the Founder Files

Fundraising and Scaling a SaaS Business - Christiaan van den Berg, JOBJACK

Season 4 Episode 3

A lot has changed since we last had Christiaan van den Berg from JOBJACK on the podcast! In this episode, Christiaan returns to share their impressive journey from pre-product market fit to scaling a successful SaaS business.

In just a year, JOBJACK, now a leading recruitment platform in South Africa, has attracted over 3 million users, raised significant funding, and doubled their team.

To understand how they did it, we get into:

  • How JobJack found their traction and selected winning markets.
  • The secrets behind creating a great user experience.
  • Identifying repeatable value propositions for sustainable growth
  • Approaching investment rounds and securing a 45 million rand pre-series A round
  • Building a robust leadership team and scaling operations
  • Balancing personal life with being a founder

Too Long; Didn't Listen? Here's what to look for:

How JOBJACK Started - 3:34

JOBJACK started when Christiaan van den Berg realised the significant mismatch in the job market during his accounting studies. While he easily found work, many of his peers struggled, highlighting a gap in access to entry-level opportunities. This issue stuck with him, and a request from his mother-in-law to arrange staffing for an event led to further exploration. Recognising that without exclusive networks, many couldn't access job opportunities, Christiaan saw a massive potential to bridge this gap.

He teamed up with his co-founder, Heine Bellingan, who shared his vision and brought strong systems and strategy skills to the table. They identified a lack of dominant players in the recruitment space for unqualified labor, especially in a country with high unemployment rates like South Africa. Driven by the desire to make an impact and seize the opportunity, they started JOBJACK during their articles, and within a year, the business had grown enough for them to commit full-time. Their accounting background provided them with valuable skills in business planning and financial management, aiding in their entrepreneurial journey.

JOBJACK’s Big Vision - 8:38

JOBJACK's big vision is to "employ the world." While Christiaan acknowledges that achieving this entirely is unrealistic, the goal is to contribute significantly towards creating a world where everyone has access to employment opportunities. They focus on the often-overlooked segment of entry-level, low-skilled, blue-collar jobs, where technology hasn't been widely applied due to low margins and high groundwork. By addressing this gap, JOBJACK aims to make a substantial impact not just in South Africa or Africa, but globally, by providing opportunities and reducing unemployment in these crucial job sectors.

How To Prioritise Time And Have Peace - 9:44

Christiaan talks about the importance of clear communication and prioritisation to manage time effectively and maintain peace. When he and his co-founder started JOBJACK, he balanced his CA articles, part-time studies, and getting married, by segmenting his day meticulously. This included waking up early, managing admin tasks during lunch, and working on the side hustle after hours. He highlights the significance of recognising one's priorities and being realistic about what can be achieved in different seasons of life. Christiaan advocates for focusing on the most important aspects—faith, family, and work—while accepting that some elements, like exercise or social activities, may take a backseat temporarily. This approach helps maintain peace and prevents the feeling of dropping balls everywhere.

Who is JOBJACK’s Customer - 16:24

JOBJACK's initial customers were event companies and restaurants in Stellenbosch, providing temporary job opportunities for students. Christiaan and his co-founder focused on contacting numerous event companies to understand their needs and establish initial traction. They prioritised securing jobs first to avoid creating false hope among job seekers. Over time, they discovered a significant gap in the recruitment process for high-volume, entry-level positions, which lacked efficient systems for matching job seekers with opportunities.

By meeting with large employers like Pep Stores, they identified a broader market need for an effective platform to connect job seekers with entry-level positions. This realization led JOBJACK to shift focus from gig jobs to more permanent opportunities, addressing the inefficiencies in the traditional recruitment process. Their platform aimed to reduce the high costs and barriers faced by job seekers while providing employers access to a larger pool of suitable candidates. This strategic positioning helped JOBJACK grow and cater to both job seekers and employers more effectively.

Getting User Experience Right - 25:00

JOBJACK's focus on user experience began with understanding the needs and challenges of their target market. Initially, they envisioned a sleek mobile app but quickly pivoted to a web app to ensure accessibility, given that 95% of their users could access the internet via mobile browsers. They prioritised making the platform easy to use, with drop-down options for profiles to help users who might struggle with spelling.

Christiaan and his co-founder spent time directly engaging with potential users in underprivileged communities to understand their barriers and refine the platform accordingly. They discovered the importance of showcasing well-known brands to build trust and ensuring the safety and legitimacy of job listings. JOBJACK also made their platform data-free for major network users to reduce costs for job seekers. Practical changes, such as sending reminders about interview attendance, significantly improved user engagement, demonstrating their commitment to addressing the real-world needs of their users.

How JOBJACK Got Their First Clients - 34:33

JOBJACK secured their first enterprise-level clients by focusing on understanding and solving the specific problems faced by large employers. Initially, they experienced challenging meetings where their solutions were scrutinised and found lacking. However, these experiences provided invaluable insights into the practical needs and pain points of these employers.

Christiaan and his team leveraged these learnings to refine their approach, focusing on how their platform could address inefficiencies and improve recruitment processes for high-volume employers. They emphasised the mutual benefits for companies joining the platform, creating a network effect that increased opportunities for job seekers and employers alike. By proving their value through pilot programs and continuously adjusting their strategy and pricing, JOBJACK was able to convert initial interest into long-term enterprise clients, leveraging early successes to build credibility and expand within the retail sector.

Difference Between Users and Customers - 46:30

JOBJACK differentiates between user and customer experience by addressing the specific needs and complexities of each group. For job seekers, JOBJACK focuses on creating an accessible, easy-to-use platform that minimises barriers to entry and increases their chances of finding employment. Their web app is designed to work on any smartphone browser, eliminating the need for a native app and reducing data costs, making it more accessible to a broader audience. They also implemented features like data-free access on major networks and simplified profile completion to cater to job seekers who may lack advanced digital literacy.

On the customer side, which consists of enterprise-level employers, JOBJACK recognises the complexity and variety of stakeholders involved, including HR directors, HR managers, regional managers, and CFOs. Each stakeholder has different needs and expectations, so JOBJACK ensures their platform addresses these diverse requirements. They emphasise the mutual benefits for companies joining the platform, highlighting how their participation can create a larger pool of opportunities for job seekers and enhance recruitment efficiency for employers. By providing tailored solutions and demonstrating the platform's value through pilot programs and direct consultations, JOBJACK effectively aligns with the needs of both job seekers and employers, creating a cohesive and impactful recruitment ecosystem.

Identifying A Repeatable Set Of Value Propositions - 53:22

Initially, JOBJACK realised that a broad value proposition like quick access to a large pool of candidates wasn't enough. Instead, they segmented their market and addressed specific pain points for different personas, such as HR directors, HR managers, regional managers, and CFOs.

They honed in on key metrics like reducing staff turnover rates and improving the relevance of job matches. By demonstrating how their platform could decrease inefficiencies and lower hiring costs, they effectively communicated the financial benefits to decision-makers. Additionally, they highlighted how their solution could enhance the productivity and satisfaction of HR professionals, making them champions within their organisations.

Through practical examples and pilot programs, JOBJACK proved the value of their platform. They showed measurable improvements, such as reducing staff turnover from 100% to 17%, which built confidence in their solution. By continuously refining their approach based on feedback and focusing on specific industry needs, they developed a compelling, repeatable value proposition that resonated with their customers and facilitated sales growth.

Investors - 1:04:07

JOBJACK's approach to investors was shaped by their vision of scaling their impact. Initially, they relied on a "friends, family, and fools" round to kickstart their journey. This early investment allowed them to develop an MVP and prove traction, which paved the way for their first angel round. They used platforms like investment network sites to connect with potential angels and gradually raised funds in small increments, which enabled them to scale without giving away too much equity too soon.

They sought out patient, value-aligned investors who understood their long-term, impact-focused vision. Their first institutional investment came just before COVID-19, which proved crucial in weathering the pandemic's challenges. These investors were supportive, prioritising the team's well-being alongside financial performance. This alignment was particularly valuable during tough times, reinforcing the importance of shared values in investor relationships.

Throughout their journey, JOBJACK focused on building relationships with investors who shared their commitment to long-term growth and impact. This strategy paid off, allowing them to raise a post-seed extension and eventually a pre-Series A round with investors who could add strategic value. By being intentional about who they engaged with, they minimised wasted time and maintained strong, supportive investor relationships.

JOBJACK’s Biggest Competition? - 1:12:27

Just like Metavolve realised their biggest competitors are founders trying to DIY their strategy, JOBJACK's biggest competitors are not other recruitment platforms but rather the traditional methods of recruitment, specifically paper CVs and PDF applications. This entrenched system has been the norm for decades, and the main challenge JOBJACK faces is shifting the mindset of companies who are accustomed to these legacy practices. The competition lies in overcoming the ingrained belief that these outdated methods are the only way to manage recruitment.

JOBJACK’s Sales Methodology - 1:13:03

Christiaan explains that their sales methodology focuses on first diving into the client’s problems, then educating them about the inefficiencies they might not have noticed. By leading the client to an "aha" moment where they realize how much time and resources are wasted with their current processes, they can then associate JOBJACK’s solutions to the client's problems. This approach helps to make the inefficiencies apparent and demonstrates how JOBJACK can solve these issues.

In their sales demos, JOBJACK spends the majority of the time understanding and discussing the client’s problems without mentioning their own product until the very end. This helps clients realise the inefficiencies on their own and positions JOBJACK as the solution. This method aligns with the DEAL methodology (Discover, Educate, Associate, and Lead), which is based on the principles from the book "The Challenger Sale." In short, this methodology involves challenging the client to think differently about their issues and guiding them towards seeing the value in JOBJACK’s offerings.

How Did Christiaan Validate Product Market Fit - 1:16:55

Christiaan explains that they validated product-market fit by observing that a significant number of their clients were able to use JOBJACK’s solution autonomously. This indicated that the product was effective and met the needs of the clients without requiring constant hands-on support. The ability for clients to self-service and achieve desired outcomes was a key indicator of product-market fit.

Additionally, they focused on the retail and fast food sectors, recognizing that these were niches where their solution could be confidently applied. When clients in these sectors began to successfully use the platform with minimal assistance, it reinforced the notion that they had achieved product-market fit.

Why Pre Series A Funding? - 1:21:20

Christiaan explains that the decision to pursue a pre-Series A round instead of a full Series A was influenced by several factors. One primary reason was the varied perspectives of different venture capitalists (VCs) on what stage JOBJACK was in. Some considered them post-Series A, while others saw them as still in the seed stage. To harmonize these differing views and expectations, they opted for a pre-Series A designation.

This approach allowed JOBJACK to refine their product’s stickiness and deepen their market penetration in their current industries and the South African market. They aimed to establish a stronger foundation before expanding into new geographical markets. By labeling the funding round as pre-Series A, they also left room for future rounds, preserving flexibility for further growth and valuation adjustments.

Additionally, this strategy helped protect their equity. Christiaan acknowledges that later rounds typically demand higher traction, leading to stricter valuation negotiations. By having a pre-Series A, JOBJACK could navigate future rounds more comfortably, ensuring they maintain enough equity to stay motivated and sustain long-term growth.

The timing of their raise also played a role. They raised funds during a period of declining startup valuations and reduced VC activity, making it crucial to manage their funding stages carefully. Overall, the pre-Series A approach was a strategic move to balance investor expectations, protect equity, and ensure sustainable growth.

How Has This Raise Affected Resource Allocation? - 1:26:55

Christiaan discusses how JOBJACK's recent funding round of $2.5 million (45 million Rand) has been strategically allocated to ensure sustainable growth. They have focused on hiring experienced professionals, including a head of sales and a head of marketing, to bring new levels of expertise to the team and elevate overall performance. Additionally, the team has expanded from 24 to 50 people, necessitating increased investment in infrastructure like office space and IT systems to support the growing user base and operational demands.

The funding has allowed JOBJACK to strengthen its foundation for future scaling. This includes enhancing customer service by hiring a head of customer to oversee the customer experience and integration across departments. Christiaan emphasises the importance of balancing chaos and process, recognising this tension as a natural part of scaling a high-growth startup. By fostering a culture of radical candour and positive collaboration, JOBJACK aims to navigate growth challenges while staying true to their mission and values.

What’s Next For Christiaan And JOBJACK - 1:37:05

In the next 18 months, Christiaan and JOBJACK are focused on significant growth while ensuring stability. They aim to refine their end-to-end solution for current clients, enhancing the feedback loop on candidate success and performance to cement long-term value. This approach will solidify their existing market position and create a robust foundation for further expansion.

Additionally, JOBJACK plans to explore new industries and geographical markets, particularly those complementary to their South African experience. This expansion will involve both cautious testing and aggressive market entry, balancing the ambition for rapid growth with the need for reliable service delivery. Christiaan emphasises the importance of pushing the team's potential while remaining adaptable to feedback and maintaining high standards of excellence.

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Connect with us directly:

- Christiaan on Linkedin and via JOBJACK

- Cameron on Linkedin and on TikTok

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