Work4, an online recruitment startup that uses social networks to advertise and find leads for job vacancies, has picked up another $7 million in funding that it plans to use to expand further into markets outside the U.S., and the scope of its product. The Series B round was led by new investor, the French VC Serena Capital, with participation also from existing investor Matrix Partners.
Prior to this, Work4 had raised $11 million from Matrix as well as a number of prominent, strategic individuals, including Yuri Milner, former Monster.com president Steve Pogorzelski, and Hearsay Social co-founder and CEO Clara Shih.
Work4 — in the words of Stéphane Le Viet, its French co-founder and CEO — is attempting to go after what he calls the “highly inefficient” online recruiting market currently dominated by the likes of Monster.com and Indeed.com by tapping into the amount of time that people spend on social networks. (It’s a space that Le Viet knows well; prior to Work4 he co-founded and ran another company in the online recruitment space, Multiposting.)
While there are companies like Glassdoor and LinkedIn that provide targeted recruiting for professional positions, there are thousands of other job opportunities in areas like retail and service positions that, at their heart, need people who are enthusiastic about particular brands.
This is where social networks come into play. The idea, he says, is to turn brands’ fans into brands’ employees.
“We help them take advantage of social networks by turning platforms that weren’t designed for recruiting into powerful recruiting machines,” Le Viet says. “A site like Facebook is a place where companies can create lasting relationships.” And that also means, effectively, that companies can leverage that to do more. “You can turn consumers or fans into job candidates. Their fans can become their hires.”
Work4 already works with thousands of businesses such as Gap, AIG, Intel, L’Oreal, Groupon and Hard Rock Café.
When Work4 first opened for business in 2010, it was built specifically around a Facebook integration — this was priority number-one for the company, Le Viet tells me. “Facebook was part of why we decided to found the company in Silicon Valley instead of France, and why we have Yuri as an investor, to help with that connection,” he says, saying that Work4 spent “weeks” working directly with Facebook when first launching its product.
These days, however, the company is not quite as Facebook-dependent — not a bad thing considering that dependency on one single platform has proven to be a hard road to take (hello, Zynga) and has made a lot of headway into working with other social networks, too. It was the first company to integrate with Twitter, for example, for Job Cards, where companies seeking candidates can incorporate widgets to automate the process of applying for jobs through tweets. It also integrates with Google+ and LinkedIn.
That doesn’t mean Work4 has shirked Facebook — far from it. It’s expanded from early days of running ads, to posting recruitment calls on company Pages, to now also integrating with Graph Search so that recruiters can mine the social network to find people with specific skills.
In all, Work4 has “shared” some 12 million jobs to date, up 29-fold since June 2013, the company says. Le Viet says that some two-thirds of traffic currently comes from the U.S., with the top-two traffic sources Facebook and Twitter.
The longer-term challenges of being a service versus being a platform linger for all startups, and Work4 is not an exception. (Think here about BranchOut, another recruitment service built on Facebook, that has found itself pivoting away from its original business model and into more of a “WhatsApp for the workplace” after engagement nosedived on its original product.)
The issue of being a platform-dependent service is “something we think about on an ongoing basis,” Le Viet told me. So what Work4 tries to do is continue to enhance its product, he says. “We build the right interface so that it’s a simple link to the social platform. We make it easier to manage all the social networks from a recruiting perspective.”
He also believes that some of the problems with platform-dependency are less strong when you are in the enterprise world, which has long been built around the dominance of specific platforms (something that has become a relatively recent transplant to the consumer world, when you think about it, with the growth of apps in particular).
“I think that when it comes to being a platform company, enterprise and consumer companies are different animals,” he says. “With a consumer business, with Facebook it becomes tricky. If you want to power gifts then Facebook may want to own that some day, and eventually they did.”
In the area of recruitment, Facebook has actually made a move: it acqui-hired the co-founders of Pursuit, a social network-based recruiting service, back in 2011. But that didn’t lead to any recruitment products in the near or longer term. “Although we’ll be working on stuff unrelated to Pursuit, keep an eye out for great new features from us there and thanks to everyone who helped along the way,” the co-founders wrote at the time.
“They have a lot on their plate and a couple of massive low hanging fruits like video advertising,” Le Viet says. “I don’t think they’ll get into recruitment any time soon.”
Hopefully those won’t be famous last words for Work4. Indeed, Le Viet doesn’t rule out what Facebook may choose to do in recruiting longer-term. “I think they are very far from wanting to focus on recruiting right now,” Le Viet says, “but I think that they understand the opportunity and the use case. With Facebook, the entire focus is the user, how do I create value and make Facebook worthwhile so that people spend more time on the platform? They understand that if they bring job seekers to the platform that will enhance it.”