When Kek Sei Wee and Eric Sng ran an IT company in Singapore a few years ago, they struggled to find suitable tech talents for a particular project. They knew there were many talented professionals in the market (both traditional employees and gig workers, with good technical skills acquired through experience and personal learning, but might lack the necessary certifications). But the duo didn’t know how to go about and discover these candidates.
They sat together and brainstormed, and came up with a solution. “We quickly realised we had complementary skills and similar ambitions to build a recruitment app for the Singapore market. This is how IoTalents took birth,” Sei Wee tells e27.
Started in 2015 by Sei Wee, Eric Sng, and Dr Michelle Chong, IoTalents is a recruitment and HR-tech startup. It is an online community and platform for hirers and IT workforce (employees, contract workers and virtual talents) to intelligently connect and transact.
IoTalents recently launched a referral-based jobs app Jobs007, through which talents are incentivised to refer their network to great jobs, and get rewarded with cash. Hirers are then able to leverage on these existing professional networks to select and hire curated referred talents.
“We deliver niche candidates in a prompt and professional fashion. We do so through a precise combination of data science and human judgement,” Sei Wee explains. “Apart from using our recruiter’s network, marketing, public relations, events and media efforts, we also rely on community building and referral-based mechanisms, like Jobs007, to grow our database and candidate pool.”
In addition to the app, IoTalents is also building profiling technologies, algorithmic matching and talent mapping. Such technologies are used in-house to augment its recruitment services, as well as the matching abilities of Jobs007.
“Our team is also passionate about the trend on the contingent workforce model (the gig economy) and believes that the exploding shared economy of global IT talents will reshape the workforce of the future,” Sei Wee adds.
IoTalents generates revenues through three offerings — marketplace, HR concierge, and technology.
The marketplace allows hirers to post job openings and project assignments of quality tech professionals. Through this, they can hire the right talents for their in-house roles or outsourced projects.
The HR Concierge, on the other hand, provides value-added staffing and search services to clients. This, claims the founders, helps clients source for the best technology talents across a wide range of technologies, covering both permanent placements and contract placements. The clients range from startups to large enterprise level firms in the tech sector in Singapore. It charges clients a placement fee upon successful placement of a job candidate.
“Our proprietary talent analytics technology, Talenlytics, aims to solve the biggest frustrations and challenges in recruitment today. Objective data are used to match candidates to jobs, increasing the statistical odds of matching the right job to the right talent with the appropriate values and skill-set. Talenlytics’s matching prowess is powered by our use of data science and Artificial Intelligence,” he boasts.
While IoTalents primarily focuses on IT and tech professionals, it also covers other PMET job roles, says Sei Wee.
The recruitment market size for “staffing” is estimated at about S$1.4 billion (US$1 billion) in the city-state. Leading companies are HRnet, Kelly Services, Adecco, Energy Resourcing Singapore, and Air Energi Group.
“Flexible staffing arrangements using temporary and contractual workers are becoming increasingly popular in Singapore. Moreover, this trend is only likely to grow as employers are struggling to find the skilled individuals they need in the face of tight labour markets and the government’s policies on hiring foreigners,” he states.
With Singapore the primary focus market, IoTalents also has plans to expand into other regional markets in Southeast Asia, starting with Indonesia.
Convincing a big challenge
According to the founders, in the initial period, convincing and educating customers on adopting newer, alternative methods, technologies and market access (freelance talent pool) for their talent acquisition/hiring needs was a major challenge for the company. Many are still more comfortable with the traditional way of doing things.
“The biggest challenge still remains to be educating mindsets of our products/service buyers, and also the very tight labour market in Singapore. For the recruitment space, it is important to have methods to gain market access to talents, before we can even talk about intelligent matching and assessments. No matter how good your matching technologies are, it will be for naught if there is no candidate pool. This is why we launched Jobs007,” he discloses.
Bootstrapped so far, IoTalents last year closed a pre-Series A round of funding from a group of angel investors. The startup is currently in talks to raise more money for the next phase of growth.
Sei Wee admits that the journey has been tough. It has never been easy from the get go, and like any other startup, IoTalents has also been through its share of ups and downs. “But we are very proud. We have created an environment that works. Our team has great spirits, a strong mindset, and self-belief which we strongly believe will get us there.”