After reading last week’s AFR article This bot will judge you in five questions at the first interview which informs the reader that “With this technology, every job applicant is given an “interview” and PredictiveHire can shortlist who the best matches would be for a role, before a human steps in and conducts the next stage of the hiring process”, I cast my mind more than five years to another AFR puff piece about the latest and greatest ‘recruitment disruptor’.
Long time readers might remember my October 2016 blog You won’t believe the disruption the legal recruitment sector is facing! in which I took aim at an AFR story Tinder-style app set to disrupt legal recruitment.
The AFR’s puff piece was about Route 1, a job board app that was exclusively for the legal sector which “….would allow employers to bypass the traditional legal recruitment process, whereby recruiters screened and interviewed candidates before they introduced them.Route1 streamlines the process for candidates by allowing them to apply for jobs directly, also bypassing the recruitment interview.”
I am sure you will be shocked to learn the recruitment revolution to bypass recruiters that UK-based start-up Route 1, was leading failed to find traction in the Australian market and quietly shut up shop six months after the AFR story appeared.
Route 1 went the way of many other start-ups – it ran out of money before it could scale its product across enough paying customers, either because the potential paying customers could not be reached at scale for a low enough cost or because the product failed to solve the problem it purported to solve at a competitive price.
Given the various founders of the thousands of failed start-ups are, almost always, very intelligent people how does such an expensive, and avoidable, mistake occur under their leadership?
Alberto Savoia’s book The Right It: Why So Many Ideas Fail and How to Make Sure Yours Succeed identifies what happens when enthusiastic people live in what he calls “thoughtland,” that dreamy place where our beliefs and assumptions are not questioned, all ideas are good ones, there is no such thing as the potential for missing the mark and little tolerance exists for the pessimists and doubters (who are dream killers).
Savoia asserts that most people believe that their venture will be successful, yet the Law of Market Failure is that up to 90 percent of most new products, services, businesses, and initiatives will fail soon after launch—regardless of how promising they sound, how much we commit to them, or how well we execute them.
An insight into how unfamiliar the Law of Market Failure was to the founders of Route 1 can be gleaned from the article Lawyers and firms flock to app that cuts out legal recruiters, that appeared in the UK a month after AFR’s 2016 puff piece on Route 1.
“Since launching in May this year, Route1 claims to have signed up over 3,000 lawyers and around 50 employers, including Clifford Chance, Linklaters, Herbert Smith Freehills, DLA Piper and Addleshaw Goddard.”
‘Signing up’ any person or enterprise signifies precisely nothing about the commercial potential of any product or service unless money has been paid, and there is clear evidence that those paying customers will continue to pay at the same, or ideally higher, price.
Route 1’s founder unwittingly revealed the full extent of his lack of business savvy in the same article when he was quoted thus:
“Henry Allan, chief executive of Route1, said this represented only a small fraction of the legal services market. “We need to learn more about the system and its users, and what works and doesn’t work,” he said.”
Well, it didn’t take long for Mr Allan to learn about what didn’t work with his ‘disruptive’ legal recruitment app “backed by investment from a commercial law firm.”
According to Henry Allan’s Linkedin profile the party was over five months later when his tenure as Route 1’s founder concluded and he co-founded a contact lens business.
Seventeen months later Mr Allan took a job, where he remains nearly four years later, as GM (UK) for Hims & Hers Health that, according to Wikipedia, is “an American telehealth company that sells prescription and over-the-counter drugs online, as well as personal care products. The company is best known for selling generic treatments for erectile dysfunction and hair loss.”
Henry Allan discovered that three years of recruitment experience, a bright idea and a shedload of belief and entrepreneurial zeal were no substitute for undertaking the hard yards of truly understanding the customer problem and what solution will solve that problem faster, cheaper or better than any existing product or service.
Amazingly the re-birth of Route 1 has seemingly begun (great ideas never fail their time has not yet come…………..).
James Kirkness, a 2021 graduate of The College of Law, Australia, is now the full-time London-based Executive Manager – UK of Route 1.
No doubt you would expect that such a rebirth would show evidence that, after past failures, the real customer problem has now been identified by Route 1 and a compelling solution is now in place.
I give you; “Route1 is changing the face of legal recruitment in the UK. Using our intuitive app and web-based platform, we intelligently match candidates with roles in their respective practice areas, and reward successful candidates for their hard work.”
I think legal recruitment agencies can sleep easy for a while yet – they have paying customers (and lots of them).