From scuba diving to a start-up in verified recruitment

22 Mar 2018

Ian Savage, founder and CEO, SureCert. Image: TechWatch

Ian Savage of SureCert tells TechWatch’s Emily McDaid how he dived in to the world of entrepreneurship.

“An NHS desperately short of nurses”, as described by the Royal College of Nursing, can reportedly only fill one in 400 nursing vacancies.

Ian Savage of SureCert, based at Catalyst Inc, may have an answer. He’s kicking off a new round of funding for his job-search engine that ensures the certifications of jobseekers.

Future Human

“All candidates on SureCert have gone through a verification process, confirming at least one aspect of their backgrounds – for example, an employment reference or qualification,” he said.

This type of recruitment vehicle is particularly relevant for occupations with “a perceived skills shortage and where the need to verify a candidate’s background is important”, according to Savage.

In a previous life, Savage was a scuba divemaster as a hobby. He had a career in recruitment and then consulting, but he would take six weeks off a year to teach scuba diving in Thailand. During a dangerous 42-metre dive in the Red Sea, he nearly died from nitrogen narcosis.

After that, he hung up the diving cylinder and put his head down (excuse the pun) with his entrepreneurial ventures.


Ian Savage of SureCert on a scuba dive. Image: TechWatch

Savage’s interesting past – he also had a three-year consulting gig with Deloitte – gave him the knowledge of what’s missing in talent recruitment.

“We’ve demonstrated the platform’s capability in nursing, as our first vertical market,” he said.

“That’s only a starting point, to give us some focus. As we build up the community, SureCert will be relevant to nearly all occupations.”

It takes the NHS 75 days to verify a nurse’s credential, on average, and much longer to recruit the right person in the first place. “SureCert is about putting as few people as possible between a candidate and the perfect job,” he said.

Once it gains critical mass, Savage says the platform will also uncover valuable data on the labour market. These data analytics can quantify the supply and demand of talent.

“Where are the shortages? What are the emerging skills? What skills are becoming obsolete? Our data can provide answers,” he said.

Savage tells me that partnering with data providers has been useful, as well as opt-in agreements and APIs.

He also has a vision for how the platform could transform school leavers’ lives.

“Before someone has even completed their degree, they could create a profile in SureCert and as soon as their qualification (degree or otherwise) is finished, a future employer would be alerted who already had their eye on that person,” he said.

“Or they might realise they already have qualifications they didn’t know about – such as a nursing student who is automatically qualified to work as a care assistant.”

What’s the revenue model?

It’s free for candidates, and the employer pays. The fees will be comparable to a typical method of recruiting, via LinkedIn. The difference is, our engine gives far more targeted results and, of course, candidates’ qualifications have been verified.

How does this verification process work?

We engage in data-sharing agreements with groups such as universities or professional bodies – say, the Royal Colleges – and then promote our service to their members through them.

Where can you expand outside of the medical professions?

We foresee huge demand for SureCert’s capabilities in areas like oil and gas, aviation, and general graduate recruitment, for a start.

How much are you looking to raise?

Our last round was £480,000 – so we’ll be looking to increase from there.

Do you feel that blockchain could be useful for this platform?

We’re doing extensive research into how we could apply blockchain technology. Because blockchain is about trusted transactions, it seems it could fit with SureCert – but I want to look into this carefully first.

By Emily McDaid, editor, TechWatch

A version of this article originally appeared on TechWatch

TechWatch by Catalyst covered tech developments in Northern Ireland