ENTREPRENEUR: Giraffe founder Anish Shivdasani
The developer of award-winning local app-based start-up Giraffe has raised a fresh batch of funding to grow the platform
When former Londoner Anish Shivdasani arrived in SA in 2010 he had a driving ambition. "I wanted to form a start-up company that would transform the way things are done," he says.
To realise his ambition three components had to be put in place first. "I needed an idea, funding and solid partners."
By 2014 he had all three. His revolutionary idea was to create a fully automated platform that would radically reduce the cost and complexity of bringing job seekers and employers together.
Vital seed funding — US$1m of it — was secured from US venture capital organisation Omidyar Network. Two partners, Bradley Cowie and Shafin Anwarsha, had come on board the start-up, which was to become Giraffe.
"They are still part of the team," says Shivdasani, who heads Giraffe as its CEO. Cowie is lead developer and Anwarsha is product head.
Giraffe was launched in March 2015. But it was not all plain sailing. "To make ourselves known to work seekers we began by handing out flyers at taxi ranks in Johannesburg," says Anwarsha.
That was one side of the challenge. The other was to attract employers to the platform. "We started by offering the service for free," says Anwarsha. "Two of our first clients were Uber and a Nando’s franchise."
Recognition came fast from other quarters. Just a month after its launch Giraffe was invited to compete in the SA round of Seedstars World, a Swiss-based start-up competition. Giraffe won, and in 2016 went on to win the global award in the face of competitors from 64 other emerging markets.
"Winning gave us a sense of validation for what we are doing and put us on the map," says Anwarsha.
What Giraffe offers is unique. "Giraffe is not an employment agency, it is an employment solution," stresses Shivdasani. "Agencies are prohibitively expensive. I believe that it is a dying industry."
Giraffe targets midskilled work seekers and companies that employ people in big numbers. The business has become a huge success and now has 600,000 job seekers registered with it. Every day 500-1,000 new people sign up.
Also attracted to the platform are 350 companies, ranging from very small ones to big corporates, says Shivdasani.
Since launching, Giraffe has facilitated over 200,000 interviews between employers and work seekers, he adds.
For work seekers wanting to register with Giraffe, the process — using a mobile app — has been made as simple as possible. Shivdasani explains that when they register, work seekers have to complete multiple-answer "intelligent questions" that follow a logical sequence based on earlier answers.
For job seekers the service is free. "We are a social enterprise and want to break down barriers for job seekers," says Shivdasani. It is also a low-cost solution for employers. "We charge a flat monthly fee and allow companies to hire as many people as they want," says Shivdasani.
For would-be employers, using the app is simple. Those seeking staff can submit a request online to Giraffe, which automatically identifies suitable candidates and schedules interviews at a time and place of the employer’s choosing.
Giraffe is now readying itself for further growth, having just completed its second round of funding. The leading funder is SA private equity firm Edge Growth, with four other participants, including Omidyar Network.
"We are not saying how much we raised, but it is over $1m," says Shivdasani. "It positions us to improve our platform and hire more people."