Aussie Startup Vervoe Lands $1 Million to Take on America

Remember Crocodile Dundee from the ’80s? It’s about an Australian backwoodsman who comes to New York City and discovers the concrete jungle has little resemblance to the outback. It’s a fish out of water story. Australian-born startup Vervoe feels a little like that.

Co-founded by Australians Omer Molad and David Weinberg, Vervoe is coming to the U.S. following a $1 million investment in hopes of taking a bite out of the crowded, well-funded and established hiring tech marketplace. It’s a playing field that includes the likes of Taleo, iCIMS, Google, ZipRecruiter, Craigslist, and Indeed.

So, is this another case of some well-meaning, bright-eyed foreigners coming to America, hoping to make a mark while not knowing exactly what they’re walking into? Let’s explore.

The company describes itself as an online hiring assistant for startups and small- to medium-sized businesses. In essence, they want to be an end-to-end tool for small companies to post and distribute jobs, automate the testing process, and then manage candidates through to the hiring process. Their sites touts “Hire the right people in 4 days, not 40.”

How are they able to do deliver the right candidate to your doorstep so quickly?

“Other recruitment solutions are focused on getting better at driving candidates away with more screening and more filtering, whereas we believe every candidate should get a chance,” said Molad, who also serves as Vervoe’s CEO, “We want businesses to have a simple solution to build their entire team, whether they’re testing a candidate’s technical skills or trying to understand how someone will contribute to their culture.”

Reading through Vervoe’s list of features will sound familiar to most industry pros. Interviewing everyone automatically? Rings a bell. Keeping candidates updated with where they are in the hiring process? Check. Allowing customizable interview questions? Been there, done that.

According to Molad, what really makes them unique is “being able to level the playing field for small businesses, allowing them to skip traditional interviews and replace them with simulations using content written by experts.

“Most of our prospects and customers have never heard of an ATS.”

Fair enough. There is a lot of green field. Many small businesses around the world don’t know an ATS from ATM, and those folks might embrace a solution like Vervoe. The smarter money, however, says these companies will still head toward brands they know when it comes to posting jobs. Craigslist, for all its stuck-in-1997 ugliness, continues to thrive because it’s simple and effective for many SMBs. It’s the devil we know.

Interview simulations and four-day hirings sound sexy, but this stuff also sounds new and risky. Learning the ins and outs of a new product is an investment many small businesses aren’t interested in making. Endless ZipRecruiter radio ads and TV spots are there for those willing to dip toes in different waters. If I saw it on television, it’s gotta be safe, right?

Inevitably, Vervoe is at risk of ending up in no-man’s land. It will struggle with the companies too small for an applicant tracking system, because those organizations will stick with what’s comfortable. And it’ll struggle with slightly bigger employers because that group already has an applicant tracking system and are very hard to flip.

Maybe there’s an opportunity somewhere in the middle. Vervoe says its customer base is “growing rapidly,” after all.

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“Already we have helped the non-technical founder of a fashion startup hire a data scientist and a venture-backed augmented reality startup hire a developer, as well as working with more traditional businesses to hire sales reps, finance partners, and graphic designers,” said Molad.

Only time will tell.

By the end of the film, Crocodile Dundee succeeds against all odds by tapping into a special set of skills that are transferable to a new environment. In one famous scene, he’s mugged by someone with a knife, to which he smiles and says, “That’s not a knife, that’s a knife,” showing the criminal something more akin to a machete than a pocketknife.

For Vervoe’s sake, I hope it takes a cue from their fellow countryman and has one helluva big knife in it’s arsenal as it enters the U.S. recruitment market. Going to need it.

Joel Cheesman

Joel Cheesman has over 20 years experience in the online recruitment space. He worked for both international and local job boards in the late ‘90s and early ‘00s. In 2005, Cheesman founded HRSEO, a search engine marketing company for HR, as well as launching an award-winning industry blog called Cheezhead. He has been featured in Fast Company and US News and World Report. He sold his company in 2009 to Jobing.com. He was employed by EmployeeScreenIQ, a background check company. He is the founder of Ratedly, an app that monitors anonymous employee reviews. He is married and the father of three children. He lives in Indianapolis.