In April, about 20 promising ventures from the HR world pitched their ideas at the ‘Personal Swiss’, an HR fair in Switzerland. Austrian startup Mercury Puzzle was among them and got voted most exciting, innovative and promising HR venture by a jury, 200 online stream viewers and the guests themselves at the fair and so won the HR innovation slam.
Their victory in Zurich will allow them to participate in the ‘Zukunft Personal’, Europe’s biggest HR fair in Cologne in the fall.
Before this, it had been quiet around the five founders of the two-year-old HR startup and their online platform where young professionals can take personality tests and get job propositions just in time, and employers can be on the lookout for suitable candidates. During the past months, the team has undergone a transition process in their strategy and changed their focus.
Exciting one and a half years
After the Pioneers Festival 2012, the team was in the spotlight. With their portal that they call a “dating platform for job-seekers” and their algorithm, they have shown progress in matching a job and a job seeker based on requirements of the job and abilities of the seeker. The platform itself grew, sometimes with a rate of 3.000 users a week, CEO Nicolas Vorsteher told inventures.eu.
“We had some investment offers from England or Russia, and we had to decide whether we want to go that way, continue and, let’s say, spend two million we receive from an investor in marketing or if we wanted to hold back, contemplate and further develop the product,” said Vorsteher. And that is what they did; the result was a change of strategy and a move away from the B2C concept of the Mercury Puzzle platform to a B2B component (called Prescreen.io). That was partly because one day they were approached by a firm that was interested in the algorithm and the actual code behind the Mercury Puzzle portal rather than in using the website for their talent hunt.
A new white label product
Wintoniak explained that “a big firm wanted to have the process behind it,” and so got the strategy change going: “We constructed a white label version for their recruiting and sold it to them.” Over 50 clients have been provided with the new talent management product recently, among them big corporations such as EVN or holidaycheck. “I think we can call that a product-market-fit,” said Vorsteher.
Until the fall, MercuryPuzzle will be further developing Prescreen.io their so-called all-in-one-recruiting-solution for enterprises. By summer, Mercury Puzzle wants to secure clients in Germany and Switzerland with the help of its business angel Mathias Hiebeler and become profitable: “We are on the best way to break even,” Vorsteher is optimistic.
Interesting for fellow startups
The refocus might also prove interesting for other startups: To find suitable employees is often one of the hardest tasks in a firm no matter what size. “With our new product, the integrated white label solution, we are also interesting for startups,” head of development Dominik Hackl told inventures.eu and added: “We can basically provide a “one-man-HR department for a firm.” In fact, it seems to be working, as startups like linemetrics or checkrobin started using it as well.
When it comes to the consumer-oriented platform Mercury Puzzle itself, the CEOs are calming: “The whole team cares for [the platform] Mercury Puzzle and from today’s perspective, it will continue to exist. Structure, management and the strategic focus will see significant change in the next few months, though,” states Vorsteher, indicating that their change of strategy will not affect the Mercury Puzzle portal.