A few weeks ago I had an interesting Skype chat with Petar Vujosevic and Kedar Iyer who are currently based in Chile. They are hard at work as they prepare to launch their new venture GapJumpers, which looks to connect students with businesses around the world, giving them practical briefs to work on. They went on to helpfully answer a bunch of questions I had about the service. Here we go:
How did GapJumpers come about? Why did you see the skills market for creatives as a gap that needed to be filled and what was your inspiration?
With creatives you mean people working in advertising and design? Well GapJumpers is not just for them, but this market has been the easiest to start with given our networks and experience. Though it is also a notoriously elitist and rigged industry to get in, so helping kick that door in bit is always fun.
As for inspiration: Youth unemployment is at its highest around the world. Digging deeper: 1 in 4 unemployed people around the world are so, because their skills don’t match business requirements. And it hits students even harder. A sad fact, and a huge potential market: all the inspiration we needed.
What are your respective backgrounds? What kind of expertise do you as individuals bring to GapJumpers?
Kedar: Chronologically, GapJumpers is the 5th career I’m taking a stab at. From starting a (failed) online shopping mall in 2000 to helping drive Lehman Brothers to the ground (figuratively) and most recently working as a planner at TBWA\, interesting challenges is what keep me motivated to continue. Of course, I’m post rationalising here, but I suppose an idea like GapJumpers needs people who’ve tried their hand at different things and learned from failures.
Petar: Started out client side in Holland in publishing, switched to agency/consulting side as freelance planner through Niko Herzeg Marketing, doing work across Europe, Middle East and Latin America. Now finally doing what I do best: bossing people around, while Kedar makes the business work.
I believe GapJumpers opens to students on March 15th; how long have you taken to get to this stage?
From concept to prototype: 6 months.
From prototype to launch: 3 months.
A big investor in your company is Start-Up Chile. Tell us a bit more about your experience pitching there – who did you present your ideas to, how did they motivate you to flesh out your ideas a bit more, and what have you learnt from them?
We’re no experts in education or youth unemployment related issues. So, from early on during our research we spoke to numerous people including those at the World Bank, ILO and reputed companies to fine tune our concept. We weren’t shy to share our concept and solicit advice from the experts.
Startup Chile for us has been a great alley. Especially given that we deal with companies, universities, students, ministries of education it helps to have a government backed entity like CORFO (editor’s note: CORFO is the government of Chille’s entrepreneurship and innovation wing) on our side. Startup Chile has opened doors for us and helped us connect with all the right people. Oh, and it also gave us money for no equity.
As for pitching our idea: the Startup Chile application consisted of a written submission and a video. Quite smooth and simple (from a submitting point of view, obviously not from an actually qualifying point of view, ha!).
Most importantly, we are lucky to have a few advisers who’ve been and still are helping us turn this idea into something real, amongst them are PK Gulati (TIE global, Angel Investor) and Rob Campbell (W+K).
What we’ve learned from them? It’s important have mentors and advisers who’ve been there and done it, multiple times. We’ve had the luxury of avoiding a lot of obvious mistakes, by listening to their experiences and feedback. This saved us time, money and bruised ego’s.
In testing, how have students/universities responded to the idea of GapJumpers?
Depends on a student’s situation: the privileged kids don’t care. They’ve got enough connections that a resume or actual skills do not matter. However, students in lower social classes love GapJumpers. Getting access to top tier companies and the chance to get endorsements from them? They love it.
Uni’s love us too, because now they can actually see how their students measure up to business requirements, while they are still in college. Furthermore professors can now actually help students focus their education and course work. They see it as a great tool to provide more custom education based on individual student’s strengths and career preferences.
So if any students are reading, tell your professors to ping us: @gap_jumpers on Twitter.
Do you see any competitors in this space and if so, how do you think GapJumpers differs from them?
Of course we have competitors. However we’d like to keep this interview focused on us, so next question please.
On a serious note, our biggest competitors are tools that encourage procrastination among students and professionals. You know which ones we mean.
What challenges do you see yourselves having to face as you think of moving out of beta?
We don’t know what moving out of beta means? Being bug free? Finally being happy with the UX or visual design? If that is the case, we will be stuck in beta purgatory forever.
As for tasks posted by credible companies and people: shit will hit the fan, we don’t even worry about that. As long as we respond well to their concerns, as long as we generate positive cash flow, we’ve got a fighting chance to do something good, while making some money.
What have you learnt personally from being a part of the startup industry that you think others should know about?
This is a maturing industry, like any other, with the obvious pitfalls that prevent many people in other industries to do better work.
It is so easy to get distracted from the actual work when part of a startup network. There is always a meet-up somewhere, always a festival to attend, site to read, book to buy, methodology to study.
At GapJumpers, the buck and blame always stop at us.
What blogs, companies or sites have inspired you?
Musings of an Opinionated Sod
Companies: Muji, The Fat Duck, MiraMax, HBO and any company making enough money to create jobs.
The internet maybe infinite, but Anjali’s blog post isn’t. So, sorry if you’re not mentioned here. Thank you, nevertheless!
How do you see GapJumpers growing over the next few years? What kind of relationships have you built, or are you building, to help you move forward?
GapJumpers is aiming to scale up to 40 cities in the next few years; become part of forward thinking university curricula and innovative business HR/ Recruitment practices.
Realistically, we would be pretty pleased if young minds from remote corners of Africa, Asia and LATAM can prove themselves successfully and get jobs at reputed companies.
What would you like the world to know about GapJumpers that it doesn’t know already?
Petar: Kedar is the brains, I do shit jokes and shouting. So choose wisely who you email.
Kedar: Petar’s comment is obviously a joke, but GapJumpers is for real.
Petar: See, how ‘on brand’ we are…
An amusing note to end on. Thanks, guys! All the very best with GapJumpers – here’s hoping you change the way students and businesses work, by enabling them to work together in a way that makes sense to both. To prospective recruiters, take a look at the range of companies who have already uploaded briefs on the site, and why not think about adding your own?