heeley Jones Mason) is our Chairman and real life Gandalf The White. Brett Akker (Streetcar.com/Zipcar.com), Neal Fullman (GetTaxi.com) and Matt Miesnieks (Dekko.co) have all been incredibly generous with their time and insightful with their advice in pushing the business and product forward.
How are you funding Yuno?
We funded YunoJuno ourselves along with one Angel investor.
What metrics are you tracking and why are these the ones that matter?
One of the great things about having a FD on the startup team (Chris) is that he tracks and crunches numbers in his sleep. We knew early on that we couldn’t simply guess why some connections have a higher success rate than others or which skillset were the most popular search during the Summer solstice.
So we’ve built mechanisms to help us analyse where we are winning and where we can improve – whether that’s briefs vs connections, or the conversion rate of a freelancer saying they are ‘interested’ in a project to a signed contract. Now that we are starting to generate solid traffic on the site, we have some real data to help us focus on the areas we need to.
Which bloggers, writers do you find influential?
It’s very easy to be insular when running a startup. It’s easy to continually have your head down and not come up for air. Problem with that is that you miss out on a great deal of where the world, and even your particular industry, is going. The end result being that your product or idea suffers.
Marc Andreesson – He writes about a topic and then the rest of the world reblogs it. There’s a reason for this.
Dave McClure – Plain speaking intelligence. I’ve learnt more about focusing on what matters when presenting your idea from Dave (via the tinternet) than anyone else.
Venture Hacks – just plain helpful.
Read Write Web – old faithful.
Jason Santa Maria – smart guy who gets designing for the web.
Creative Review Blog – great collection of what’s happening in the creative scene today.
The last two are because I have a degree in architecture and nothing inspires me more than reading about people that engage with design in a physical way.
What book would you recommend reading?
Rework by Jason Fried, David Heinemeier Hansson
(37signals). Simply brilliant.
The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand. Favourite book of all time.