Ones to Watch: Placemate–connecting companies with the talent pipeline

Ones to Watch | Fri 10 Jan | Author – Business & Finance

Each week Business & Finance highlights an up-and-coming start-up, making waves in its industry. This week Ferdia Kenny tells us about Placemate, a reward-based recruitment platform that connects companies with talent at university level.


What is it?

Placemate is a reward-based recruitment platform that connects companies with talent at university level. 

Operating predominantly in the tech sector, Placemate differs from traditional ad boards or recruitment agencies by focusing on a company’s future hires rather than their immediate needs. The platform aims to build a pipeline of talent for companies that will supply them with graduate hires for years to come. As a tech solution, it requires far less people-power than a recruitment agency, allowing Placemate to significantly undercut traditional agency prices. Placemate’s approach works for companies who are interested in implementing an affordable, long-term and sustainable hiring programme.

Placemate attracts a large student audience due to their unique profit-share model. This model allows students to earn money through the site by applying to suitable roles. Placemate acts as a single point of contact for clients with the student market and has partnered with numerous Irish universities and student organisations, including Ireland’s largest Student Union, to provide company clients with unrivalled access to the Irish student market.

Once their content-based profile is complete, companies can search for students across the Placemate platform under a range of criteria (like location and skills) to start building their talent pipeline. The software allows clients to track and re-engage with interested students while automatically filtering applicants for their job posts. Placemate also uses robust psychometrics to match applicants’ personalities to specific roles and company cultures and offers a range of other bespoke services tailored to the client’s needs.

Who’s behind it?

Dónal Ó Catháin

Placemate was founded in 2018 by Ferdia Kenny and Dónal Ó Catháin, UCD graduates in Architecture and Psychology respectively. Prior to graduating they began looking for jobs and ran into the same problems that have plagued students for decades. Getting started on the career ladder is tricky because students need a job to get experience, but often need experience to get a job. They found the application processes for the traditionally well-known graduate programmes to be stressful, laborious and repetitive and knew that there must be hundreds of other suitable companies out there looking to hire graduates; they just couldn’t connect with them. Worst of all, they were encountering these issues when they were doing exams to try to get their actual degrees

Ferdia Kenny

They wanted to build a platform that made the application process easier for students and that rewarded students for their time and effort applying to jobs. They teamed up with two other recent UCD graduates, Declan Duffy and James Dorrian of Cyan Bear Web Development, who brought with them the technical skillset required and Placemate was born.

Placemate has an impressive Board of Advisers which now includes a former Microsoft Head of the EMEA, a global Head of HR for a multinational pharmaceutical company, a recruitment specialist who has twice scaled and sold recruitment agencies, legal partners in Arthur Cox and current VC employees.

How is it funded?

The company has been largely self-funded to date. In late 2018 Ferdia secured a place on the Enterprise Ireland New Frontiers programme which provided the funding for him to work for the company on a full-time basis. Placemate has also received funding from the Mayo Local Enterprise Office through their Web Development Voucher Scheme and by winning funding in Ireland’s Best Young Entrepreneur competition.

Placemate aims to continue to grow and to gain traction for the remainder of 2019. The company plans to raise a seed round in 2020 and will be actively seeking angel investors with experience in the tech and recruitment sectors.

Future plans?

Placemate will expand to the UK market in September 2020 and have established strategic partnerships in both London and Manchester. Looking further ahead, we aim to expand to Germany in 2021 and to the rest of Europe thereafter. Given the free movement of labour within the EU, Placemate intends to create Europe’s largest student recruitment platform by 2025.

From a technology standpoint, the main focus will be to improve our personality matching algorithms. As our user numbers and our dataset grows, Placemate will implement AI to continually make our algorithms more accurate. This not only gives a better ROI to our company clients, but it would also be valuable for students, schools, guidance counselors and parents of students who are undecided on their career path. If Placemate can more accurately predict the type of job role a student is suited to we can decrease university drop-out rates, help students to perform to their max capabilities from an earlier age and match them to the perfect employer.

Placemate’s overall goal is to change the way employers interact with potential employees. We aim to make the job market about building relationships rather than posting and applying to jobs. We want companies and talent to get to know each other at a far earlier stage than is currently happening.