By Mark Lynch
A new website allows students to earn money, just by applying for jobs. Placemate was a student start-up company, born out of frustration with the job market, and is now Ireland’s first rewards-based job platform, which gives students €5 every time they apply for a job. Co-founder of Placemate, Ferdia Kenny, spoke to SIN about how it all came about and how it benefits students.
Originally from Castlebar in Co. Mayo, Ferdia is no stranger to Galway, despite having been an undergraduate student in UCD. He studied architecture, which eventually spurred the foundation of Placemate. “The way my course was structured is that you do a 3-year degree and then take 1-5 years out on a leave of absence to gain work experience, before going back to do a 2-year Masters. While I was in my final undergraduate year, I started looking for companies to hire me for the year out”. He continued, “I realised all of my friends were applying to the same 3 or 4 well-known places, even though there are hundreds of other architecture firms in Ireland. On top of that, we (Ferdia and his co-founder, Dónal) were getting fed up of completing loads of online applications on individual company websites when the information they were seeking was almost identical to each other”.
In a struggle that anyone who has sought a work placement for their course, or applied for jobs after their undergraduate degree, would understand, Ferdia and Dónal saw an issue with the time and effort that applying for jobs was taking, and it was taking directly from assignments and studying for exams. They even saw a solution to this issue, from which they created their own website. “We thought it would be a lot easier to have one profile with all of your key details in it that you could then use to apply to any job at the click of a button. We found the process of applying for jobs to be time-consuming, so we felt that students deserved to be rewarded for their efforts. When a student applies for a job through Placemate platform, we reward them with €5 as a thanks for taking the time”. Earning €5 to apply for a job sounds too good to be true, but Ferdia explains further, “The core idea that we started with remains; once a student registers for the site (which takes around 10 minutes), they can apply for any job they are eligible for with a single click. The companies we work with really value the effort that students take to apply and are all on board with the idea (of giving students €5). We also then built in some personality assessments, which help companies and students find a match that’s a good fit for both parties”.
Naturally, Ferdia came across difficulties turning his idea into a reality. “It was pretty tricky. I’m very lucky to have a great team around me, with some brilliant advisers too; that is a major help”. At the beginning of the project, though, it became clear that he would have to put everything into it. “I left my job in the architecture practice after one year to work on Placemate full-time, while I was also working in a call centre in the evenings to keep some income coming in. Everything takes longer than you expect when you’re trying to set up a company, so those early months were pretty frustrating, with a lot of bursts of activity and then some lulls”. However, then came the big break and Placemate’s own reward for the efforts and time they put into it. “We caught a massive break when we got onto the Enterprise Ireland’s ‘New Frontiers’ programme. It was a game-changer, as it provided me with a salary to work on the company full-time. They also provided excellent mentorship and the learning we took from it was phenomenal. We also got a lot of help and financial support through the Mayo Local Enterprise Office, with advice and funding through their IBYE competition, among other schemes”.
Ferdia knows that now is not the time to rest on his laurels, as there are students all over Ireland and further afield that could benefit from his website. “Placemate has big plans over the next 18 months. We are currently expanding beyond the Dublin universities to Galway, Cork, Limerick and beyond, with the help of our student societies affiliate programme. As a company, the main goal, currently, is to gain traction with students and employers. We are looking to prove our model until Christmas, before we begin to raise a seed-funding round in 2020. We aim to expand to the UK in September 2020. So, hopefully lots of big things are on the horizon for us and for our student users!”
More details can be found on www.placemate.ie.