A free lunch that can lead to a dream job? Yes, there’s a platform for that.
It’s called Lunchcruit (get it?). It started less than a month ago, but thanks to launching directly on Product Hunt, the platform that connects companies and job seekers has already gained over 1,000 users in San Francisco, New York, Seattle, Austin, Boston, and Los Angeles, and is in the process of rolling out programs in Toronto and Chicago.
The premise is simple: Give companies that are looking for talented recruits a low-pressure way to interact face-to-face. The idea was born as a side project of William Hsu and Dom Patrick. The two entrepreneur-developers have been trying to disrupt a global job board industry that Wall Street analyst firm Trefis estimated is a $9 billion market dominated by the likes of Monster, CareerBuilder, Simply Hired, and, of course, LinkedIn.
Patrick founded HackerX, an invitation-only platform that generates events pairing developers and startups in a speed dating format. Hsu cofounded CodeEval, a hacker challenge platform pitting top coders against each other for jobs and deals. Hsu went on to HireVue, a recommendation engine that uses big-data analytics to match candidates and companies, when it acquired CodeEval.
But Hsu tells Fast Company there was still something missing. As someone who gets dozens of InMails (private messages) on LinkedIn, Hsu confesses, “I never read them because they are kind of boring.”
Indeed, jobseekers who are in demand (looking at you, developers) are targeted by companies seeking qualified candidates that are combing LinkedIn profiles for key words. “It’s a numbers game,” Hsu contends.
The problem as he sees it is that if you are already securely employed and making decent dough, a boilerplate introduction to a corporate entity isn’t going to ignite the necessary spark of interest to take the next step and learn more about opportunities available at said company.
What can make the difference is a warm introduction, Hsu points out. Like the time the CTO of a company called a friend of his for a chat over lunch. “It was casual and informal, and the CTO was able to sell him on the vision of the company,” Hsu explains. Three weeks later, that friend was hired. “The number-one way companies hire is by relationships and referrals,” he says. In other words, it’s personal, something that LinkedIn rarely achieves. And it remains to be seen how the raft of recent competitors aimed at curating your professional circle or using email to analyze and leverage your best connections will fare in real life.
In the meantime, Lunchcruit is bypassing the virtual connections entirely in favor of that increasingly scarce commodity: the midday meal. Rather than tackle the sometimes awkward “informational interview” that doesn’t always establish rapport, Hsu says Lunchcruit’s company lunches allows the organization’s representative to establish a personal relationship in a less formal environment. “It was kind of obvious,” he says, and he was surprised to find that despite a lot of software innovation in the recruiting space, no one had tackled this yet.
“Software doesn’t tell you about the company, it just tells you what they are looking for,” says Hsu. He believes candidates need to buy into the mission and vision in order to want to come onboard. Hsu believes this is especially important for smaller companies that don’t have the brand-name recognition of a larger tech firm to compete for talented employees.
For job seekers, all it takes is a search through the platform to see what lunches are available, and then request one. The lunch is free and there is no commitment to sign on with the employer. The company has the right to accept or reject a candidate, Hsu says. He’s also encouraging recruiters to look beyond lunch. Some companies are doing brunch or happy hour with a group of potential candidates, he says.
Hsu and Patrick may have started Lunchcruit as a fun side project, but the business ramped up quickly thanks to its debut on Product Hunt. Hsu says they elected to go that route because the Product Hunt community would give them immediate feedback in a democratic way. “I thought we would get some pushback,” he admits. “But to get that much support is a good validation of the idea.”
Angel investors have been sniffing around since Lunchcruit launched, too. Probably because the platform lends itself to an easy revenue stream. At a time when startups are waiting a year or more to gain traction before trying out a revenue model, Lunchcruit already has a few companies paying the platform to connect them with potential candidates.
Hsu says the plan is to offer the first companies that sign up to participate in new cities the opportunity to do it for free, then they’ll start charging. “We only want them to pay if they have ROI,” which he says should be “30 to 40 solid leads every month.” It’s still cheaper than corporate LinkedIn accounts, he maintains.
Though they haven’t hired anyone yet, Adam Ahmad, director of partnerships at Fitmob, is optimistic about the platform’s potential. “Lunchcruit has been the fastest and easiest way to meet smart people in S.F.,” he says. “The best part is that I don’t have to lift a finger–the people come to me and we chat about exciting problems over a quick lunch.” Ahmad says some are currently being interviewed for positions at the company.
In the meantime, Hsu’s quit his day job at HireVue in hopes that Lunchcruit can make a dent in the digital recruiting space by not focusing on big data. “People want this personal approach,” he tells me, not over lunch, but over the phone.