For our latest Startup Spotlight series, we’re pleased to chat with Jonathan Coates, CTO & Co-Founder of RefermyJobs.
With 10+ years of experience in web development, Jonny, as his colleagues and friends call him, has experience building large recruitment websites and job platforms.
He has always been interested in how the recruitment industry works and has founded multiple businesses.
Before we dive in, our readers would love to get to know you better. So, can you tell us a bit of your “backstory” and how you got started?
Coding has been a passion of mine since I was 15, and I started my first job at 18 as a web developer. I learned as much as I could as fast as possible, being the driven individual I am.
I freelanced for three years before becoming a contractor for web agencies. Since then, I have worked in startups, applying my skills to help change the recruitment industry.
What was the most exciting story that happened to you since you launched your startup?
I joined RefermyJobs in early 2022, so Richie had been working on this project for a little while before we joined forces. It really excited me that I’d be able to propel his idea to fruition, as before we met, he was struggling to find a decent CTO to help him build his vision and bring RefermyJobs to life.
No startup founder is immune from making mistakes, and it’s part of the “growing pains” they go through. Can you share one mistake you’ve made with us and the valuable lesson it taught you?
Making mistakes and experimenting with different ideas. You need to try things to succeed. There’s no formula for starting a business and no guidebook. It’s just a matter of trying, failing, and doing it again.
Finding the right people is one of the hardest things about starting a business. My biggest mistake was being in the company with the wrong people.
There has been much talk about supporting diversity and inclusion among startup investors. This may be obvious to you, but can you share with our readers the reasons why it’s so important for investors to support startups with a diverse and inclusive executive team?
I think it’s essential to recognise people’s abilities regardless of their age, gender or background. I have worked with people from all over the world in the last few years since remote working has become more commonplace.
People from diverse backgrounds bring new ideas & unique perspectives to the table, which allow you to see the world & your business in a new and exciting way.
If you can inspire a movement that would bring a positive change within your community, what would that be and why?
There are still so many people who have to figure out money management, business, well-being and health on their own, so I would like schools to teach these classes as mandatory courses.
Many people lack the ability to manage and grow their own finances, and when times get tough, understanding how to manage and control your own well-being is crucial.
If you had a chance to spend a day with someone and have the liberty to ask anything, who would that person be? What three questions would you ask?
I don’t have anyone in particular in mind. I think there are several people I’d like to spend the day with and ask them questions, each for different reasons.
- Elon Musk because he’s obviously done very well in business and will have a lot of advice to give me. I’d ask him about stress management, mostly as he’s known for working a lot.
- Jordan Peterson because he has a lot of interesting ideas about the world. Not all of them I agree with, but he’d be an interesting man to have a coffee with and get to know.
- Joe Rogan because he’s had conversations with nearly every person I’d ever want to meet, and also, we could talk about Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu which I find incredibly interesting.
Can you share your favourite life quote with us and why this is so relevant to you?
“Nothing worth having comes easy” is my favourite quote, and it’s relevant because it reminds me every day that hard work is required.
Great! Thanks for that. Now, let’s go to the main focus of this interview. Can you share with us the story behind that “A-ha Moment” you had that led to the idea of creating and launching your startup?
My A-ha moment came when Richie first pitched his ideas to me about RefermyJobs, and I loved it straight away. A job board that only charges for successful hires… A-Ha! I was hooked.
What do you think makes your startup stand out? Can you share with us examples to show this?
What makes RefermyJobs stand out is that most job boards make you pay upfront for a job advert with no guarantee of any results. However, we only charge when you successfully hire someone using our job board. That’s extremely helpful for companies with less budget.
We’re also building a network of active referrer’s to help fill jobs faster and accurately, incentivising them with generous payouts!
That’s a huge difference between RefermyJobs and other job boards.
What are some “myths” or misconceptions people have when launching a startup that you’ve debunked throughout your journey?
That everything will go to plan, and you’ll be making money hand over fist straight away. You’re not likely to be a success overnight.
I will talk later about having a clear vision and a plan, but you also need to be prepared for that plan to fail. You need to be able to adjust quickly and think of a new angle of attack.
If there’s one significant difference between launching a startup and launching a small business, what would that be and why?
Usually, small businesses will start to generate cash quickly. Startups will go for rounds of investment to fund their idea.
Investment is usually required because their idea needs money to get it off the ground for marketing or to grow their product to the level needed to go to market.
What are the top three traits that entrepreneurs must possess to launch a startup successfully? Can you expound on why you chose these three traits?
Communication skills, passion and resilience.
If you aren’t passionate about what you’re doing, you probably won’t do it. If you can’t communicate what you’re building effectively, you’ll struggle to get it off the ground. When things get tough, you need to be resilient, learn from your mistakes, and try again.
Let’s flip things around: What do you believe are the three things that can cause a startup founder not to become successful, and why?
Forgetting to plan for the future, lack of vision and indecision can lead to failure. If you aren’t planning for the future of your business, then you won’t be ready for the challenges heading your way. This ties into having a clear vision of your future business. If you don’t have a clear vision, you cannot plan for the future.
Then finally, if you fail to act quickly or not, you may find someone else has beat you to the punch.
As a parting gift to our readers, what are the top three pieces of advice that you can give to them about launching a startup and why? Please share a story for each.
1. Keep your business lean.
Have everything you need and nothing you don’t. Keeping your business lean is an ongoing battle you’ll keep fighting throughout your entire business.
At RefermyJobs, we keep things lean, we don’t hire unnecessarily, and we don’t spend money on software or subscriptions we don’t need.
2. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes
Mistakes are how you learn. As I’ve said, no one is taught how to start a successful business. That’s something you just need to figure out along the way. It’s all a part of the journey.
My whole career, I’ve been challenging myself to be better, making mistakes and learning from them, no harm, no foul.
3. Seek out great people to work with
At first, I always tried to do everything myself, but after some time, I realised I didn’t want to build a business on my own. I wanted a great team around me, which is why I always look for great people to work with. In order for us to all be successful together, I am always striving to build an excellent team of people around me.
Thank you for these fantastic insights and for your time. We truly appreciate it and wish you all the best on your journey.
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