KPMG · 26 April 2017

Making the most of tech talent: How to compete with bigger employers

How do you compete against the tech giants?
How do you compete against the tech giants?

Getting your hands on tech talent can be difficult, especially for startups. Corbyn Munnik, creator of Sliide app, explains how he’s tackled the skills gap.

Sliide is an app from Plus44 that gives users free access to the internet by funding it with advertising. In other words, it enables people in emerging territories, where data might otherwise be too expensive, to access the internet by having ads or sponsored content delivered to their phones. It is crucial for the business to find good tech talent.

As part of our new Problem Solvers series, we will be exploring some of the hurdles small business owners have had to overcome, and the lessons and advice they would pass on to other budding entrepreneurs. Here, we look at the challenges of recruiting tech talent.

Corbyn Munnik, the founder of Sliide, grew up in Botswana and knew how difficult it was for people there to access the internet. Sliide was created as a solution to this problem, and the company spends up to 70 per cent of its revenue bulk-buying huge amounts of data to distribute to its users in the form of a reward.

We caught up with Munnik to find out what challenges the business has overcome so far.

What initial hurdles have you faced?

The volatility of African markets and emerging territories has been a challenge. Corruption, huge forex fluctuations, limited access to the internet, power cuts, fuel shortages, even spending three hours on the Third Mainland Bridge due to traffic, all of these things have been challenging.

Infrastructure creates huge inefficiencies – when did you last wait three hours in a traffic jam in London? It’s unfeasible, so you turn your car into an office, but there’s a limited amount of battery time.

How have you found the recruitment process?

We use all of the latest technologies and frameworks from a back-end capability because they are the best and most efficient, and efficiency is critical when you’re operating in emerging territories. By doing this, we are basically competing for staff with banks and insurance companies that use the same back-end languages as us.

We don’t want to work with contractors that want to build one elements of a product for three months then leave, but there’s a lot of competition in the market and developers know they’re going to get the best-paid jobs through recruiters, which are incredibly expensive. If you want to recruit a team of, say, ten people, that’s going to cost you around £200,000 in recruitment fees.

Is there anywhere else you can source tech talent?

There are some niche recruitment sites you can go to, but the developers know that they will get the best jobs through the recruiters. There’s no business without good developers, so we can’t really tackle that problem head on – it’s just a necessary evil.

If you can’t tackle the problem of recruiting tech talent cheaply, what do you do?

When we pay these extortionate amounts to recruiters and compete directly with banks and insurance companies for employees, what we can do is make sure that we retain good staff.

The UK has an incredibly intelligent, sophisticated and educated labour market, there’s some really great tech talent here, and as a startup we have the flexibility that allows us to have better retention than these boring corporate businesses.

How has KPMG Small Business Accounting helped your business so far?

Obviously, it deals with our day-to-day book-keeping and produces our financial statements on a quarterly basis, but over and above that it has helped with our company structure. It has helped keep us informed about the sorts of things we need to be wary of going into a Nigerian market, and the implications of potential double taxation and so on.

What advice would you give to a company in a similar position to yours?

Make sure you have enough money in the bank – raise triple what you need – and make sure you have investors that understand the market you are in.

This article is part of a wider feature series called Problem Solvers, a collection business stories, brought to you in partnership with KPMG Small Business Accounting, showing how small business owners have overcome potentially harmful problems with their companies. See what other businesses and problems we’ve featured before.

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ABOUT THE EXPERT

Letitia Booty is a special projects journalist for Business Advice. She has a BA in English Literature from the University of East Anglia, and since graduating she has written for a variety of trade titles. Most recently, she was a reporter at SME magazine.

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