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Recruitment reinvented

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Futureful has its eyes set on revolutionising the search for talent with a values-based approach

Journalist

Mary Hurley

Futureful founder Izzy Fenwick

“We are gunning for total global domination, of course,” says Izzy Fenwick, founder of Futureful. 

The company offers a platform that rethinks job-seeking, allowing organisations to demonstrate their values upfront, whether that be their eco-credentials, rainbow-friendly policies, or dog-friendly offices. 

To do so, it uses talent pools instead of job ads; no CVs, no cover letters, just skills, attributes and values alignment. 

“Traditional job ads were designed during the second industrial revolution, more than 100 years ago, and they haven’t changed much since then,” Fenwick says, adding that the modern workforce is more interested in values-alignment and forging meaningful connections.

While only 12 weeks in the market, Futureful is already revenue-generating and has garnered the attention of some big names, including Deloitte, Chapman Tripp, Silver Fern Farms, and Zespri, as well as smaller organisations. 

The Futureful team is currently pitching for a convertible note to bridge the company to a seed round within the next 15 months. They have already secured close to $400,000 of their $950,000 target, with the funding round set to close in August. This adds to $700,000 the startup raised a year ago.

Izzy Fenwick sits down with Caffeine to discuss her startup experience to date and how she learned to trust her founder intuition. 

What do you wish you knew starting out?

I wish I had known more about the nuances of a double-sided marketplace. A double-sided marketplace is where you've got two sets of customers. Each needs the other for the product proposition to work; like AirBnB, which needs people with houses and people looking for somewhere to sleep.

Luckily, some of the nuances of a successful double-sided marketplace were things Futureful inherently had, so it didn't end up being a big disaster.

What's something that went wrong? 

Two or three months before our launch, we realised that part of our core proposition was wrong.

Futureful is based around compatibility as well as capability in terms of understanding skill fit and workplace fit. Job ads, as we know them, are actually a big part of what limits a good match. When we realised they were the problem, we had to throw them out.

Instead, we’ve launched skill-based talent pools. It was a massive pivot, and we had to resell the new proposition to our existing customers. 

I learned that if you have an inkling something is wrong with your proposition, you need to pivot and pivot fast. Get comfortable with not holding tightly to the original idea because it’s never going to end up exactly what you thought it was going to be. 

That pivot was the best thing we did at Futureful, but at the time, it felt like all the wheels were falling off the bus.

The Futureful platform on mobile

Who helped you early on? 

Our early adopters, our first believers; the companies that totally saw Futureful's vision and potential, and bought into it financially, mentally, and emotionally at a time when we couldn't prove any value. 

We were brand new to the market, and we had no evidence other than research that had been done around the success of values-based work, purposeful work, and skills-based hiring globally. We'd never done it before. 

These organisations made such a big difference, even for the team's ability to keep creating the best version of Futureful. 

Why do you think they believed? 

We spent a lot of time talking to New Zealand's talent and different industries so we could design something that met their needs rather than just solving a problem. 

What’s a memorable piece of advice you’ve received? 

The first thing that comes to mind is advice I got from Tim Brown, CEO of AllBirds. 

Coming up to the launch, I called him and said I was feeling anxious. I assumed that being a founder of a tech company was just anxiety-inducing. 

He said that nine times out of 10, anxiety is some founder's intuition that you’ve missed something or overlooked something that’s just simmering away. He was so right. Don’t marinate in anxiety, dig into it. 

What advice would you give an early-stage entrepreneur? 

Endeavour to bake as much ESG – environmental, social governance – into your business as you can in a way that still enables you to be profitable and caters to your original concept. Get ahead of what will be a legal requirement in the next ten years, otherwise, you’ll have to redo it as the stuff comes along. 

What was your first entrepreneurial moment?

I love that question but don’t know how to answer it. 

We’ve been working on Futureful for a year and a half, and I’ve only just started identifying as an entrepreneur. The opportunity and lifestyle only came about because I saw a problem I could not ignore. It wasn’t like I had an innate desire to create my own business.

So, I find that question interesting and a little bit confronting because what I thought an entrepreneur looked like when I was growing up wasn’t really what I looked like.

What’s your guilty pleasure? 

Cooking shows, ideally of the MasterChef or Great British Bake Off variety. Nothing brings me more peace.

Journalist

Mary Hurley

Mary Hurley brings three years experience in the online media industry to the Caffeine team. Having previously specialised in environmental and science communications, she looks forward to connecting with founders and exploring the startup scene in Aotearoa New Zealand.

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