After Elan Diamond’s mum died of undiagnosed cancer, he left his old hiring manager job to launch a startup that would truly make a difference
A startup is turning the recruitment industry on its head. Network14 essentially aims to remove recruiters entirely from the process of sourcing talent. Instead, employers can simply ask other professionals about candidates’ chops and, if they’re found suitable for the company, the commission the hiring professional would receive would be given to a charity instead.
For founder Elan Diamond, his decision to upend the industry is personal. Having spent two decades of his life working in the recruitment industry, the last six of which as a senior talent acquisition partner for payment processing company Worldpay, he increasingly felt that nothing he’d done – including delivering over 1,500 hires – amounted to anything. “I never really felt I was building a legacy,” he says. “I wanted to do something that made a real difference.”
Three personal tragedies amplified his desire to improve the world. “I had personally been affected by the early loss of both my parents, including my mum to undiagnosed cancer and my best friend’s wife had been diagnosed with breast cancer,” Diamond remembers. Subsequently, when he heard about Soccer Aid, the charity football league created by pop singer Robbie Williams that had raised £20m to charity, Diamond caught himself thinking: “If they can do that with one football match, I really want to do better than that.”
Looking at his career, he realised that there was an opportunity to use his professional experience to make a difference. During his working life, he’d noticed time and time again that the best hires were often made from internal referrals. “Factually proven, they’re the hires that typically perform best and in line with predicted expectations,” he says. Once those were exhausted, companies had no other choice than to use recruitment agencies, which Diamond felt yielded less than satisfactory results. To add insult to injury, they were also expensive. “The cost differential between direct hiring and agency hiring was so large, I struggled to establish how that service reflected value,” he explains. “Essentially it’s a very expensive introduction service with the employer still undertaking the majority of the effort to secure the hire.”
But what about if a company could get an external point of referral when the internal resources were exhausted? Pondering this question, Diamond recognised an opportunity to both improve the hiring process and to do something good for society in the process – launching Network14. “[It] connects employers with a community of experienced professionals ready to provide referrals for available assignments,” he explains. “In doing so it replaces costly recruiter fees with valuable charitable donations to deserving causes. This is about taking a business process – recruitment – an industry sadly often lamented for its approach to ethics – and utilising it to give back, whilst making it more cost-effective in the process.”
How it works is that after employers advertise their available roles, interested candidates must identify a so-called sponsor, a peer from their own industry who can vouch for them before they apply. Alternatively, a sponsor can see a job that would be suitable for someone they know and make them aware of the opportunity. The sponsor would then have to be available for an interview. If their candidate is successful in nabbing the job then the sponsor can pick a charity that the employer can donate to instead of paying a recruitment agency.
That was the idea anyway but Diamond didn’t rush into it before getting a second, third and a few more opinions by speaking with the people in his network. “I thought the idea was sound but I knew I needed to take it to those that would potentially be using it,” he explains. While it took some time, he’s happy he made the effort. “This was invaluable in honing the concept and it also happily confirmed that my target market were in agreement that I was on to something,” Diamond says.
Network14 was incorporated in May 2018 and Diamond claims the reception so far has been optimistic. “It is of course early days so a lot of work [has] to be done but the initial response has been great,” he smiles. Diamond is particularly happy with how employers seem to get on board and trust the sponsors more than established recruiters as they don’t seem financially motivated. “Couple this with the fact that the donation amount is significantly less than other typical fees applied for this kind of service – the consensus has been that the improvement, benefit and CSR accomplished make the offering completely unique,” he says.
Having bootstrapped the project so far in order to see how successful Network14 could be, he’s now viewing the possibility of raising some money. “With current focus being building the number of assignments, sponsors and nominees registered on the platform, primary steps towards securing a round of funding will be explored imminently,” Diamond reveals.
Looking to the future, he concludes: “The next six months will be dedicated to customer acquisition, populating the network and driving those charitable donations. Ultimately that’s the goal here. I’d like to see £100,000 of available donations as soon as possible, I'd like see assignments being completed and cheques getting written for deserving causes.”