Australian startup snapshot: The Search Party

The Search Party is a Sydney-based tech startup that seeks to disrupt the recruitment industry.

The pitch

The recruitment industry is ripe for innovation, according to Jamie Carlisle, founder and CEO of The Search Party.

“Recruitment is one of the very, very few industries that will inevitably be disrupted by technology that has yet to in any way disrupt itself or be disrupted in a complementary way as opposed to a combative way through platforms such as LinkedIn,” he said.

Carlisle said he realised this while suffering through a job at a recruitment agency. One of the most “bizarre” parts of the job was the “complete absence” of technology at the firm, he said.

He began to form an idea for an “automated recruitment service” that would use technology to commoditise the service of the recruiter, much like investment websites have done for brokering services.

In January 2011, he launched a recruitment website called The Search Party.

“The first thing you do is find a candidate you want, [and then choose] the recruiter, not the other way around,” said Carlisle.

When they have a job opening, employers can log into The Search Party online for free and search across a pool of millions of candidates posted and updated by 70 major recruiters in Australia, Carlisle said.

Employers enter what skills, salary, other details they are looking for in a candidate. The site displays a profile of the candidate based on the CV and other data.

The website uses a constantly evolving algorithm to analyse CVs and identify what it believes are the best candidates, he said. “We want to make the smartest possible recommendations most quickly for our users.”

If the employer finds someone, it can make an offer to the recruiter to secure the candidate. If the match is successful, the employer pays a recruitment fee to The Search Party, which in turn passes it onto the recruiter minus a 20 per cent commission.

For the employer, the system saves time and also money because fees are lower than they would be going directly through the recruiter, he said.

Funding and selling

To fund the startup, Carlisle tapped money from a previous exit — he was part of the management team at Spreets when it was sold to Yahoo!7 for $40 million — as well as angel funding from some friends, he said.

“From then we’ve continued to have a solid capital strategy from high net worth and private equity. We have raised several millions of dollars to date.”

The Search Party has had about 100 employers as customers, including several large global brands. While the site is industry agnostic, IT and finance industries currently are particular strengths, with sales and marketing a growing area, he said.

Some industries rely on recruiters more than others, he acknowledged. “We won’t crack them all but if you see a job on Seek or a candidate based on LinkedIn, eventually we’ll be there, too.”

Next: Harnessing big data and the state of Australian startups

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Sharpening data analysis

Carlisle sees data crunching as The Search Party’s greatest asset and the company continues to invest in data science, he said. The company soon plans to expand its data team, and will likely employ six to eight data scientists by year end, he said.

“Data is our game,” he said. “It’s super important that we have people who understand how to use data so we make better product decisions and make better a product experience for our users.”

The Search Party’s data scientists have studied “hundreds of thousands” of previous job vacancies, looking at what kind of candidate has applied and who has been most successful in getting placement, he said. “Where appropriate we can actually see how long they’ve stayed and where they’ve moved on from there.”

Several hundred data points can be taken from a single CV, he estimated. “For every two million CVs, we create roughly two trillion data relationships. So it’s really, really big data.”

“From that you can start to build pretty sophisticated recommendation algorithms.”

In the next 18 months, Carlisle said he hopes to at least match LinkedIn in terms of quantity of local data. “I think ours will be much deeper and much higher quality.”

The Search Party also wants to expand abroad. The company plans to go to the UK first and later the US, Carlisle said.

Startup scene

Carlisle said it’s still very early days for the Australian startup environment.

“Like any new startup scene, you get a lot of incredible ideas, energy and effort,” he said. “You also get a lot of people spinning each other’s wheels [and] lots of networking events that really lead to very little other than high fives and bum slaps.”

Also read: How tech startups rate Australia

The scene is also “guilty of being a China,” with many startups copying ideas from larger markets and adapting them to Australia, he said. “In order to be a genuine hub of technology, you need to innovate.”

Something that greatly concerns Carlisle is seeing “Australian darlings of technology” moving to London, he said. For example, Atlassian recently announced it would register as a UK business to better set itself up for international growth.

“It’s a bloody disgrace that a company the size of Atlassian would need to go offshore to get the money and the types of valuation and exposure it needs,” Carlisle said. “It shows absolute abject failure by the Australian investment community to allow that to happen.

“The government needs to sit up and pay attention. I think investors need to sit up and pay attention. And I think entrepreneurs need to make that choice early whether they think under the current Australian conditions and climate they can flourish here.”

Despite coming from the UK himself, Carlisle would like to keep The Search Party in Australia, he said.

“We feel we can for the time being, but that’s something we will continue to evaluate depending on the support of government and local investors.”

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If you’ve got a startup or know about a cool new Australian business, please email Adam Bender at or on Twitter (@WatchAdam).

Adam Bender covers startup and business tech issues for Techworld and is the author of a dystopian novel about surveillance. Follow him on Twitter: @WatchAdam

Follow Techworld Australia on Twitter: @Techworld_AU


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