Rebecca Gidall may be just 20 years old, but she’s already done more in her life than many people three or even four times her age. After all, she’s not only started her own web-based recruitment company, but it’s drawing interest from major companies from across Aotearoa and overseas. In other words, PartTimer (as her company is known), is anything but a part-time gig.
“In January of 2016 I was lucky enough to be accepted into the Venture Up six-week accelerator programme for young entrepreneurs,” explains Gidall. “It was at the beginning of the programme that my five teammates and I collectively forged the idea for PartTimer out of the frustration with how difficult it was to find a job as a high school student. We had all either experienced this for ourselves, or witnessed our peers have trouble with traditional recruitment. The main reason we’d had trouble with it was because there was a heavy focus on the very things we didn’t have – qualifications and experience.
“With this in mind, my team and I came up with PartTimer – a service helping high school students gain their first part-time job, by getting employers to judge them based on their positive attributes, such as their volunteering efforts and/or attitude towards work. Since then, PartTimer has evolved quite significantly, as we soon came to realise that problems with traditional recruitment were experienced by jobseekers and employers alike.”
The name thought up by co-founder Dani Watt, Gidall says her family and friends were incredibly supportive of her venture. “I’m seriously lucky to have an extremely supportive base of family and friends who’ve been with me right throughout my journey thus far,” she says. “When the opportunity to continue the startup post-programme arose, I was actually already at university, living in a hall of residence and beginning a Bachelor of Commerce degree. This wouldn’t have been a problem had the date in which I could leave university and get my money back not been quickly approaching. I essentially ended up having about five days between meeting my now co-founder and original investor – Vivian Morresey – and deciding whether I’d take the plunge into the unknown and leave university to pursue the venture, despite not actually knowing whether Viv would invest or not.
“Over that period the only person I told about the opportunity was my father, and a couple of friends. I really wanted to be able to make the decision of whether to leave or not on my own, as everyone has different opinions on these things. I only told the rest of my friends and family once I’d already signed the papers to leave. I have to say, I was met with a bit of confusion and shock, but soon after they were all extremely supportive, and were just excited as I was. I really do count myself lucky to have been met with the support and approval that I did, as I know that’s not often the case for many young entrepreneurs.”
Another thing she’s thankful for: great timing. “Building a successful startup is often about timing, and luckily for us, we managed to come up with the right solution at the right time,” she says. “Not only was it the right timing for both the employers and jobseekers, as both sides were clearly fed up with traditional recruitment and ready for a change, but it was also the right timing for both of us as cofounders, as we were in a good position to actually build PartTimer into what it has become today.”
Gidall adds that, compared to traditional recruitment or temp agencies, PartTimer has several advantages. “There are three main advantages to the PartTimer online system,” she says. “The first advantage is that it’s an online, up-to-date management system for your resume collection. Traditionally, employers will keep a pile of resumes underneath their desk, ready to be sifted through when a position become available. More often than not, these CVs have been sitting here for weeks, if not months, meaning they’re no longer current. Since PartTimer is all online, jobseekers have the ability to change their information anytime, anywhere, meaning the information which is stored is both current and accurate. This makes it much more efficient when it comes time to hire, as employers don’t have to waste their time calling numbers which no longer exist, or people who are no longer available.
“The second advantage of PartTimer is that it’s a ready source of thousands of candidates. PartTimer provides a database for employers with thousands of jobseekers who are looking for work in their area. From here, employers can filter through the database to find someone who matches their requirements for age, location and availability (to mention a few). This means employers can find out whether the candidate will be suitable for the position even before the interview stage, in turn saving the employer time and money.
“The third advantage of PartTimer is its ability to allow employers to search at their own discretion. In traditional recruitment (such as a sign in the window or when using online advertisements) it alerts everyone to the fact you’re hiring. As much as this might sound strange, we’ve found that actually advertising your vacancy to anyone and everyone can cause many problems for the business/business owner. For example, if the employer is unable to find someone suitable when they first advertise, they might need to advertise again shortly afterwards in order to get a new wave of applicants, which can often result in many questions from the people who originally applied.”
Reception, Gidall says, has been positive so far. “The reception so far has been great from both employers and jobseekers, with around 250 business on board, and thousands of jobseekers with awesome profiles on the system. I think one of the things that people have loved most about the system is that we truly are fulfilling the needs of both sides of the market, rather than just focusing on one half.”
But surprise, surprise: Gidall has some pretty ambitious goals. “Getting 1,000 active employers using PartTimer is at the forefront of our goals,” she explains. “At present we have around one-quarter of that, so we’re already 25 percent there. In terms of our chunky goals looking out to 5+ years, we’re aiming for PartTimer to be the market leader for part-time jobs in New Zealand, and in addition, we’d like to have a foothold in Australia and be beginning to look at other Asia-Pacific countries such as Singapore.”
There’s no escaping the fact Gidall is a bit of a rarity in the tech and business world: a young woman who has started her own high-tech business. She says she looks forward to the day when she’s not considered a rarity. “Diversity and representation are becoming more and more important in business and tech, and there’s no denying that despite the incredible efforts of various individuals in NZ’s startup community, there’s still much more room for improvement,” she says. “What I believe we need to work on most, is making a more diverse range of young people aware that paths such as business and tech are viable career paths in the first place. To me, this is the most important thing, as I believe that there are already so many people doing a great job of supporting the people who are already immersed in the community. In my personal experience, if it weren't for my involvement in the Venture Up programme, I never would have been exposed to the opportunities that the tech community can bring, as whilst I was in high school the idea of being part of something like this never would’ve crossed my mind. I think this is perhaps that coming from an all-girls high school, subjects such as technology and business simply weren't encouraged. In fact, I’m not sure I could even take computers/tech in my senior years at high school.”
And is Gidall a feminist? You bet. “To me feminism means exactly what it should mean – it’s about equality between genders,” she explains. “It truly frustrates me the way that more often than not people think of feminism as a movement which promotes the idea that women are somehow superior to men. Of course, this is not what it means at all, and is certainly not what it means to me. I have to admit, despite now considering myself a feminist, I haven’t always wanted to label myself as one, and would often avoid talking about the movement at all. I guess I was mostly afraid of associating myself with a movement that was so often mistaken for promoting the idea that women are superior to men, rather than about supporting equality. In recent times, however, I’ve come to realise how dangerous it is to abandon a label simply because of the way it’s been tarnished by some, and am now extremely proud to be in support of this movement.”
She may be young, but Gidall’s experiences also means she has a fair bit of advice for entrepreneurs of any age. “The top three pieces of advice I’d give to other entrepreneurs are, 1) make use of your connections,” she says. “There are only so many degrees of separation between you and the person you want/need to talk to, so don’t be afraid to reach out.
“2) invest in solid foundations. Long story short, if you can’t trust the foundations that your platform is built on, nobody else should either. That’s where infrastructure such as AWS truly becomes your best friend, as you have the peace of mind to be able to scale up when you need to, without the hefty price tag.”
And lastly? “Validate all assumptions. If you’re not doing that, you’re probably building something that you think your customers will want, but they don’t really want it at all.”