January - March
They say a lot can happen in a year. For us, that has certainly been the case. Having previously been a passion project we pursued outside of our full-time jobs, Gradguide incorporated as a company in late 2020 on the back of outside interest from investors.
How Gradguide could make money was a topic that was rarely broached. Each of us genuinely enjoyed the process of mentoring graduates and there was a great sense of reward every time us or one of the mentors received a thank you card or we got a glowing review on our Trustpilot.
As 2020 drew to a close and we moved through the first quarter of 2021, those initial conversations regarding investment started to become more substantive, ultimately leading to a €2m equity investment from Terry Clune & Clune Tech.
April - June
On April 6th 2021, myself, Mark, Matthew and Dave left our jobs and took the leap to start working for Gradguide full-time. Despite having over 100 mentors in our network and 1,000+ graduates in our talent pool, with no paying customers, it felt like we were very much starting from scratch.
The first challenge became finding what is known as product-market fit, which well known-investor Marc Andreessen defined as "being in a good market with a product that can satisfy that market."
Naturally, our first goal was then to find a “good” market. With each of our backgrounds being in tech, we had noticed in our time working on Gradguide that a substantial gap existed between graduates who wanted to break into the technology sector but didn't know how and fast-growing technology companies that badly needed talent.
Additionally, according to an NTMA report from earlier this year, the technology sector delivered a 16% growth in gross value added between Q1-Q3 2020, which has continued right through 2021 despite the slowdown in economic activity that has inevitably accompanied lockdowns.
With those two things in mind, we believed that we had found a market that we were not only familiar with but one that was extremely resilient. Furthermore, we had identified a problem that companies within that market had, specifically hiring the right people at the right pace. Now all we had to do was find a way to solve it.
Up until that point, with the support of our mentorship network, we had helped over 150 graduates secure roles ranging from sales to software engineering. We had seen first-hand the value of having someone to guide you through the job application and interview process and thought if we could build a product where that relationship could be formalised, we may be able to satisfy both sides of the market.
Companies would get access to a talent pool of people in the early stages of their careers and graduates would get access to some of the world’s most exciting and fastest-growing companies, many of which they had never heard of before.
So in Week 1, we established a very clear mission and vision. Our mission is to bridge the employment gap between college and company. And our vision is to become the largest graduate recruitment platform in the world. Fortune favours the brave and all that.
The top priority quickly became bringing in super talented people and naturally, we looked at recent graduates. With each of us coming from a sales background, it probably won’t be a surprise that our two of our first three hires were Business Development Representatives, Aoife Mahon and Jenna Binley along with our Head of Product, Hugh Allen.
July - September
The impact of the latest additions to the team was huge. Hugh went to work on transforming our website to what it is today along with being tasked with leading the build of our platform (more on that later) all while working from our newly opened London office.
Being a sales-led product up until that point, our focus shifted to building out an engineering team who would launch Version 2 of our platform. Over the course of the summer, we hired Ravi, Ravinder, Sravan who would be based out of our newly opened Bangalore office as well as Japesh who would be based in Dublin.
Similarly, a number of company partnerships came in the months that followed including Workday, Intercom, Transfermate, ChannelSight, Personio, Spendesk, Qualtrics and Squid Loyalty to add to our pre-existing partners Wayflyer, Immedis and Chargify.
With an ever-increasing list of partner companies, we welcomed yet another hire to our sales team, Gemma Dunne. Gemma would be tasked with the pivotal role of acting as the link between graduates who were looking for jobs and our partner companies who were filling open roles.
The value of the Gradguide platform was and continues to be in the graduates that use it. With that in mind, we felt a crucial part of our strategy early-on was to develop close ties with universities. The Students’ Unions at both UCD and DCU were, and continue to be fantastic partners for us in connecting their students and graduates with the companies we work with.
Having their support in the early days was a catalyst for our university partnerships programme which we expanded to other Irish universities such as TUD, TCD, WIT, GMIT and UCC as well as further afield to London Metropolitan University, University of Nottingham and Durham University. At the time of writing, the programme includes 25 universities across Ireland, the UK and Germany giving us access to over 500,000 students.
These relationships played a crucial part in the success of our inaugural Career Fair which took place on September 30th, with over 2,000 people in attendance. On the day, we had 22 exhibitors ranging from some of the largest technology companies in the world to some of Ireland’s most exciting start-ups alongside 10 guest speakers offering their insights and advice to students and graduates on how to navigate the early stages of their careers. Once you finish reading this post, you can watch all of the talks back on our YouTube channel.
At this point, it would be rude not to include a plug for our upcoming Career Fair on Thursday, February 24th where we’ll look to raise the bar again.
October - December
The last three months of the year continued in much the same way as the ones that preceded it. Our team expanded further, as we welcomed Mikey Ennis as our University Partnerships Manager and Anne Meringolo as a Digital Marketing Executive.
The return of in-person events meant we headed over to the Web Summit in Lisbon. This gave us a great opportunity to connect not only with our partner companies that were in attendance, but to meet new potential customers as well.
The hard work at The Web Summit alongside that of the sales team was rewarded as we added Slack, Front, OpenText, &Open, UrbanVolt, Attest, ActiveCampaign, Locker, Segment and Meltwater to our growing list of company partners.
First and foremost, if you’ve read this far, well done. You may remember that I mentioned product-market fit earlier on and how once we had identified a good market, we needed to build a product to satisfy it.
While the sales team were busy onboarding new customers, our marketing team were bringing in graduates and our operations team (with the addition of Georgi) were running our three-pillar programme and pairing those grads with mentors, our engineering team (including our most recent hire Binayak) were putting the finishing touches on Version 2 of our platform.
Gradguide was intentionally built as a network from day one. Version 2 of our platform will make it easier than ever for students to get a direct link to employment with some of the fastest-growing companies in the world, many of which have been mentioned throughout this post.
The platform will facilitate the matching of students with mentors from a range of backgrounds including customer-facing roles in sales, marketing, support and HR to more technical roles such as software engineering, product and design to give them industry-specific career guidance and hands-on mentorship. Every time a student joins Gradguide it becomes more valuable for every other user, so the platform will continue to be completely free of charge to any students or universities that want to use it.
In this video, Mark runs through the platform from the perspective of mentees, mentors and Gradguide's hiring partners.
Looking ahead to 2022, we're more motivated than ever to continue the momentum built up over the last 12 months. For something that started out as a side project to become our full-time job is still absolutely surreal. If you'd told us this time last year that we would raise €2m, the team would quadruple in size, we'd book over €330,000 in revenue, working with companies like Slack, Workday and Intercom, have over 250 mentors and 3,500 graduates in our network, I'm not sure we would have believed you. A lot done. More to do.