Interview with MoveMeOn co-founder Nick Patterson

MoveMeOn was founded in 2011 to fill a gap in the recruitment market for providing select job opportunities to high quality candidates. We spoke to co-founder Nick Patterson, a former McKinsey consultant, about his iterative process of founding and growing a company.

Your website talks of your ‘first attempt’ to change graduate recruitment at Cambridge, what was your vision for that?

I set up a recruitment agency to place students in internships. When I was at university I did an internship at a small consulting firm, and I think the experience I gained from that was more valuable than what I might have gained from a larger firm. At that age you’re still ‘green’ and so rarely get the opportunity to pick up tasks with much responsibility in the larger firms, whereas at small firms the various different types of work have to be done by everyone, so you often get more opportunity to take on more challenging work. Equally the bigger firms are flooded with applications for a small number of places, leaving many students with no internship at all. I didn’t pursue it for very long but it taught me a lot about the recruitment industry.

What was the ultimate catalyst for starting your own venture?

I really wanted to start a company when I left McKinsey, but I didn’t initially have an idea. I ended up stumbling across it because of my own experiences. All of my peers in the city, particularly those in consulting, were being bombarded with calls from headhunters about potential job opportunities. The headhunters had very little idea of what I had done or what I wanted to do; they called with any opportunity that they thought was relevant to me based solely upon having worked at McKinsey. These phone calls were almost weekly and frustrated me and many of my peers. MoveMeOn came out of this – we thought the whole process could be improved. All it really needed was more transparency in the market; the top companies needed to know where they should be looking for the top tier employees.

I also really enjoy the energy you get from working at your own venture. One thing I’ve learned is that if I can see the immediate value in something I’m much more likely to throw myself into it, which is definitely the case with MoveMeOn. Projects in the past where the immediate value is harder to see or non-existent I found very frustrating.

How long did it take you to get it up and running?

From the initial idea to the website getting up and running took around three or four months. This was longer than we had originally planned, and the delays were mostly due to our not understanding the difficulties involved in building a website – a process which we outsourced and learned a lot from.

We had something of a classic startup story in that we made a fairly large pivot and changed the focus of our business further down the line. We had identified three main channels to use when trying to find a job:

  1. Your personal network
  2. Good headhunters
  3. Jobs boards

We started out by effectively being a middleman between good headhunters and job seekers – this wasn’t the most efficient method, but it was necessary to build a strong network of candidates and develop some credibility in the market. Keeping our definition of MoveMeOn fluid was vital at this stage; it allowed us to evolve into the third channel – jobs boards. This proved to be a huge turning point for us and now is by volume and revenue the most valuable part of our business. It’s one of those industries that hasn’t caught up with what can be done online, creating a gap which we were able to fill very well. Often the problem with jobs boards is that there are too many listings, which makes finding the right job a time-consuming process. It’s followed a common internet trend. The past five years have been all about getting volume and choice onto the web. This has been so effective that people are now overwhelmed with “choice” and don’t know where to look. We envisage the next five years being all about filtering for quality. As such, we go for more of a hand-picked jobs approach, only posting the jobs that really excite us and we can see our fairly specific demographic of members working at and enjoying.

If you have sought funding for your venture, what funding options did you pursue?

We needed some capital expenditure early on but it’s not a capitally intensive company. We were lucky to be able to self-fund and were cash flow positive within a very short period of time (in the region of four to five months). We have been approached by institutional investors, so we’ve thought about getting more funding on a few occasions. Sometimes you do need an extra injection of pace and cash to burn through, but we decided that if we didn’t have a very good idea of what we would spend the money on, we weren’t ready for it.

Interview by John Sherwin