It’s not easy finding the job you deserve in South Africa, especially if you’re a talented developer exposed to what’s on offer in, say, Silicon Valley. This might change as curated jobs marketplace OfferZen sets out to help top developers find the best jobs the South African tech industry has to offer.
In 2014, two South African brothers Malan and Philip Joubert traveled to Silicon Valley where they pitched their startup Journey Apps to various venture capitalists. The entrepreneurs, who are also behind startup incubator FireID, wanted to know how difficult it was for a South African tech company to tap into the US startup ecosystem.
“If a startup wants to optimise the odds, it will have to open that bridge — understand how it works, from the nitty-gritty to the visas and incorporating a US company,” explains Philip, who adds that it’s important to look at markets like Silicon Valley for not only inspiration, but also opportunities.
They then went on to raise an undisclosed series A round for Journey Apps, opened up a new office, and today employs around seven people in the US. But while the team proved that building a startup in South Africa and then migrating the product abroad is, in fact, a workable and fruitful model, they also realised that South Africa’s tech industry is at the risk of falling behind from the rest of the world.
South African companies just don’t appreciate how important developers are, the team argues. In Silicon Valley, for example, developers are at the top of the food chain because they’re the people building things and shaping our future.
“When you’re in Silicon Valley it’s pretty obvious to see how far companies are willing to go to recruit programmers to join their team,” says Philip, referring to the quirky offices, crazy perks and competitive salaries. “Having the best developer in your team is ultimately how you’ll win. In the long run, it comes down to how good your team is.”
“There are so many talented coders in South Africa who have crappy jobs. At the same time, there are so many amazing local companies that would kill to have these programmers on board,” says Philip.
And so, the brothers decided to come back to their home country to build OfferZen, an online jobs marketplace for developers. The service is currently only available in Cape Town and Stellenbosch though it’s expanding to Johannesburg soon.
“The one thing South Africa is really awesome for is testing. You cannot really bootstrap a startup in Silicon Valley too easily. It is freakishly expensive,” says Malan. The founders are keeping operation costs as low as possible and are currently living out of their office in Cape Town, where they often find themselves code through the nights.
With vetting processes in place, OfferZen hopes to become the go-to matchmaker and, therefore, the facilitator of top talent in South Africa’s tech industry. Relying on a strong vetting process and transparency, the marketplace helps developers find awesome jobs, and companies find awesome developers.
Companies in search of top talent are encouraged to create a profile, which shows off their perks, tech stacks used, office photos and their mission. “Developers want transparency. Not just how much money they’re going to make, but also what the tech stack is that they’re going to be using, and what the mission of the company is. They want this up-front,” explains Malan.
With the assistance of OfferZen, developers similarly create their own profiles. “We only accept the best developers onto the platform,” says Philip. “We’ll go through a filtering process, so a company looking for an employee knows they’re getting the best.”
After a developer has been accepted, companies openly bid against each other to offer the job seeker the most attractive salary, benefits, equity and so on. To avoid spamming, the programmer can then choose which company they’d like to have an interview with.
If a company ends up hiring someone, OfferZen charges the employer 12.5% of the developer’s first-year base salary.
“For developers, the most valuable thing is not having job opportunity but actually looking for a job,” explains Malan.
Malan and Philip Joubert have also teamed up with Brett Jones, who’s behind the five-year-old recruitment agency Key Connections, for some added experience.
Jones explains that hiring developers is not the same as hiring a new sales or marketing person. “Developers are high in demand and an interesting bunch of people who have different needs. It’s important to keep your developers happy so that they stay,” he says.
At the time of writing, the platform already had over 30 companies signed up, alongside roughly 50 developers. “We’re overshooting our target,” says Malan, who adds that though the growth has been great, they’re not after numbers. “OfferZen is about being the go-to site for top tech talent.”