9 January 2013 | By Shruti Tripathi
The London tech company worth watching
If you haven’t heard of classifieds search engine Adzuna, well, here’s why you should.
David Cameron gets his daily dose of data on jobs, salaries and house prices on the Number 10 Dashboard – an app that uses Adzuna’s data of over two million live listings. It’s known to help him make day-to-day decisions for our economy and yes, it’s on his iPad. Also, rumour has it that he’s looking forward to flaunting it to Obama at the G8 summit in May.
Launched in 2011, Adzuna got off the ground with a £300,000 seed investment from London-based fund Passion Capital and the angel investors behind Skype, Virgin and BT. Seeing the business’ proposition of “listing nearly every job, property and car on the market”, it got another £500,000 from Index Ventures last year. But there is no Silicon Roundabout obsession for Adzuna, as they chose to set up an HQ in Clapham.
If that’s not enough to rivet your attention, revenues doubled in every quarter last year and the site now attracts one million visitors every month.
The men leading the Adzuna pack are Andrew Hunter and Doug Munro, both of whom have a reputation of being serious disrupters in London’s tech scene.
Hunter is known to have vroomed traffic for reviews website Qype from zero to 17 million while he was UK general manager. Munro, on the other hand, was COO of property portal Zoopla before launching Adzuna.
The duo started 2013 on a high note by acquiring social classifieds site Oodle UK and plan to become the “Google of classified searches.”
How will they do it? We spoke to Hunter to get some answers:
Q. It’s indeed been a happy new year for you, how did Oodle land on your plate?
It’s funny how that deal came around. Oodle’s US arm was bought by the American shopping channel QVC, who weren’t interested in buying the international assets of the business. So, there was a mad scramble there because QVC either had to kill Oodle UK or someone had to buy it. So, we got lucky.
Q. That’s great! But let’s rewind a little, how did you come up with idea of launching Adzuna?
Doug and I worked together at Gumtree where he was managing director and I was the marketing director. Having worked in the classifieds space for 7-8 years, we felt very frustrated looking at classified search engines that weren’t serving the markets very well. They always ended up being affiliate-based websites where no one really focused on making the business a big brand and user engagement was negligible.
So in 2010, I quit my job as general manager of Qype and had a bit of a Forest Gump moment when I went cycling lots of miles for two months to clear my head. In 2011, Doug quit his job as the Zoopla COO.
After that we met up a few times for drinks and discussed the prospect of launching a search engine and becoming the Google for classifieds. We hit the live button in April 2011 and so far, it’s been great!
Q. How much investment did you start off with?
We each put £20,000 in the business. For me, that was almost my entire savings and my mother said I was being stupid, but I wanted to give it a go.
We bootstrapped the business for the first six months to build a minimum viable product with a solid business plan on paper.
Then in April 2011, with no fancy PowerPoint presentation but just 4-5 A4s, we pitched to Passion Capital and explained our understanding of the problems in the classifieds space and what we can do to change it. Seeing some merit in the business, they put £300,000 in Adzuna.
Six months later, Index Ventures got interested in the business and injected a further £500,000. The funding came in very handy to grow our team, get office space and spend some money on marketing.
Andrew Hunter and Doug Munro at No. 10
Q. What’s your business model?
Our business model is quite similar to Google. We include everyone for free in our search engine to give users a variety of options for anything they’re looking for. If certain partners or users want additional traffic to their listing, they can pay us on a cost-per-click basis.
Q. How did you start getting traffic to the website? How did you make yourself attractive to both advertisers and people who came looking for things?
Good question. We knew we wouldn’t be able to monetise till we get a steady flow of traffic. So, we started off by doing as much PR around our brand as possible.
We also started looking at partnerships to drive traffic. There are a lot of websites out there that have job sections but no job listings. One such example is UK Net Guide, a site which lists free content about Britain. They had a jobs section that looked old and tired so we got in touch with them and started sending a feed of jobs for users.
Once the PR and partnerships got us to 50,000 uniques a month, we then got the SEO wheel turning.
We also looked for unique content that other sites don’t have. For example, we have 25 ads for “Pub chefs in Brighton” whereas Monster.com has only five. So, the abundance of content helps us to rank better on Google.
What’s also turbocharged our growth is Adzuna Connect, a search engine that you can connect to with your LinkedIn or Facebook profile. Adzuna Connect shows you all the UK vacancies that you’re connected to through your friends and you can request them for a referral.
Q. Alright then, so how did No.10 dashboard come along?
London tech networking got us that one. I was having a beer with Ian Hogath, CEO of Songkick.com who’s on No.10’s Tech City Advisory Group. He introduced us to Rohan Silva, senior policy adviser to the PM.
We spoke to Rohan about all the jobs data we have thanks to the listings. He then invited us to 10 Downing Street where we met George Osborne and David Cameron and spoke about the UK job market. We talked about cities where the government was doing a good job and where it was faltering based on our data. They seemed impressed when we said we list every job advertised in the UK. We asked them if they’d like to use our data and Rohan said that it should be on the No.10 dashboard.
The PM uses the dashboard everyday and we’ve been told it helps him and the government in day-to-day decision-making. So, that’s a big achievement for us.
My prediction is that Facebook will definitely launch a search engine – Andrew Hunter, co-founder, Adzuna
Q. Fantastic! Coming back to the business, who are your arch rivals?
Although there are competitors in every vertical, there’s no one company doing jobs, property and cars adverts all in one place.
Having said that, in terms of jobs, a site called Indeed.com is a competitor. Indeed was recently acquired by Japanese HR services business Recruit for $1bn. They’re very big in the US but relatively smaller in the UK so we see them as a direct competitor.
In terms of property, search engines like Nestoria are competition. Property is one niche that is a hot favourite with everyone including Zoopla, which is on a property portal buying spree.
Cars, is an interesting one because no one in the classified market seems to go after it. I think most people are scared of Auto Trader which has the biggest market dominance when it comes to adverts.
Q. Do you identify with the Silicon Roundabout crowd?
Our investors are in White Bear Yard, but we chose to be in Clapham because both Doug and I live in South West London so it’s convenient for us. Also, we felt that we don’t have to be in Shoreditch or the Silicon roundabout to make Adzuna a big business. You’d be amazed to know how many London-based entrepreneurs there are along the river and not in East London!
In fact, we’ve actually started a monthly meet-up called Silicon River which brings together entrepreneurs who live along the Thames and not necessarily Shoreditch. It’s our kind of breakaway from the Silicon Roundabout.
Q. What do you think of London’s tech scene?
I think being in London is great for us because of the international community, the talent pool is big here. It’s a good place to operate from even if you have other offices around the world. I don’t think you can find a smart Italian or French person to help build your website more easily in the Silicon Valley as opposed to London.
Q. What does the UK need to promote entrepreneurialism?
We need to do more to inspire smart graduates in engineering and other fields to join start-ups and not banks. It still staggers me how many bright IT graduates go off to banks and are lured by big pay cheques. We need to get young people excited about joining start-ups and make them aware of the advantages like getting equity in a company and coming into work wearing flip-flops.
We need more success stories like a Mark Zuckerberg out of the UK, we don’t have one as of now. We need a poster buy which makes an 18-year-old think, “Wow! I want to be that guy.”
Q. Any tech trends we should look out for?
I believe the future is social search. As we put more information publicly on the web, search engines have a lot more data about our choices and our behaviour to provide more compelling results about us. That’s scary and interesting at the same time. You don’t want third party companies going into your data and doing nasty things. But, if I was searching on Google and it knew that last Christmas I bought my mum an iPad for Christmas and it could give me suggestions for gifts this year, it’ll be useful.
My prediction is that Facebook will definitely launch a search engine. It just makes sense because if you look at all the data we have on Facebook, they should be able to generate really good results.
That’s why we’re trying to embrace social search early with job and property listings on Adzuna Connect.
Q. Finally, what plans do you have for 2013?
We want to focus three main things – We want to nail social search by growing Adzuna Connect into a household name. We plan to launch in more than five countries this year and then we want to break even by 2013.