Frustrated by a job market that rewards connections over merit, 28-year-old Yasmin Hassan founded Ogaan KE, a start-up that connects the best candidates to the right employers. She tells Christine Odeph what inspired her to take up the challenge
As a young Kenyan woman, I gained most of my professional experience by working directly and indirectly in the development world while working my way through university here in Nairobi. I realised how lucky I was to have been in the right places at the right time and for me to get the opportunities I had because otherwise I wouldn’t have known where to start.
I applied to several job openings online but would never get a reply back from the websites and/or organisations. Even with that in mind, and with my vast experience, there were still some opportunities closed off to me because I didn’t have my degree yet. What we (as job seekers) were asking for was simple enough but it just didn’t happen, for example, did you see my application? Did I get the job? If not, why didn’t I get it? What can I improve on?
We had several discussions among friends about most industries focusing on the fact that having a “connection” is better than any value you have to offer. Together, we came up with the idea for Ogaan, a platform that puts everyone on an even playing field, where you can get opportunities because of your qualifications and that is it! I founded the company alone and later brought my friends on board. Kenyans are educated, smart and resourceful. They deserve a fair chance.
We conducted market research online and with the help of some professionals. We asked basic questions to get a true picture of both the formal and informal sectors in Kenya. This informed our framing and initial positioning.
We started looking for developers, put together designs for the app and the web, looked for initial investment from friends and finally started development. We then put together the rest of the team (marketing, digital, legal, advisory and data management). Then we began testing and continued testing while developing until we launched.
What happened next:
We secured a partnership with a local airline for the initial stages of the business. This provided major financial backing for the launch. We were inspired by the airline’s commitment to fair hiring practices. In fact, the first Ogaan hires went to them. We have also set up a sales team with an initial package of Sh15,000 a month. We just recently identified SMEs as the companies we want to approach first and are hoping to make 2019 the year Kenyans can apply and get positions because they qualify for them.
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Running a startup:
I get up around 6am, work from home for a few hours then have meetings with either the different teams or with other people who give us support like consultants. That is how we engage the people we work with. We offer our expertise to them in exchange for theirs. We always build each other up and also offer our networks.
We are members at Metta, a members’ club for the entrepreneurial community. That is where our team operates from on most days. The workforce consists of 18 people now, with growth potential in 2019. I have different concerns every day but, mostly, I am worried about my team.
I want this to work out in a way that will sustain them in the long run. I want us all to grow together and that is inclusive of being paid enough to keep this going. Most advisors are outside the country but we just started working with a new team that will help us with business development. What makes our product different is that on the tech side, we use systems to make sure only qualified candidates are able to view and apply for available jobs based on the field of education, level of education and work experience requirements companies ask for. Companies can put a cap on the number of candidates they want per position they post, reducing the workload of their human resource departments. All this is at a reasonable rate.
Companies can post as many jobs as they need and all the jobs are advertised on all Ogaan platforms. For every position, companies tap into a new pool of candidates making sure they are getting what this country and continent really has to offer.
On the job-seeker side, candidates are applying for positions that they have a chance of landing because they already qualify for them. We have opportunities both on the formal and informal sectors. One can track their application and see if they have been seen, shortlisted or declined. We want to start verifying all users using their ID and phone numbers for safety. The application of jobs is free of charge and ID verification is Sh100 for each candidate.
Where I am now:
We have produced and launched our minimum viable product and are now live on Play Store and online. We have a fully trained team ready to work. We hope for more in 2019. We have many plans. We just want to first master our market. Although our business partnership gave us an initial investment of Sh1 million, I came up with the rest of the money. Our team has been working without pay for the whole of 2017. That is the only reason we were able to achieve anything and also why I call them my family. In terms of breaking even, I am managing expectations. I am currently still paying for the business costs out of pocket but my number one goal is to be sustainable in the coming year. It’s a learning curve I hope I can conquer!
As entrepreneurs, we should try and develop ideas that are beneficial to us and the generations to come. Let us come up with ways to solve our own issues as Africans while making