A Start-up is no easy game. Especially if your ambitions are global
Talent Alpha is building a platform that gives companies looking for IT professionals very quick access to such resources. It is a new phenomenon in the market, known as activities in the Human Cloud.
Things goes like this in practice: let’s say a company needs a programmer team to start working on a project without any delay. Thanks to the Talent Alpha platform, the company an appropriate person or a whole team can immediately be found. They will come from one of the software houses cooperating with Talent Alpha.
We bring together large international companies in need of IT specialists with small and medium-sized enterprises that provide such services in our part of Europe on the other. Currently we cooperate with over 60 companies from the countries of the region, that is Poland, Ukraine, Romania, Belarus, Czechia and Lithuania, and with time we intend to go further east. We first try to identify appropriate people working in the above-mentioned organisations, and use our technology to describe them: their talents, hard and soft skills, and we will soon also be able to examine their personalities. Thanks to such data, we will be able to connect teams with clients in a highly effective and precise manner. With appropriately large resources, we will be capable of providing that service “on demand”, says Przemysław Berendt, CEO of Talent Alpha.
In the traditional model, a company running its own recruitment, needs any amount of time from 6 weeks to 6 months to find an employee, depending on the time necessary for the person found to terminate the previous job contract. To make matters worse, the probability that the future employee will dovetail with a given project is still fairly low.
Our company automates much of the recruitment process and uses technology to conduct it. We also build own scientific tools to assess employee competences. The time the company gains is the first benefit, the other being that we let our clients acquire the skills that are hard to find. As we cooperate with multiple partners, we have access to remarkable niche competences, e.g. machine learning and penetration testing (part of system security), that is areas where professionals are very difficult to find. In the process we also lower the expenditure: recruitment itself is very expensive, and costs are counted in dozens of thousands of dollars. Such a cost is however entirely absent from our model. The employee does not change the physical place of employment, he or she only has new tasks commissioned, and performs them so as to move to a new project having finished working on the previous one, Przemek Berendt explains.
A company that wants professional input hires a professional but only for a specific period of time. In this way, the employee does not move to another employer. Currently the whole recruitment sector “wrenches” employees from the companies they work for and move them to other ones. Przemek Berendt believes that such a processes not only creates no value but in many cases it simply destroys any value instead.
I personally believe that the message of the so-called geek economy, which says that we will all be freelancers, is somewhat exaggerated, not everyone is psychologically fit and has a right type of personality to become a freelancer. People are ready to be part of organisation, many like the come to the place of employment, have their own desk and environment, a team of people they spend days with in everyday life. Working from home is not for everyone either. In our team, we fairly often discuss what the notion of “the future of work” generally is. We believe that people will move to smaller organisations, yet ones that are capable of dynamically changing projects they work on. Talent Alpha is a platform that will manage the entire process, Przemek Berendt goes on.
The company has researched the market of small and medium-sized IT companies and found out that there are more than 20,000 of them in Europe, with employment exceeding 700,000. The study showed that they all face the same challenges: sales of services, lack of stability, and shortage of thought-provoking challenges to motivate the staff.
What follows, another problems is born in smaller software houses, as their skills and potential of the staff cannot be fully used. Estimates speak of 20%–30% of such human resources underused in such companies.
Should we recalculate these results, we will find any number from 140,000 to 200,000 idlers sitting and doing nothing, the CEO of Talent Alpha laughs.
And yet there are over 9 million programmers missing in the world. Interestingly, most of the vacancies (7.5 million) are in China, with US with its shortage of 1 million coming second. This shows that the company addresses learning needs of the labour market.
In September the starter celebrates its first birthday. Its team today are 25 people working both in the office and remotely, and, importantly, is composed of highly experienced professionals. In the year of its operation the start-up has managed to close the first round of investment with PLN 18.5 million to be earmarked to technology development.
Talent Alpha has won appreciation from the international milieu, among others at the European Finals of the New Venture Competition organised by the Harvard Business School Association of Northern California. Another spectacular success came with the victory in the Lightning Round Start-Up Award competition organised during Unleash in Las Vegas, which guarantees an entry to the World Finals in Paris. A very narrow bevy of just 5 start-ups will compete there this October.
We have managed to jump over the global border between Poland and the rest of the world, because we are experienced managers who have already been active in an international environment. We’ve shown our product in the Us, Germany, and London, and we’ve never found reaching the appropriate people a problem. We also have a good support of the fund launched from the resources of the PFR Ventures. All things told, there is less money in the Polish market than in the start-up milieus of the countries of the West. Yet it is growing thanks to some state initiatives, and a good thing it is, for both the sector and the economy learn how all this should work.
From the earliest days of its operation (which means for a year) Talent Alpha has been part of the Kraków Technology Park’s Technology Incubator.
Finances are the greatest challenge for the founders of any company at start-up, which is why using such wonderful infrastructure at the prices offered by the KPT is a powerful booster, and I believe that everyone does subscribe to it. It must be added that this infrastructure is far from ordinary: we make use of a studio, space and offices, and access to all of those is extremely important. If I wanted to rent an office in the centre of the city, I’d have to sign a 3- if not a 5-year-long contract of an entirely different value. And no one can take such a risk at an early stage of company development. The KPT also offers plenty of added value. The technology park itself is a certain network with exchange of ideas and concepts; it is a brand; allows young companies present themselves in a more extensive context. Plenty of events are organised here, and this year we met the Polish prime minister Morawiecki, a proof that the KPT helps to access the decision-makers.
Przemek Berendt emphasises that he has learnt a lot during the year of standing at the helm of Talent Alpha, which he would not have done to such a scale in a corporation.
I have a mission. Much is said not as much about the need for a purpose but also about the need for such a deeper “reason why”. Here we’ve managed to discover it: work gives us such a fuel that makes us come to the office at 8 am every morning, and stay in as long as necessary. You don’t always have it in corporations. Reid Hoffman used to say that running a start-up is like jumping off a cliff and building your aeroplane in mid-flight. We can agree to that, noting a single difference, however: that we built a kite for the start rather than an airplane, to test whether the machine is capable of taking flight at all, and then we have a pipeline with a paraglider, hang glider, and a sailplane, to finish with a space rocket. An important factor in the analogy is the height above the ground that can symbolise the amount of money you have in your company. Because without funds, the game is over, and that is not an easy game.