Our tech start-up to watch this week is RoleConnect.com, a new website to connect IT contractors up with employers directly.
Software developer Kieran Logan decided to set up RoleConnect.com in mid-2010, as he felt it was a good time to offer a cost-effective alternative for employers when seeking out suitable IT contractors.
He says that the idea came to him based on the frustrations he had experienced in my own working life.
"I had worked as an IT contractor for a number of years and then finally as chief technology officer for a large Irish company. Part of my role was to hire contractors occasionally for projects.
"When recruiting contractors, the day rates we were offering never seemed high enough and we were regularly offered candidates who didn’t have the technical experience we required."
Logan says that by cutting out the middleman he felt he could offer employers considerable savings in their recruitment process and still allow contractors to improve their take-home pay.
To grow RoleConnect, Catherine Wall, an experienced marketing professional, works as the start-up’s community manager.
The company is how based in its own office at the Rubicon Centre, the business incubation centre that’s located on the campus of Cork Institute of Technology.
Last June RoleConnect emerged from the year-long Genesis programme (now known as New Frontiers) at the Rubicon Centre and has been growing organically since then.
"We are in the middle of transitioning from a private beta to public beta," explains Logan.
He says that the website, in its current release, will allow IT contractors to create a deep and detailed profile to emphasise their skills and industry experience.
“Employers can search for the skill sets they require and connect with those contractors. We only charge an introduction fee and employers can re-employ those contractors at future dates without incurring any additional costs," he explains.
Another aim of the site is to allow employers plan for future projects and seek out contractors who will be available when the project commences.
"We will also be releasing a number of additional features over the next number of months."
Logan says that there are no job adverts on RoleConnect and recruitment agencies are not allowed to join.
Similarly, he says contractors cannot simply register and create a profile on the site.
"They are either recommended by employers or existing RoleConnect contractor colleagues. Employers can pre-screen prospective contractors by using our background checking and skills testing rather than interviewing someone to find they don’t meet their requirements.
Seeking out the best
He says that the site is aiming to stand out by providing both employers and contractors with insightful analytics to assist them.
"Both the contractors and the employers want to be part of a quality platform," says Logan. He says that contractors can request an invite to the site and RoleConnect will then go seek out for evidence of their employment record.
For instance, he says the site has had a large number of contractors who have requested an invitation.
"Those contractors are from 14 countries, primarily from the UK and Ireland but we’ve also had contractors applying for membership from Switzerland, Denmark, Holland, Italy, US, Canada and even Australia.
However, for the moment Logan says that the focus will be on connecting up employers and contractors in the Irish and UK marketplaces.
"We have started sending out invites on a small scale and we’ll be escalating those numbers over the next number of days until all our approved contractors have received their invitation to join RoleConnect," says Logan.
“In our market research, we’ve found that there’s no shortage of work for IT contractors. We also found that the four biggest countries for percentage of IT employment at present are the UK, Ireland, the US and Canada."
He says that the start-up has been approached by investors, but the aim is to grow organically for the moment.
"In 2012 we will be targeting the Irish and UK marketplaces. Following that we would like to branch out into France, Spain, Scandinavia, the Netherlands and Germany."
As for the contractors themselves, he says the majority of contractors dealing with RoleConnect are software developers, including web developers and those with server and back-end experience.
"We also have people across the broad spectrum of IT careers such as business analysts, user experience specialists, business analysts, project managers and database administrators.
"We do not have a great number of systems people and testers at present so we need to spread the word to anyone looking for contract work in those areas, such as system administrators and network and security specialists, adds Logan.
He says that social media sites such as Twitter and LinkedIn have been important in terms of communicating with the IT contractor community. However, he says that the most successful method for the company has been meeting and speaking with contractors.
As for the challenges when setting out, Logan says that developing RoleConnect has been a great undertaking,
"Developing a semantic search engine and a web reputation system were considerable tasks to undertake. Like all start-ups, I think the biggest challenge is finding yourself multitasking on a daily, if not hourly, basis," he says.
For other emerging start-ups, Logan says they should prioritise getting customers over business plans, as well as keeping on top of costs.
"Market research and engagement with users/customers is critical. Speaking with your potential customers as early as possible is the only way you can shape your offering. Also, make full use of all the supports and mentors on offer," he adds.