Fresh from winning the People’s Choice Award at the Visa Everywhere Initiative (VEI), a pitching competition for female-led startups, Puffling co-founder Sarah Parker spoke to Dynamic Business about the problem her ‘dating site’ for job sharers is solving for return-to-work parents and employers.
DB: What is the elevator pitch for Puffling?
Parker: Puffling solves the dilemma faced by people (especially return-to-work parents) who want part-time flexible work, so they can spend time with their family… but can’t seem to find employers willing to offer a role that plays to their strengths. Our HR platform matches part-time candidates who have chemistry (just like a dating site) and provides a pathway into a full-time job-share position. Due to the fact that candidates choose each other through the platform, instead of being forced to work together like traditional job-share teams, it’s easier for them to trust one another, bounce around ideas and work effectively as an autonomous team. Meanwhile, the employer gets two brains for the price of one with (in some cases) a combined 30 to 40 years’ experience plus a broader skill set and network.
DB: How do you get buy-in from employers?
Parker: Employers have tended to be reluctant to embrace job-share due to concerns about handover in the job-share relationship and the fact that clients and colleagues will have to work with two people instead of one. Puffling helps employers overcome their concerns by providing job-share pairs with a toolkit for communication including online tools and a shared email. The pair are accountable to each other at the end of the day and work as a team to make sure all communication is seamless – they are essentially operating as one person. Managing two people becomes a non-issue and by having two people in the one role means more work can be done. Puffling also provides guidance to the businesses as to how to educate the wider teams on job-share and the way it will work within the organisation.
DB: How does Puffling generate revenue?
Parker: Puffling is free for job sharers and we charge the employers a success fee, similar to traditional recruiters. The advantage of Puffling is that because the majority of the recruitment process is automated we are able to provide a very competitive rate to our clients compared to industry standard.
DB: What circumstances led to Puffling’s creation?
Parker: I’d had negative experiences when trying to negotiate for senior flexible roles, as had my co-founders Lija Wilson and Mike Hill, who is a dad. Realising something needed to change, we began bouncing around the idea for a joint business at the end of 2016. We officially launched the Puffling platform together in June this year. Prior to that we’d been building the client relationships, doing the process manually and getting the insights for mums.
DB: Can job sharers work remotely through Puffling?
Parker: Yes, absolutely. Lija and I job share our CEO/CMO role – we wear many hats – but we are only together in the same office one or two days a week, everything else is done remotely and anybody can do that using the tools Puffling provides.
DB: What success has Puffling enjoyed to date?
Parker: Right now, we have over 1,000 candidates on board who are ready and willing to work and aren’t speaking to traditional recruiters and businesses. Also, the support from businesses of all sizes has been overwhelming. We’ve had a record number of pairs placed over the last month and are looking forward to launching more verticals in 2018 such as HR, IT, Finance and Law.
DB: What drew Puffling to the VEI pitch comp?
Parker: We entered the competition because Visa are a huge leader in diversity and inclusion, globally. The fact that the competition was held as part of Women in Payments Symposium (Sydney, 21 November), was incredible for us as we’re so passionate about increasing gender diversity, especially in industries that are traditionally male-dominated. Through our partnership with Visa, we’ve been able to gain wider recognition. Plus, we plan on implementing their CyberSource API to set up a one-click payment solution for hiring managers.
DB: How will you invest the $5000 prize money?
Our sights are set on truly disrupting the future of work and taking the Puffling concept global to assist anyone senior looking for flexible work. To this end, we’ll be using the prize money to build out our platform and client offering, including payment systems.
About Visa Everywhere Initiative (VEI)
Held during the Women in Payments symposium in Sydney on 21 November, the second annual Visa Everywhere Initiative saw six startups from across Australia and New Zealand compete for a total of $55,000 in prize money across two categories – consumer challenge and commercial challenge. In addition to having at least one female in their leadership team, the six startups had to pitch a solution that leveraged Visa’s suite of APIs.
Sydney-based fintech startup, Easyshare won the consumer challenge, earning $25,000 to invest in their app, which ensures share house occupants pay their share of the bills and rent. Meanwhile, Raincheck took out the commercial challenge, earning $25,000 for their mobile commerce platform, which harnesses machine learning and artificial intelligence to bridge the online and in-store shopping experiences. Puffling netted the People’s Choice Award and $5000, after winning the most votes in a real-time poll of audience members.