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HR startup raises $5 million to develop tech helping get veterans into the workforce

Stephanie Palmer-Derrien /

WithYouWithMe

WithYouWithMe co-founder Luke Rix (centre) with ANZ chief Tom Larter (left) and co-founder and chief Tom Moore (right). Source: Supplied.

Aussie HR and recruitment startup WithYouWithMe has raised $5 million as it ramps up development of its Software-as-a-Service platform and expands further into the US. But for co-founder Luke Rix, success isn’t about dollars in the bank or countries conquered.

Launched in 2015 by Rix and co-founders Sam Baynes and Tom Moore, WithYouWithMe was created to help get Australian veterans into the workforce, while also tackling the skills shortage in the tech industry.

At the time, Moore himself had been medically discharged from the military after seven years, and was struggling to find work.

“The market wasn’t really valuing the skills he had,” Rix explains.

The business was founded with the core mission to help tackle veteran unemployment and underemployment, he adds.

This funding round is led by Perennial Value Management and Alium Capital Management, and follows a few years of impressive growth for the startup.

In 2018, WithYouWithMe came in second place in Deloitte’s Fast 50 Rising Star award, having secured annual revenue growth of just over 3400%.

The following year, revenue growth was about 500%.

The business has also grown from 10 people at the start of last year to about 80 today, and has opened offices in Canberra, Brisbane and Washington DC, in addition to its Sydney HQ.

According to Rix, the startup’s growth has largely come off the back of a realisation that the best way to help a veteran get a job is often through upskilling in areas where there is a big skills gap ⁠— where demand for talent outstrips supply.

After looking for upskilling courses targetting in-demand industries, such as cyber security, data analysis and robotic process automation, the co-founders realised there was very little out there.

Two years ago, the startup began offering those courses itself.

“That’s really what’s taken off,” Rix says.

WithYouWithMe has also set out to solve the problem from a HR perspective, developing a SaaS platform designed to help companies identify the best talent for a particular job.

The platform is intended to change the way recruiters seek out talent, “focusing on what an individual’s potential is rather than what they’ve done in the past”, Rix explains.

“If we can help HR people get better talent … often that can help veterans get more jobs,” he says.

Measure of success

Although WithYouWithMe has seen significant revenue growth, as well as international expansion, this isn’t how Rix and the team measure its success.

“We’ve got pretty ambitious goals that aren’t aligned to revenue growth or company size. It’s really about trying to solve the problems,” the co-founder explains.

The startup was built to try to solve veteran unemployment, he adds.

“I’d like to think that we’ve done a pretty good job at chipping away at that goal — but it’s a pretty lofty target.”

However, in order for the business to make an impact and to achieve its social mission, it’s important the business is sustainable.

“You have to grow a company to enable you to help solve those problems,” Rix says.

This funding round is partly pegged for more investment into this SaaS platform, and a stronger drive towards changing the way businesses recruit and manage talent, Rix says.

It will also be used to further the startup’s expansion into the US.

“They’ve got very different problems with veteran unemployment,” he explains.

In the US, there is generally less education required around the issue. Veterans are typically very well received, he adds.

“There’s just a vast volume of veterans,” he says.

In the US market, therefore, the team is placing a strong focus on the cyber security space, which is largely where the jobs are.

“That’s where we can have the most impact,” Rix adds.

Know your values

Like most founders, Rix has learnt a few things along the way. For example, when the team outsourced its first tech build, mandating a provider in India to produce a skills transaction service.

They spent a lot of money, he admits.

“No-one bought it, and it was a pretty terrible piece of software, to be honest.”

In retrospect, Rix advises founders to keep products in house, and to surround themselves with people who have the right experience to build them.

“Make sure that you own your product, and don’t outsource what is important and key and critical to your business — such as your technology,” he says.

In fact, the most important piece of advice Rix has to share is, fittingly, about hiring right.

Some 70% of WithYouWithMe’s workforce is ex-military, he says. And many are doing their jobs for the first time.

“But we really believe in investing in the right people and helping them grow,” the co-founder says.

When an organisation is so driven by a social cause, it can be easier to teach the skills for a particular job, than it is to instil the startup’s values.

“If someone doesn’t have the passion … they’re never going to be successful in a passion-driven organisation,” Rix explains.

“Often, helping solve the mission comes before profit, which is hard for some people to understand.”

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Stephanie Palmer-Derrien

Stephanie Palmer-Derrien is the editor at StartupSmart. You can contact her at [email protected].

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