This months member is Mark, a seasoned professional in digital recruitment and current entrepreneur with his startup, Discovered! Mark along with his co-founder John have been members at AstroLabs since January and are busy building a recruitment firm that aims to recruit the best talent out there for the rising needs of the MENA tech ecosystem!
Founders: Mark Carson & John Richardson
Founding Year: 2017
Team Size & Designations: 2
Your startup in two lines, GO!
We are Discovered. A Digital | Tech | E-Commerce recruitment business based out of the heart of Dubai’s Tech start up scene, AstroLabs. We are a team of passionate digital recruitment experts, whose sole aim is to help both candidates and clients discover their potential.
What’s Your Background?
I’ve got around 9+ years Digital, Tech and E-commerce recruitment experience, helping both start ups and large companies attract the very best talent. I launched one of UK’s biggest digital recruitment agencies into Dubai from scratch and built up an excellent team, to become one of the leaders in the MENA region in under 2 years.
Why Did You Start Discovered?
I’m an entrepreneur at heart, I had a great opportunity to build a business for someone else from scratch in Dubai over 2.5 years and thought if I have done it once, I can do it myself again. However this time not alone, with a my business partner John, a school friend of mine in fact, that just happens to be a brilliant recruiter too.
Both of us wanted to get closer to both clients and candidates in the Tech start up and E-commerce space after having previously working at companies where service levels and transparency in recruitment is not where it needs to be.
Another key insight was learnt through the multitudes of conferences and networking events I have attended in the region over the past 3 years. There has been a common struggle in attracting Digital and Tech talent. Different businesses have varied reasons for finding talent so we truly understand that every business we work with is different. Our solution is a series of plans aimed at enhancing their experience. These include our Start-up, Agency, Big Business and Senior Search plans. These are different to the standard and outdated approach in the recruitment industry in the MENA region. By merging technology with some principles of executive search, these plans can ensure the best talent is attracted globally in the shortest possible time.
Finally the Tech Start up and Ecommerce sector is booming in Dubai! So by starting now, we will hopefully be at the forefront of this next growth phase.
Startups vs Big Business. Whose more aggressive in Talent Acquisition?
So we’re working with quite a lot of big businesses, at the moment because most of these are building up their Tech and Digital capabilities and are acting like startups in terms of growth. This is primarily because E-commerce is relatively new in the region in comparison to the rest of the developed world and they are racing to open new distribution channels for their products aside from the massive brick & mortar portfolios they operate. If you think of all the major brands that are available in the world, only a handful are available online in the UAE. Now a lot of the large retail groups / families are investing into digital transformation to get their products and services online as quickly as possible. Essentially what we’re finding is these big businesses are creating their own digital infrastructure and teams from scratch and that’s where we support their needs.
Startups are on the other hand can be split into two tiers; First are the ones that are relentlessly hiring due to recent funding and rapid growth where they need the employee’s like yesterday. There is nothing we like best when a startup says we need to scale up…fast. The companies that are the next tier down, look for help with more specific job roles within their business like a Digital Marketing Manager, Mobile Dev, a Full stack developer, Creative or Business Development Manager.
With all the recent investments and acquisitions that have happened, which one will you be watching closely?
I’m curious to see how the whole Emaar Malls 51% acquisition of Namshi plays out. They have a strong regional influence and the retail partnerships across their malls make them extremely capable of playing a big role partnered with the e-commerce capabilities of Namshi.com
Where do you see Discovered in 3 years?
We want to invest in technology and start experimenting on how we can optimise the talent equation for both clients and candidates. Areas like video, AI, chat bots and how they can improve the experience really intrigue us.
Over this period too, we want to see the many startups that we are currently working with, watch the talent we have secured for them directly contribute to a company success story, whether through growth, new funding and even acquisitions or exits, that will show us we have something right.
How about your team?
We will organically expand the team by adding consultants with the aim to be the go to recruitment business for all things, Digital, Tech and Ecommerce in Dubai.
What’s the biggest crisis you have faced in your startup till now, and what did you learn from it?
I think the biggest crisis any startup faces and we certainly do is cashflow and I’ve got a great example of how a great month can head into crisis mode.
One of our clients made a host of our candidates we placed redundant through no fault of the candidates. We had real difficulty in getting paid from the invoices owed to us. Luckily, we had watertight signed terms of business and through persistence and regular contact with the client, we managed to receive the majority of the payment in full.
So for any startup, getting your terms of business to high and legal standards is essential.
What’s your job now and how different is it to when you started?
Naturally as a team of two, we were a jack of all trades. From building our website to mocking up designs, writing all the content ourselves and even taking pictures across the city for it. Next was onto gathering all the documents and paperwork needed to establish the business in the UAE, which is a long and time consuming process.
Then the fun part, our website going live and taking our business to market! We initially started talking to a few select businesses first on how we could improve their Digital, Tech and E-commerce talent acquisition strategies.
Nowadays, the admin and operational elements are taken care of so it’s all about delivering a brilliant service to our clients. We are marketeers, business developers and account directors all rolled into one. We sit down with our clients regularly, advise on strategy, market conditions and provide in depth salary/benefits reviews to make sure they can attract the right talent. The majority of our time is personally spent headhunting locally and across the globe, using LinkedIn, Github, Skype, Whatsapp and Google hangouts to access candidates and acting as brand ambassadors for our amazing clients.
What’s the hardest part of your job?
Trying to respond to every candidate that approaches us for help or applies for a role. We make such an effort to try and respond to everyone we can, but there are only so many hours in the day. To give a personalised message to everyone is tough, but we try.
Any Parting Words?
For companies looking to hire, the single most important resource you have is time and recruitment is a full time job. Find an expert and have a chat with them on what would be the best way for you to find the candidates your looking for.
For candidates, explore your options! There is a wealth of opportunities out there right now that will offer you great incentives. Startups are competing aggressively with big businesses on pay and equity sharing while big businesses have started acting like startups in terms of culture and speed but with massive resources so security may be more guaranteed there.
Also published on Medium.