Startup Stories #2 | with Co-founder of ConX – Annie Slattery

Annie at the team at ConXjobs have already done multiple pivots in their monetization strategy as a result of customer interactions and learning more about the real opportunity. This has meant they needed to be flexible in their go to market model but also provided confidence that they are addressing the specific needs of the market.

Being in the early stages with some great customers on board they are still testing the best strategy to reach their buyers. In this interview Annie describes some unique high touch approaches that appeals to their market and an iron clad process to recruit contractors to identify information available on the open web to turn into triggers for a sales call.

For those that prefer to read there is also full transcript but here are the highlights;

What is your elevator pitch?

ConX is a job platform that we have built specifically for the construction industry. So it’s a B2B player and what we do is help trades who are looking for jobs in specific locations, connect with construction companies or subcontracting businesses, connect with the trades

When did you first realise this is a problem that needed to be solved?

My co-founder is a carpenter and he went from being an individual carpenter to owning a subcontracting business, my other co-founder is from technical background. Then you can tell we are Irish, so there was an element of Irish people moving to Australia and not being about to find jobs in construction. People who arrived weren’t able to find work, but we living with builders at the time and they’re like where are all the Irish?! So that’s where it originated from.

Can you tell us more about your revenue generation story?

We started with a very basic listing fee and then we took that away. We started to charge per successful hire and put more emphasis in making sure that the right person, so the right person was connected to right job and everybody was happy. We earned much better revenue when we were doing it that way but we were becoming a labor hiring and that’s absolutely not we were trying to be. We were trying to disrupt the market [inaudible 4:48].

Then we left that model behind. Then we decided, it’s free to post and you can pay to upgrade. That removed the friction from the onboarding process and also gave as chance to make more money. That’s more like a listing model we’re progressing on to a subscription model.

Full Transcript

Andy: So, welcome everyone to 104 Startup Stories. Really excited. We’ve got Annie from ConX here. Thank you everyone for joining today to 104 Startup Stories. Really excited, we joined by Annie from ConX. As you mostly know that the story today is around talking about to startup founders and CEOs about their story, about their revenue generation. It’s all based around three really simple questions. The first one, we’re going to put Annie on the spot here and just ask what is your elevator pitch.

Annie:   ConX is a job platform that we have built specifically for the construction industry. So it’s a B2B player and what we do is help trades who are looking for jobs in specific locations, connect with construction companies or subcontracting businesses, connect with the trades. And we’re trying to make it really simple and for people to find jobs in their area and negotiate the rates themselves. So we’re not an agency, we’re just building the platform for them to connect.

 

Andy: Awesome. Nice and clear. My next question I have is, how did you identify that this is a problem that you’re looking to solve?

 

Annie:   Yes, sure. My co-founder is a carpenter and he went from being an individual carpenter to owning a subcontracting business, my other co-founder is from technical background. Then you can tell we are Irish, so there was an element of Irish people moving to Australia and not being about to find jobs in construction. People who arrived weren’t able to find work, but we living with builders at the time and they’re like where are all the Irish?! So that’s where it originated from.

 

It started like a listing board and then we started to build and realized there is so much more to it, to the whole construction industry to have once connecting. People are so reliant on their mobile phones and people on their contact book, as opposed to being able to just really centralize where they find each other and how they connect and how trust just built into the system as well. So it’s kind of evolved quite lot.

 

Andy: So it started out like the MVP like just a message board where people could post jobs and jobs wanted.

 

Annie:   Exactly. It’s literally like a listing board. Now we’re trying to make the end to end solution, particularly at the moment working on building on those trust factors, making it really really, so you can hire someone there without speaking because you can see what kind of work they do and how they worked with other people.

 

Andy: Yeah, that’s a big barrier for a lot of people. Now it’s a double sided marketplace where there are subies and tradies and large construction players as well. Talking a little bit about how you’re generating revenue at the moment?

 

Annie:   Yeah, the with our revenue generation, we’ve pivoted a few times. We started with a very basic listing fee and then we took that away. We started to charge per successful hire. And we started to put more emphasis in making sure that the right person. So the right person was connected to right job and everybody was happy. We earned much better revenue when we were doing it that way. We were becoming a labor hiring and that’s absolutely not we were trying to be. We were trying to disrupt the market as opposed to become it. Then we left that model behind. Then we decided, it’s free to post and you can pay to upgrade. That kind of remove the friction from the onboarding process and also gave a chance to make money. So where we can make money if somebody wants to send a text message, all the trade in a particular area or particular trades in carpenter. They have paid to upgrade their job. That gives huge value because it means a really fast response rate. You can hire less than 10 minutes. That’s where it really works. That’s more like a listing model we’re progressing on to a subscription model.

 

Andy: That’s the next pivot. So the big challenge is to go out, looking and engaging with more these subies. How’re you going about that now in finding and identifying and then engaging in this?

 

Annie:   We’ve got lots of different ways that we do it. So online – we’re building communities on Facebook and Twitter. Facebook is primarily online source. And direct calling and lot of direct telesales from us. It is hard work but people are answering their phones, text messaging. And then ‘word of mates’ so that’s also a big one for us. Our cofounder, he’s on space and he is able to spread the word onsite and when people are getting jobs through us. We’ve got T-shirts made of for people to wear on site. So it’s hacky at the moment.

 

Andy: The word of mouth is always the cheapest and you get the easiest results. But it’s not scalable.

 

Annie:   If we can build reality into the platform, we can get everyone talking and we’ve got few ideas that we’re designing at the moment, which we’ll launch in the next month or two. The whole word of mouth thing, hell of a lot easier. But you know what, if somebody gets the job and they tell their friends, that’s more important than any Facebook ad or anything else.

 

Andy: You mentioned that you’re doing some work on the building communities in Facebook. So they’re your own communities that you’re creating and curating?

 

Annie:   Yes. We have a group on Facebook. We have 3500 followers on FB. That’s the main way we got that by posting funny contents, that appeals to the tradians. We have huge success because they love the Tagamet thing. If someone’s being lazy on the site that’s always been huge. Those posts got really well. We’re working on that and then blogging and newsletters.

 

Andy: It’s quite content rich or there’s lot of different opportunities to really engage the trade.

 

Annie:   It’s huge. Sometimes I don’t really think I’m probably the best place for this stuff.

 

Andy: Let delve into a little bit more that direct component now, when you’re talking about direct calling and text message. Outside of the phone, what tools do you guys using like from SEO, SMS delivery system?

 

Annie:   Our CRM platform is Capsule. We’ve free plan on that. For SMS we use Twillio. We’ve got that integrated into our platform. It automatically goes through that.

 

Andy: From a sales perspective as well, what do you use?

 

Annie:   Just mobile phone. From a texting perspective, we’re just literally checking what’s happening online and using the text. But it really affects.

 

Andy: That’s a problem. One to one engagement. The most effective way to create a connection with someone. It’s always a huge challenge how do you go and create that scale. The other thing is how you actually get that data and where do you guys finding this gold mine of phone numbers?

 

Annie:   We’ve got lots of different places, we use ad source, we use upwork and plenty of ways we can access the list and build our own. We’ve been working hard on that for a while. Basically we’re using ad sources most effectively and they can scrap list, they can generate list quit quickly.

 

Andy: Delve into that for a little bit, it’s something that we see a lot of people struggling with outsources. They’re never happy with the results. They find it takes a lot of time. But you seem to have some success and speak happily and glowingly. How do you go about it?

 

Annie:   We’ve got quite a set process of how we outsource and hire. It’s like a simple 5-steps where you post the ad, how you eliminate people, hire people who’ve worked for thousands of hours for one person rather than have thousands of reviews for 20-minutes. They’re little things that we look at. We’ve got a whole list of them and then we do make sure that they are set the time a little bit obscure and then obviously over Skype to make sure communication is all okay. And we find really really good success. Because I work at [inaudible 11:55] few ad sourcing and some guys are absolute pros. They are really sure their secrets to success. We follow that and then make our own and it’s been successful.

 

Andy: I’ve really liked the work history. The long time with one person, this showing the repeat businesses.

 

Annie:   That’s the most important.

 

Andy: Yeah cool. Then you’re asking them to save, I’m presuming you might break things down to geography, is that how you building out your list?

Annie:   Oh yeah, we’re pretty focused on NSW and more so Sydney and then like for example today I’m targeting the western suburbs just because that’s I’ve chosen to target today. And it just becomes more concentrated then because if we can sound write in there, then it’s easier to match with the jobs.

 

Andy: Then you give these guys target in terms of the outsources and you send them away and populate sheet with all the data. What happens next?

 

Annie:   We use Google docs and then they populate the sheet. Few different businesses I’m starting to get craft, people are signing in from Philippines, they’re blocking their IP. So that’s a problem. So we collect the list and we’re super specific with every task and every task is more targeted and more specific. We got smaller task better than results. It’s not like okay, can you just do things for me this week?

 

Andy: Are these guys finding emails as well when they’re out there or you really just looking for that phone numbers?

 

Annie:   It depends where we’re looking for and what kind of meetings we’re finding the data. We’re getting names, emails, phone numbers everything.

 

Andy: You mentioned that you’re thinking of changing to a subscription model, a fantastic path to go down, it gives you a lot more clarity to better run your business and invest a little bit more acquisition upfront. How is that going to change your acquisition model. How you’re looking to them engage more of these guys to get on to different services and what type of challenges you’re facing?

 

Annie:   Well, we’ve been working on LinkedIn a bit, just contacting people through LinkedIn and we’ve gotten feedback from our customers we have now and potential new customers that we’re missing a key element and that’s like procurement for the smaller guys. That’s always missing. We can never really offer the subscription without these key features and we’re building the key feature at the moment.

 

Andy: What that is? Is that tendering your services?

 

Annie:   No, not at all. If you’re a builder and you need to hire an individual trade like one carpenter, one labor at the moment, we’re very well setup for that. If you want to hire subcontractor or carpenter, electrical subcontractor, we do the most basic of that. But it’s not a flawless solution. We know what we need, we know what the market wants, that’s why we’re building it. We’re in a position to charge a subscription with the offering that we have. We’re not really in a position, it will be hard to get people to subscribe. So adding new features are really valuable. Once we have them, I think the sale will be a lot easier.

 

Andy: So it’s a very different realm. Is there much out there campeting with that space?

 

Annie:   There is very very top end. These are whole got in the small end. If you’re doing small projects they’re just using phone book, word of mates and email – the three mediums. And we see it from Keith, our cofounder who was in carpentry business. He gets his contracts sent through in 50 pieces on emails and they’re not targeted and they’re hard to start. He’s always on the phone and everything happens in the traditional word of mate way.

 

Andy: At least it’s coming through email not on fax.

 

Annie:   True.

 

Andy: I still have some mates in the industry who talk about faxing. What challenges you envisaging with this slightly new model that you’ll going to put the subscription once you build the tendering functionality?

 

Annie:   We’re not building functionality at the start. I think the challenge is probably making sure that we’re offering the right solution to the right person because the construction industry huge tier 1 players right into small local builders for example. It’s very targeting the right person with the right offer. That’s our biggest challenge.

 

Andy: We had a really really good core team, spoke to Gary from LeadChat who is a startup down in Melbourne, couple of minutes ago. His process is always being “sell first and bill second.”

 

Annie:   It’s good.

 

Andy: So Annie, that’s our 15 minutes, really appreciate your time. So where can people find out more about you?

 

Annie:   You can go to www.conxjobs.com. Check the website there and send us an email.

 

Andy: Thank you very much. You guys you can reach me on Twitter – andy_farq and andy@sellx.global.

Thanks again for your time Annie.

 

I look forward to speaking to you soon.

 

Annie:   Thanks very much Andy.

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