After graduating from UCL, Theo started his career in investment banking. After two years he joined Nested.com, a fast-growing prop-tech startup. He had the opportunity to work in a few different roles across finance, operations and strategy, which gave me loads of exposure to different parts of the business. While there, he worked closely with my two current co-founders. Theo left Nested after 18 months and then started Otta in June 2019.
What is Otta?
Otta is a platform focused on helping candidates find and secure the best startup jobs. We’ve handpicked over 400 of London’s most innovative companies to include on the platform, from well-known brands like Revolut and Spotify to emerging leaders like WhiteHat and Cuvva.
We want to give the best recommendations to candidates, so we enrich jobs with more data to make this possible. On the company side we surface information such as whether they have a visa sponsorship licence, the exact office location (not just London), recent funding and founder profiles. For individual jobs we label the tech-stack used and pull out the most important requirements.
Jobs are shown one-at-a-time (instead of in a list format) and this means we collect more feedback on what candidates like and dislike. This feedback and additional data helps us to deliver better startup job recommendations. Similar to how Spotify makes recommendations based on what you listen to, we use machine learning to recommend you jobs based on which jobs you like and dislike.
How did you come up with the idea of Otta?
When we started Otta in the summer of 2019, we originally launched a career concierge product, where we would give people advice on job hunting, including CV advice, interview practice, curated job lists and salary negotiation tips.
In the first month, several people paid us to send them a curated list of startup jobs. This surprised us, as there are so many job search products already out there. The more we researched and spoke to people, the more we realised that there were no products that were helping the candidate put their best foot forward, so we thought we’d build one.
What obstacles have you had to overcome to get to where you are today?
So far, the biggest challenge is that there are a lot of other companies in the job search space. While we’re confident the product we’re building is much better than everything else out there, it’s tricky to cut through the noise and get in front of people when there’s a lot of competition. We’re early in the journey, so I’m sure there will be many more obstacles to come!
What characteristics make a great entrepreneur?
Being an early-stage founder requires you to wear a lot of different hats! One hour you’ll be meeting potential investors to try and raise money, the next you’ll be on a call with a customer trying to get their feedback on the product, then you’ll be interviewing a candidate and trying to convince them to work for you. If I had to pick one skill, I would say persistence. You need to believe that your idea needs to exist even when things are going wrong. It’s persistence that gets you through the challenging days.
What is the future of this space and how are you different to your competitors?
In the short term, I think job search products will have to up their game when it comes to user experience. The big job search websites have been around for 10+ years, and it shows. We set out to design a job search experience to match what you’d expect of Airbnb, Spotify and Netflix.
In the longer term, I think we’ll see increased use of technology to help deliver more relevant recommendations. We’re building the product to collect actionable data from job seekers, which means we can use machine learning to improve recommendations. Our ability to do this will only increase as we grow.
Our laser focus on candidates makes us better than our competitors. Many of the incumbents focus on squeezing more money from companies, rather than building experiences that candidates love.
We’re also better because we curate the companies, only choosing the best startups (companies have to reach criteria around funding and trajectory to make it onto the platform).
What advice would you give to young budding entrepreneurs?
My top piece of advice would be to find the right people to work with. You need a team with complementary skills that work well together. Ideally you’ll have worked on a couple of projects together before. The majority of startups fail because of issues within the founding team. You’ll need to be resilient to get through the challenging times.
We would like to thank Theo for speaking with us.