It might seem like summer is the best time of year for most of us. After all – there’s plenty sunshine and the prospect of holidays and time off. But there is one group of people who perhaps don’t look forward to it as much as we do: Graduates.
After three or four years of working hard in the confined environs of a university, they are expected to head out into the world and put their new skills to work. But with hundreds of thousands of looking for work, what’s the best way to make this painless for both graduates and employers? That’s the problem a new careers app called Debut aims to solve.
Charlie Taylor is the company’s young CEO – and we spoke to him to find out more about how his business works, and how it uses games to help companies figure out who to employ.
Please can you explain what Debut is and how it works?
Debut is the world’s first careers app for students. Students are the most mobile audience in the world, but until now employers have been unable to reach the student population via this medium.
What’s more, in 2014, almost 500,000 applications from students at just 30 universities inundated 100 companies. Yet despite the volume, 150,000 vacancies went unfilled.
With thousands of students battling it out for jobs and internships year on year, the application process has become tedious and repetitive. As a result, students are becoming disillusioned and leading businesses are not recruiting the talent they need.
To solve this problem, we’ve created Debut. The Debut careers app provides students and graduates with a completely different, interactive job-seeking alternative to those currently found on static careers websites and job boards.
The idea is that students can sign up to Debut once in just a couple of minutes and they are then connected to over 40 global employers and a wealth of opportunities. The app’s “Talent Spot” feature enables employers to send students invitations to events and interviews or even fast-track candidates to assessment centres, directly on their mobile.
With Debut, students can land roles in blue chip companies simply by playing mobile games. The in-app games test users’ aptitude in different skills. In addition, there’s an advanced targeting function that the employers can use to look for candidates.
For employers, the app offers unrivalled engagement with the most digitally connected generation through their preferred medium, their smartphone. This unparalleled link to millennials makes it quicker and easier for graduate employers to reach a much broader talent pool beyond traditional universities and takes the time intensive onus away from applicants.
What’s your personal background, and what inspired you to start the company?
Before founding Debut, I was a senior consultant at EY. I worked in its international trade team, where I advised some of the world’s largest companies on complex cross-border issues such as importing, exporting and various areas of International Trade, before qualifying in UK tax.
I created Debut because it is something I wish I’d had access to when I was at university. When I was in my last year of studying, I applied to 40 different graduate jobs and attended 10 assessment centre days. The whole application process was laborious and outdated.
I could see how we were all using our smartphones to order food, date, shop and connect with each other and thought why can’t we do this to find a career? Mobile apps offer a personal, exclusive and exciting user experience. I also knew that 20 per cent of students didn’t even own a tablet or a laptop, so it was clear to me that there was an opportunity to bring careers into mobile and make it as compelling as other mobile apps.
I thought, wouldn’t it be great if we could sign up to an app once and then employers could come to us, instead of us going to them. Wouldn’t it be even more amazing if we could play a game to win an internship? And so the idea of Debut was born!
What’s the story of the company from launch until now? How big is the company now?
Debut officially launched in the UK in November 2015 and is available to download via iTunes and Google Play now. So far, we’ve gone through two rounds of funding, and are in the process of opening another round to further develop our technology.
Since we started Debut, we’ve built an international team with 12 staff working in London, Buenos Aires and Florida. The expansion potential is huge and ultimately, our aim is to become the number one global app for student careers.
Debut has an impressive number of partners – how were those relationships built?
When we launched Debut last November we already had partnerships with over 40 global employers, including Barclays, PWC, Transport for London, Royal Mail, Allen and Overy, and BT.
These relationships have been built on the basis of the potential mobile has to offer employers when it comes to keeping pace with technological advancements in the recruitment landscape, staying relevant in the eyes of their target market and attracting the right talent for business success.
What is your business model? How have you monetized your product?
Debut’s business model is based on a subscription model. We’re already generating revenue through the subscription fees that companies pay to join our platform. The platform is free for students to sign up and use.
The games seem like a really unique aspect of your business – what’s the thinking behind them? How do they work?
Debut is the world’s first non-gaming app to integrate gaming into a community for the purposes of student attraction and recruitment. We’ve worked with major companies such as L’Oréal to create tailored games that students can play for the chance to win prizes such as an interview, assessment day or even an internship.
For instance, ‘The Seeker’ from L’Oréal was a free running game where players could navigate a maze exploring different aspects of the brand. Multiple steps in the recruitment process could be skipped by the highest scorers and the overall winner of the game landed a paid internship at the cosmetic giant.
Through Debut’s mobile games, employers can engage candidates on a much deeper level – educating students and graduates on the brand and building visual appeal and curiosity around the organisation. Mobile gamification makes the employer far more relevant to its target audience, making it the ideal way to identify, attract, engage and acquire the required talent.
More than this, the games help match candidates with jobs they might not have expected they’d be interested in. For instance, L’Oréal wanted to appeal more to a male audience, so we designed a game that would show candidates the different facets of a job at L’Oréal, whilst giving the company an idea of who would be a good fit for the role.
Debut is currently in the process of developing further mobile games that test cognitive abilities and behavioural traits. This will enable employers to recruit candidates with a better understanding of their abilities and allow millennials to apply in a truly engaging way.
What are the key metrics that you monitor in your business growth?
At Debut, the key metrics we monitor to track our business growth include the number of downloads our mobile app receives, the levels of engagement we see from people using the app, how many employers we have signed up to Debut and overall head count.
How do you think about user churn, given that once graduates have careers they will have fewer reasons to use Debut? What about variable demand across the year (i.e. presumably usage is highest towards the end of the academic year), and how does this factor into your business planning and decisions?
User churn is not a concern as ultimately our aim is to connect students and graduates with careers they will love. It’s a cyclical process. With over 2 million students currently enrolled in higher education institutions in the UK alone, the target market is vast. What’s more, it’s being constantly refreshed by new entrants coming into the higher education space and employment market each year.
In addition, Debut has plans to introduce more features to the platform, which will extend past the attraction side of student recruitment and increase the time our users spend on the app.
What’s the next step for Debut as a business? Is the intention to grow the business independently, or look for an exit via acquisition or similar?
We are really excited about the future. Our vision is for Debut over the next few years is to become the number one global app for student careers. We already have a number of exciting new features coming to the app and of course there are lots more games on the way.
Our priority for now is to build a product that will benefit as many students and employers as possible and enable them to find a career they will love and the talent that they need.