Barry Walsh sat down with Sean Fay, CEO of The Context Factory, which works as a Netflix for recruiting talent.
What is your background?
Before I started a software company in Ireland, I had a career in recruitment in the UK. I worked for a number of major agencies, owned an executive search firm and have held management positions, such as being the former head of technical recruitment at Vodafone UK.
Across all these positions, I could see the pace of innovation in recruitment has not kept up with other sectors. A concrete manifestation of this is the lack of progress in diversity and inclusion (D&I). If technology could enable a man to get to the moon 50 years ago, how can it not be part of putting the right women in a boardroom today?
What is The Context Factory?
We are a B2B SaaS with an initial product in the use of adaptive intelligence to optimise the engagement of every talent and remove the bias in how you engage them. Our tech works like a Netflix for talent, in that we bring an understanding of someone’s digital signature so as to match a digital engagement to them. We then use machine learning to understand the performance of every engagement, and from that we learn what works.
A major advantage for us is our relationship with Oracle. We are Ireland’s first Oracle High Potential Start-Up company. They are the market leaders in adaptive intelligence. Our SaaS runs entirely from their autonomous database, which means our #Insight_Drive_Inclusion is secure and scalable.
“If technology could enable a man to get to the moon 50 years ago, how can it not be part of putting the right women in a boardroom today”
How did you obtain finance in the beginning?
The short answer to that is I used to be rich. We have received one offer of equity-based funding, but I made the final tough call of turning it down. We have created some initial relationships with VC’s in Ireland and the UK, to date we have sought advice over funds. Prior to our current build of our first enterprise product with Oracle, we have used our own MVP to move from numerous free trials to paid for only ones. For me sales validate your business many times over investment.
Investors want to see the track record of either A) you as a start-up guy (and I use the word guy on purpose) or B) The returns from others in your sector. So if you are a first time software entrepreneur and your industry is in its efficiency, it makes sense to knuckle down, boot strap and sell.
What was the biggest lessons you have learnt?
My initial focus on moving from running a recruitment company to making software was to offer recruitment services and new technology at the same time, with a focus on Irish companies. I am grateful for a meeting with one of Ireland’s top serial entrepreneurs and VC’s who told me to pick one, starting with two at once shows a lack of focus.
What social media do you find works best?
I use LinkedIn to help connect me with companies that we want to talk to. We have also done social media campaigns in collaboration with Oracle. We will have to do much more as we like to promote the idea of INclusion technology more than just ourselves. It doesn’t make sense to us that all tech firms talk about technology changing everything, then move to discussing initiatives for D&I. Why does the tech stop for D&I?
“For me sales validate your business many times over investment”
What would be your one tip to anyone starting a company in the recruitment tech sector?
The global recruitment fee market predominantly follows the methodology of the Johannes Gutenberg’s ‘modern’ printing press from 1436 and the first CV on record belongs to Leonardo da Vinci, who was born in 1452. Today the global recruitment fee market is worth $200bn per annum and it will be only a fraction of that by 2029, as it moves from human services to SaaS. So my tip is to build a product for recruitment, but don’t box yourself into that market. Think Carphone Warehouse.
The Irish start-up industry is incredibly diverse at the moment. Are there any companies in this area you are particularly a fan of?
Very much so, we have studied much about the path that Diaceutics, First Derivatives, Fusion Antibodies, Kainos and VR Education have taken in getting to market for funding. If Fleetmatics can go from working over a newsagent shop in Templeogue in 2004, to a $2.4bn acquisition in 2016, we must have a leg up as we can already use 274 offices all over the world.
We are fully aware of great success in Teamwork, AMCS and Intercom, but there was a path lit up for us by Baltimore, Iona and Trintech that still seems unfulfilled. With my last few words, I will single out Siobhain Collins and Jeni Brown, who as advisory board members of The Context Factory, give us a direct link to a real pathway to progress.
Interview by Barry Walsh
Published: 7 October, 2019