Our tech start-up of the week is Cork-based Platform Avenue, an organisation that provides a suite of talent management software to a cross-section of organisations.
“Simply put, companies that use our software can find, screen interview and rank the personnel that they need in an effective manner,” explains founder Patrick Dinneen.
Platform Avenue provides a range of fast and easy-to-use software to various sectors, including companies that need to hire key personnel, government departments that allocate grants, and companies that require graduates for their graduate programmes.
It can also be of use to higher-education institutes that need to source undergraduates or find suitable work placements and also monitor students’ work placement performance. TV production companies and broadcasting corporations that need to find and screen suitable candidates for reality shows can also make use of the software.
Platform Avenue’s founder
“I did a food science degree in UCC and followed that with a bachelor of education. I spent a number of years as a primary teacher in Edinburgh and London,” Dinneen recalls.
“On returning to Cork, by default I started working in recruitment. Even though I really liked the challenge of finding the right person for a given position, sometimes it was not always possible and I felt the process was often slow and cumbersome and simply outdated. I couldn’t understand why a company with a vacancy was limited to candidates that were available only through a recruitment company at that time. I thought, why not provide a hiring company with a global supply of suitable candidates?
“From an applicant point of view, I asked why are they spending so much time and money on education but displaying their achievements to the hiring world? It didn’t make sense to me that a CV would sit on a desktop and only be utilised when looking for a job. Why not let the hiring world know about yourself? It makes perfect sense to let companies that require your skills to see you and the experience you are building elsewhere! Why not allow a company that likes a CV and portfolio to tag the person and get a reminder when their current contract is close to ending?”
Dinneen points out it’s no secret that a recruiter pushing the best available candidate does not sit well with hiring companies.
“That’s no fault of the recruiter, that’s the business model that exists – that’s what secures the recruiters’ finder fee and commission. Yes, a recruitment firm will fully or partially reimburse a hiring company when an appointment just doesn’t work out but this leaves both the hiring company and the candidate in a difficult and often embarrassing position.
“Interviews can also be time consuming for candidates to attend and it’s a logistical problem for hiring companies to arrange interview panels. Skype helps but it may not be ideal if the interviewee is in a different time zone … Platform Avenue software removes these barriers.
“When employers look for a candidate to fit a specific position they want to know that they are competent in the technical skills they say they have. Traditional recruitment relies on references to verify skill sets and that’s not good enough, in my view. Employers want a candidate that has the necessary skills not only be part of a team but also bring something new to the table."
Using the software organisations that are in search of key personnel simply upload a job description and specification, set job specific questions that best fit applicants will answer in a real-time video and select a technical test for applicants to complete.
This will verify an applicant’s competency in carrying out the job with high scoring applicants moving up the ladder. Employers then select the psychometric test they want applicants to complete.
“Hiring companies can sit back and wait for applications to roll in and at a time of their convenience check the profiles of applicants and their video responses to the pre set job specific questions. These can then be filtered and commented on between the interview panel .
“From an applicant perspective, they simply drag and drop a CV in via LinkedIn to create a profile. They can then add videos, photos and necessary documents. When an applicant is matched to a position they will receive an invite to do a real-time interview,” Dinneen explains.
Dinneen’s ultimate goal is that Platform Avenue will become the go-to software provider for organisations looking to hire the best people for their organisation.
“We are at an early but exciting stage. We are really focused on providing an exceptional service to our customers. Our customers see first-hand the value of using our software which saves them time and money.
“I recently completed the New Frontiers Programme with the Rubicon Centre in Cork and that programme has helped me enormously – the team there have been outstanding in terms of their advice and mentoring and introducing me to the right people who will help the business progress. I also received the award for best overall company and business opportunity from the Rubicon Centre at the recent showcase and awards which I have no doubt will also stand to me going forward.”
Kill the fear
Dinneen acknowledges that starting something new is exciting but also daunting.
“The fear of failure is in everybody. There are lots of decisions to make and the wrong decision can be costly but be enrolling in a programme like New Frontiers you diminish the chances of wasting time in the wrong areas as it keeps you focused.
“The biggest challenge I faced was securing my first customer. The second biggest challenge was my second customer. Thankfully sideline productions and coco productions saw the potential in our software and were ahead of their field in embracing new technology. The success we have had with them has given our software credibility in the market.”
Dinneen was moved by the resources available to start-ups in the Irish economy.
“I really had no idea of the amount of support there was out there. The Cork City Enterprise Board were my first port of call. Adrianne Rodgers and Ita Murphy were very supportive from day one and continue to be so.
“I secured a place in the New Frontiers 1 in the Rubicon Centre in Cork and progressed to New Frontiers 2 which is an intensive 6 month programme that really paved the way. The progress guidance and support was and still is amazing. My first visit to Peter Finnegan, George Bulman and Paul Healy involved an idea on a few sheets of A4 paper. I completed New Frontiers 2 with a business and the confidence to grow that business.
“Without doubt I am where I am now because of what I learned at the Rubicon Centre. Enterprise Ireland have also been fantastic; my Enterprise Ireland development adviser Brian Sheridan is always a phone call away to advise and give direction. It’s this support that a start-up needs to avoid making costly mistakes.”
Validate your ideas
Dinneen’s advice to fellow entrepreneurs is wise. “Validate your idea. Make sure you have a solution to a problem that exists. Get on the phone and ask prospective customers the hard questions.
“It’s the easiest job to postpone till tomorrow. Prospective customers don’t know you, and don’t care if you don’t like what you hear. Their view holds most weight because they will be the paying customer! Once you clearly know that there is a need for your product you can progress with peace of mind. Also sign up to a programme like New Frontiers and you won’t go wrong.”