Interview with Ed Hendrick, Sonru Founder & CEO, for Enterprise Ireland, 2015: Ed tells Enterprise Ireland about his journey with Sonru, the value of the Irish diaspora for Sonru’s success in Australia and New Zealand and how to create a product that people won’t want to stop using.
1. As the original founder of Sonru, you decided to build a new business– what were some of the key factors that influenced your decision to do this?
This is something I’d always wanted to do from a very young age, create a new company from scratch. What excited me initially was the huge growth in the online video market. Back in 2005/6 there was a lot of buzz around services such as YouTube and Skype; they really were major disruptors in how people communicated with each other. I saw a big opportunity to initially bring similar online video technology into the recruitment industry. This is what we did. I wanted to give myself the freedom, space and the opportunity to build something new and amazing. I would never have done this working for someone else.
2. What motivated you to become involved in the Talent Management Industry?
Sonru is a disruptive technology that has helped to change the recruitment process for candidates and recruiters alike. Like most disruptive technologies, Sonru was all about timing. I was only a couple of years out of college and at the time a lot of my peers were interviewing for roles throughout Ireland. I witnessed the time they spent, and sometimes wasted, traveling to first round interviews, and I remember thinking to myself that this process was flawed – there had to be a better, more efficient way. I felt that introducing online video into the industry was an important move. We’ve evolved quite a bit from the original concept but we can now see that video interviewing is the solution.
Using video interviewing for first round interviews benefits all the stakeholders in the recruitment process. It’s more flexible, convenient and transparent for candidates. And for recruiters and hiring managers, there’s proven ROI in terms of time, cost and quality of hire.
3. How did you grow Sonru and what countries did you target first as part your export journey?
After great success in Ireland, our focus shifted to the UK market. Working closely with EI UK, we utilised their networks and connections to generate initial awareness of Sonru and our value proposition. We began presenting at various trade shows in the UK and secured our first client outside of Ireland at one of these, CERN, who are based in Geneva. So as a result we got more traction in Switzerland than in the UK initially. We then added an experienced UK Sales Director in 2011. This was a big milestone for us and really signified our growing market position in the talent acquisition software industry.
Over the last few years, we’ve expanded rapidly and now have opened regional offices in the UK, Australia, Singapore and France as well as working with many reseller and referral partners in other regions. It’s been a very exciting journey.
4. Do you have any problems with sourcing, hiring and training staff since you have staff working all over the world for Sonru?
I’ll admit, we’re quite lucky in this respect. As market leader in a very exciting new space, we have attracted talent from many of the large players in the talent acquisition sector. The industry knowledge and experience they bring to Sonru is invaluable and makes for a really dynamic and exciting global team. Of course, Sonru comes in handy – I can review candidates in Sydney from Ireland and weigh-in on potential new hires early in the process!
Last year, we launched the Sonru Academy, which gives all our new hires uniform training, whether they’re based in HQ in Ireland, or one of our regional offices. This has really helped us to make sure that our clients receive the same level of service, globally.
5. What have been Sonru’s most significant wins in the A/NZ market over the past few years?
Since launching in the A/NZ market, Sonru has worked with a number of early adopter clients to grow the video interviewing sector as a disruptive technology that enables immediate and tangible time and cost efficiencies. We have won major clients across all sectors including Westpac, Macquarie Bank, AMP, PwC, St. Vincent’s Health, Mercy Health, MediBank, BUPA, iiNet, Perisher, GSK, Nestle, Fletcher Building and Monadelphous. Government organisations have also led the way by innovating in their early stage screening process including the Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade, Australian Bureau of Statistics and the Customs & Border Protection.
6. How have you found the Irish Diaspora networks in terms of helping you grow Sonru overseas? Have they helped promote the business?
Ireland House (both The Irish Ambassador’s Office and Enterprise Ireland) has played a significant role in providing market entry and ongoing support to Sonru across all states in Australia and New Zealand. The level of support including attendance at Sonru Events, invitations to Ireland House networking events, St Patrick’s Day events and introductions to senior executives in prospect organisations. The Irish Diaspora is an important ‘Brand
Awareness’ marketing connection for Sonru and can be a key entry point to organisations in obtaining a qualified introduction to decision makers.
7. What’s the best advice you’ve been given and from whom?
Some of the best advice I received came whilst participating on the Enterprise Ireland Internet Growth Acceleration Programme in 2010. One of the presenters, Sean Ellis, advised us to only build a product that once people began using they wouldn’t want to stop and to be open to evolving your product until you get to that magic position. People by their very nature are adverse to change, so you need to give them a really good reason to change to something new.
8. If you could talk to one person who would it be and what question would you ask them?
I would say Elon Musk. He is a South African-born, Canadian-American business magnate, engineer, inventor and investor. He is the CEO and CTO of SpaceX, CEO and product architect of Tesla Motors, and chairman of SolarCity. In my opinion he’s the greatest entrepreneur we currently have. I would ask him “What continuously drives him to take on the seemingly impossible?”
9. And one for good luck… What do you like to do in your free time?
My parents own a busy dairy farm in Wexford, so in my spare time I like to unwind there and help out when I can. We’re also overlooked by the Blackstairs Mountains, a favourite of mine, is to hike up these. We’ve got some really beautiful countryside to enjoy in Wexford. I also enjoy meeting up with other Irish Start Ups to share experiences.
If you’d like to find out more about Ed, Sonru and our activities in Australia and New Zealand, just get in touch!
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