SEEK bets big on Sidekicker but whatever happened to OneShift and Gen George?
Earlier this week Sidekicker announced that it has raised $AUD 20 million from shareholder Seek Investments. In 2016 SEEK acquired a minority stake in Sidekicker for an undisclosed amount in excess of $1 million. Additional funding to the tune of $10 million was provided in 2019
According to an Australian Financial Review article posted earlier in the week the $20 million will be used to fund platform updates and accelerating further expansion across Australia and New Zealand and to expand into aged care and white-collar jobs.
As many case studies on the Sidekicker website demonstrate the focus of Sidekicker has been to provide a compelling temporary and casual staffing option to hospitality and event companies as well as other seasonal businesses where shift management is just as important as sourcing the necessary workers.
As I was absorbing the news of SEEK’s additional investment I found myself wondering what had happened to the most high-profile of the early job platforms that focused on delivering a supposedly better-than-a-recruitment-agency solution to hospitality businesses and other employers of casual shift workers – OneShift.
Long-time readers may recall that I first wrote about OneShift and its, then, 22 year-old founder Gen George, back in June 2013, that in part read:
BRW ran a story on her two weeks ago which stated that less than 12 months after commencing, OneShift has 20 staff, 135,000 job seekers registered, and about 3000 business entities including Rockpool restaurant, Hungry Jack’s, and Dial a Dump. Approximately 2400 ‘shifts’ are filled each month.
As BRW goes on to say:
‘Applicants upload details including their skills, education level, photos, and videos. There are also personality profile questions. On the other end, employers post jobs and requirements. They are then matched to each other, with the employer finally paying $22 to connect to three people. Interviews can be conducted using a video-chat feature.
The site also has a dynamic calendar so a traveller can fill in his or her future location and availability, and be matched to short-term work along the way. Employers give the employees a star rating based on how well they did the job.
George says the site has evolved into part-time work and maternity-leave jobs, and is working towards permanent shifts.’
Later in 2013, I wrote a scathing blog post about Ms. George after she made some very ignorant, stupid, and inflammatory comments about the recruitment industry.
These comments co-incided with the news that, then ASX-listed, Programmed had acquired a 27.5 per cent share of Ms. George’s business and a seat on OneShift’s board for $5 million, valuing the business at $18.2 million.
It seems Gen George was number 1 in the ‘Top 50 Australian Emerging Leaders’ list for 2015 and was also awarded ‘Young Entrepreneur of the Year 2015’.
In June 2017, The Age reported that “Gen George has sold her start-up OneShift to labour hire and maintenance giant Programmed for an undisclosed sum,” and “Programmed plans to keep developing OneShift’s online recruitment offering.”
Four months later Programmed was acquired by Toyko-headquartered Persol Holdings and delisted from the ASX.
Since the Persol purchase of Programmed nothing has ever been publicly uttered about OneShift. The Oneshift.com.au domain redirects the visitor to a Programmed site. Persol may be using the OneShift technology in another way but OneShift as an operating business is dead.
What’s Gen George been up to these past five years?
Has her desire to drive a stake through the heart of the “broken” and “completely exploitative” recruitment industry been successful?
Was Ms. George really onto something that the recruitment industry was deluding itself about?
In August 2015 Ms. George founded Skilld, another jobs platform.
Skilld “allows employers in the retail and hospitality sectors to search for candidates by skills, certificates, and work history. With no job descriptions required, this subscription based model uses programmatic algorithms to allow small businesses to simply type in the skill sets they are looking for to match “Tinder” style to professionals that meet their cultural and availability requirements. Never before has the recruitment market been able to cost effectively reach small businesses.”
Allegedly, “30–50 new businesses are signing up each day.”
The last update to the Skilld Facebook page was in October 2017.
Skilld ceased operating in early 2019.
Undeterred by her track record of unsuccessfully disrupting the nasty recruitment industry, Ms George tried her luck with the advertising sector and her new venture, tame, co-founded with the CTO of Skilld, Jessica Glenn.
tamme is an end-to-end platform for marketplaces that are hyperlocal and heavily rely on spending where the marketplace has a deficit in supply or demand. From measuring where to spend down to a zip code level, programmatically creating the ads, buying / adjusting across multiple channels and adjusting using AI and machine learning to choose sources, imagery etc based off what actually gets outcomes and revenue. Allowing the marketplace to be greatly more competitive with their unit economics than their competitors’.
It appears tamme sank without a trace at the end of 2019.
Ms. George is now The Executive Chairman of The Daily “No Bullshit Men’s Skincare. Australian Made, Vegan Skincare. Use Daily”. According to Linkedin, The Daily has one other employee, Henry Weaver, who also happens to be the other executive director, along with Gen George, of Genry Capital.
Genry Capital appears to be an umbrella company from which Ms George operates a number of businesses, including Like Minded Bitches Drinking Wine (LMBDW) “a group for entrepreneurial minded and business savvy women who love their wine. We have regular events in over 40 cities around the world and our Facebook group is a hub for business savvy women to collaborate and share ideas.”
The original problem Gen George was determined to solve, and her preferred mechanism to do so, remains just as much in the news as it ever was.
As the various Fairfax news websites reported only three days ago:
Hospitality businesses are increasingly turning to third-party recruitment apps to find temporary shift workers as critical staff shortages plague the industry, but some venues say reliance on the apps is not sustainable.
Recruitment app Supp – a platform for businesses to advertise temporary shifts to hospitality workers – said the number of available shifts had quadrupled since January to about 16,000 per month.
Supp co-founder and chief executive Jordan Murray said the five-year-old start-up had seen a 40 per cent increase since January in the number of hospitality workers using the app to find work.
I wish Mr. Murray more success than Ms. George achieved.
The more things change the more they stay the same.
As Ms. George found out, a good idea, enthusiastic early adopters, a significant media profile, and supportive external investors do not guarantee long-term success.
Recruitment ‘disrupters’ discover there’s no substitute for paying customers (and lots of them)
Soft free kicks in the media continue for ‘internet recruitment entrepreneurs’
Who the #&%! does Gen George think she is?
It is curious, isn’t it, as to why such large investments are required, repeatedly too.
These platforms go too far in their assumption that both candidates and clients want to self-serve, have the knowledge, skills and time to verify claims and negotiate.
Recruiters add value to both sides and these attempts at effectively replacing the recruiter with artificial intelligence may only be successful when we reach that singularity point where AIs become as smart as humans.