I met the amazing, super-focused Polina Montano at Lisbon’s WebSummit, where she told me that we’ve failed to use technology to efficiently connect and reveal job candidates and organisations. She decided to do something about this crazy reality in 2015 … and has since raised $65M US dollars for her startup Job Today with Co-Founder Eugene Mizin. “We really believe that people are much more than their resumes.”
Polin Montano, Co-Founder & COO of Job Today
Nick Curtis-Davis: You’re listening to 14 Minutes of SaaS. A “That was now” production.
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Nick Curtis-Davis: On this week’s podcast, we get to meet Polina Montano. Polina is co-founder of Job Today. A hiring app, which sets out to bring new levels of efficiency and immediacy to hiring across the notoriously high staff turnover worlds of retail, hospitality and the service industries.
Polina Montano: I was actually running a chain of stations. The turnover of both staff and customers is very, very high, very high volumes. And so its really, really challenging filling those positions and making sure you have people in the right place at the right. We are talking about urgency here. Yes, we do believe it can be done very fast and we are just out to solve this challenge.
Nick Curtis-Davis: Stephen talks to Polina about her background as a serial entrepreneur, as well as discussing Job Today and what brought her to build it.
Stephen Cummins: I met the amazing, super-focused Polina Montano at Lisbon’s WebSummit. She told me that we failed to use technology to efficiently connect and reveal job candidates and organisations. She decided to do something about this crazy reality 3 years ago and has since raised 65 million U.S. dollars for a startup Job Today with her co-founder, Eugene.
Stephen Cummins: Polina Montano. Delighted to have you here today.
Polina Montano: Great being here, Stephen, thank you for having me.
Stephen Cummins: Could you tell us a little bit of your story so far? Cause you’ve got an amazing history, an entrepreneurial history.
Polina Montano: Absolutely, happy to. I was actually working in retail myself. So I am a little bit of an old co-founder in technology. Running those businesses. I was actually faced with this very common challenge of how do you hire staff on short notice? Every retail hospitality business deals with it sooner or later. And I tried every solution out there from job boards to temp agencies to the piece of paper in the window saying staff wanted. And for years, I couldn’t really find a solution which would really fit my needs. And that was a moment when actually this lightbulb went on … and I got together with my friend and now co-founder of Job Today, Eugene, and I said, “Listen, let’s just do something about it. We have to fix it.” Isn’t that crazy? …..That in a world of technology and innovation in which we live today, with people looking for job … [that] we still have to print out resumes and hit the streets … literally walking in and out of restaurants and shops … bring the resume in hand and asking if they’re hiring. It just happens because all of those local jobs are just not available online. So they’re hidden. And job seekers can’t find them. So that’s one of the issues we wanted to solve, just connect instantly over our mobile interface. People are looking for staff, and candidates are looking for jobs.
Stephen Cummins: Now, you mentioned something impressive to me after I introduced you on the stage yesterday. You mentioned something about running another company that had six outlets. What company was that?
Polina Montano: Yeah, I was actually running a chain of petrol stations back in my country, Luxembourg, and actually a petrol station …. in Luxembourg at least … it’s a very, I would say, hard core traditional retail business. Why hardcore? Because, well, it’s open seven days a week, opening hours are large. So you constantly need people working shifts. And basically the turnover of both staff and customers is very, very high. Very high volumes. So it’s really, really challenging filling those positions and making sure you have people in the right place at the right time. But also, what makes hiring for these traditional industries such as a shop or restaurant, hiring in those sectors is very different because we’re talking about urgency here. Urgency. Why? Because these are operational sectors, the success of your operations literally depends on people. Having the right people with the right skills, in the right moment, at the right time, in the right place. So it really all comes down to the people, the importance of [the] human factor is tremendous. And you just need to invest.
Stephen Cummins: Yeah, absolutely. We’re only as good as our teams. You’re a hyper polyglot. You speak a lot of languages. How did that happen?
Polina Montana: Well, I love speaking to people. I love communicating. It’s really important for me to get my point across. So when I was travelling around Europe for work reasons and I’d been working in different countries, I really felt left out if I would only be speaking English, because when you are in a country like beautiful France or Luxembourg or Latin American and people speak the most beautiful languages, you really want to be a part of. And I do believe your life becomes much richer as you learn other languages.
Stephen Cummins: I actually think it’s good for you, for your brain as well. I think there’s a cognitive benefit to that.
Polina Montana: I think it’s a gymnastic for your brain. Absolutely. And it gets easier after language number two or three. I believe.
Stephen Cummins: Oh, I believe so too. It’s like a pattern or template. One thing I noticed is you have a lot of amazing investors and you’re only about two years old, just over 2 years old. A lot of your investors are from the media industry, from the U.K. and Spain and Germany. How did that happen?
Polina Montana: Well, it happened because we wanted it to happen as co-founders of a company. But basically, let’s come back a little bit to what we do. We believe we are solving a very vital problem for a very large chunk of the population. By no means Job Today is a niche product. We are now in the most famous tech conference. Sitting here at WebSummit in Lisbon [with senior people] … and yet I can assure you that practically everyone who is present here today at some stage in life was working in hospitality or retail. Maybe it was their first part time job while they were free university. Just to maybe pay for the extras or just for the holidays, et cetera. So everybody has done it. Even putting aside students and young people who work in this industry, it’s still a huge, huge industry. And it’s really a massive market. So we wanted to solve that very vital problem that many people have actually looking for a job … that might be a first job! And many of my users have come to me looking for their first job in life.
But in principle, it’s like a very vital need. So how do you address it? You address it by becoming the place where people go when they’re looking for a simple job. Might be hospitality, might be in retail, might be in delivery, might be something else. So we need to build the brand. People need to know what you do. People need to remember your name and they need to believe in our proposition. It’s really so simple. It’s just so obvious and so plain that all the mass media like television and radio [are needed to communicate it] – it’s a great challenge for us to get the message across. Yes. We do believe technology should be used to help solve very human problems, such as finding a job or finding staff for your business. Yes, we do believe it can be done very fast. Yes, you do believe you can fill your positions in 24 hours …. or if you need a job, you should be able to find it within days. And we’re just out there to solve this challenge. And mass media channels are definitely helping us to reach a very broad audience.
Stephen Cummins: It feels like a meeting place. I mean, you’ve got this mobile messaging system. You can introduce yourself by video. You know, it does feel like a great way to present yourself, but also to kind of pre-meet somebody, to almost feel you might know a little bit more about them. The old CV or even the LinkedIn profile, it’s a little bit … it’s a little bit stiff isn’t it? It doesn’t really come off the page. You don’t really get to know the person.
Polina Montano: I think you are really hitting it. It’s exactly what we stand for. They really believe it. People are much more than their CVs and their resumes. And for any position, really. There is so much more that people have to offer. There’s much more. And their experiences, there is human skills. There is motivation. There is your personality, which has tremendous value for whatever position you are applying for. And especially for the sectors in which we operate, which is hospitality, retail, logistics, beauty. The way you come across and how you present yourself, the way you talk about your motivation is very important. And actually on both sides, both candidates and employers … maybe let’s start with the candidate side …
Today, our surveys show that 40 percent of my users in the UK came to me to look for their first job in life. That’s an honour and a responsibility at the same time. But let’s also think about them. What do they have to show for them, for themselves? They’re still in school. They’re still studying. They have no experience to put on their curriculum. So how do we help this young generation to actually get this first job, which suits them? And how do we help that personality shine through? And I think that’s what we’re trying to do in Job Today, we are trying to give them tools and possibilities to actually show the humans we actually are. Now we’re talking about blue-collar. But even if I bring it back to my life and my experience in launching a technological startup, it’s still very, very true. When you launch a startup, what you are hiring for? You are hiring for your team members. You’re hiring for people who are going to grow your company together this year. And it’s not about experiences which we have had in the past. It’s about how creative and how smart and how motivated we are in building this company together with you. So they’ll be creating and inventing with you. This also means it’s you are looking for a certain personality. You are looking for certain character traits. So it’s actually valid no matter what market you are in.
Stephen Cummins: Multi-sided marketplaces are notoriously difficult. How did you approach that?
Polina Montana: Well. When you’re your launching a product and then you’re choosing your very first market, clearly as a co-founder, you want it to succeed. So basically you’re looking for the environment which would be the most favourable to whatever it is you’re developing. Our first market was Spain and it was for obvious reasons. Bringing it back to what we do, we are addressing hiring in industries such as hospitality and retail. So we wanted to launch in the market with a very vibrant retail sector and hospitality sector. What fits a picture best is Spain, 55.5 percent of PIB of Spain actually comes from the hospitality industry. So by definition, that was the right market to launch for us.
Stephen Cummins: It’s a great way to find out if somebody is really motivated or just looking for a filler from a business point of view. They could probably tell that from the video and from the presentation. They can tell a lot about the candidate’s motivation.
Polina Montana: Of course, and this can tell a lot about the candidate’s motivation. That’s why a video cover-letter, like a feature which we launched this summer is there. It gives candidates opportunities and 30 seconds to actually tell, “Hey, why do I want this job and why do you think I’m great in it?” I think it’s a great way to show motivation and also personal fit for the company for the business. But I think you should also see it both ways. It’s definitely direction in which we are working. I think on the jobseeker side, they are also very curious about what is this business like? Will I actually enjoy working there? Will I like the team? Will I like my boss? Would people who used to work in this place, what do we have to say about it? Is it a nice environment? And as we go, I think it’s going to be a jobseeker market in the future. But people actually have choices. What job is it they want to do so for employer perspective? I think your employer branding and your employer reputation is really, really, really, really important. And employers should start working on it right now.
Stephen Cummins: What do you do to keep yourself healthy or to relax or to stay in contact with those you love? How do you balance all of that when you’re building a business like this?
Polina Montana: I think having people who you love, your loved ones. I think that’s why it’s a great support. I have two kids. My little one is four years old. I think just having them it’s … they definitely do ground you, because they have lives and their lives are very different. And clearly they just put everything into perspective. So just for me, it’s my loved ones and my support system which actually helped helps me balance things. And also, I think it’s important to take a little bit of time for yourself everyday, no matter how tough and busy your schedule is. I try to have my half an hour run in the morning. And to me, it’s really a vital necessity, to be honest. It’s just my time when I can disconnect and just my time to charge my battery. To charge myself for the day.
Stephen Cummins: If you were to give a message or a bit of advice to any young entrepreneur wanting to be the next Polina Montano, what sort of advice might you give?
Polina Montana: Well be better than Polina Montano. Reach for the skies, for sure.
I would definitely advise them [to do that]. I do believe in the fact that the difference between a dream and a project is a plan. So don’t let your dreams become dreams. Just go for them. Make them real.
Stephen Cummins: Fantastic. Polina, thank you so much for your time. It’s been a pleasure.
Polina Montana: Thank you so much. Thanks.
Stephen Cummins and Nick Curtis-Davis: You’ve been listening to 14 Minutes of SaaS, a ‘That was now’ production … brought to you by me, Stephen Cummins … and me Nick Curtis-Davis. Special thanks to Ketsu for the music provided under a Creative Commons license.