Ajay Madhukar  |  Singapore
Published 2016-03-08 13:54:10

Unlike traditional job-hunting platforms, WOBB places a great emphasis on company culture, and it’s a platform that you could use to find employment based on the idea of progressive and cool work environments. The premise of the platform is to link up employers and potential employees that share similar ideas and make up the right culture fit.

Given that WOBB uses an advertising model, they didn’t have data on how successful they were at helping jobseekers to land jobs. So one day, they decided to conduct a survey with a help of an intern to find out what people thought about their apps and whether they landed their jobs. They found out at the end of the long and tedious process that 77% of employees that managed to land jobs through the platform were happy, believed that they were a culture fit and would want to stay long term with their respective companies.

While the platform has been operational for while, here are 10 things you might not have heard about the team behind WOBB.

1. Derek quit his corporate job 2 weeks after coming up with the idea for WOBB.

Image Credit: Wobb
Image Credit: Wobb

WOBB as an idea was birthed while Derek was having a beer with one of his friends from the e-commerce industry. His friend was telling him about the challenges businesses usually face in attracting good talent, and he asked him if he would be interested in starting something that would help companies attract talent based on their culture.

Two weeks later, he resigned from his corporate job to pursue the vision, however he did it without a real solid plan but he believed in himself and trusted that he would eventually work things out.

“I initially set up WOBB so that I could be a lifestyle entrepreneur. I’ve never even heard the term ‘tech startup’ back then. Looking back I realize how silly I was, and how much I underestimated how difficult it would be to create a two-sided marketplace without prior experience doing it,” he added.

However, he managed to build WOBB into a full-on tech startup that’s funded by serious investors, supported by Cradle Fund and they’ve worked with important companies like Google and PayPal, and they even won key awards in 2015.

2. WOBB was initially called…Red Panda.

“I’m pretty awful with names, so just before I started I was asking around for good suggestions. Someone said ‘Red Panda’ and I thought that it was pretty cute, so while we were building the prototype, it was called ‘Red Panda’ the entire time,” he said as he recalled the startup’s early days.

However, he later dropped the name after experiencing weird cravings for sweet and sour chicken or chow mien because the name reminded him of a Chinese Restaurant. And within a couple of hours, he settled on a new name called “Working On Bean Bags”, which eventually got shortened to WOBB.

3. The beginning was extremely “hands-on”.

Image Credit: WOBB
Image Credit: WOBB

He only started with RM7000, and with that money he paid an agency to set up a basic WordPress site. It was incredibly manual at the beginning as he did most of the work. “I had to interview employers, do video editing, accounting, post jobs and create web pages all by myself.

I would work till 4 or 5 in the morning to try to get our Culture Pages ready for launch, using my Mac and iMovie,” he recalled. “It never felt like work though, and every time I launched a Culture Page, there was an incredible amount of satisfaction.”

4. Wobb evolved from an “ugly duckling”.

Derek began approaching startups to see whether they’d be interested in joining the platform as the first ten employers, even before their website was ready. He only had a PDF file of the mock up with him at the time, and he described that the mock up as being quite horrible, in fact it was plain dull and it had a lot of text, ugly stock photos and very little design.

He also recounts meeting Cheryl Yeoh when she first came back to Malaysia to start MaGIC.

“At the time, our first website had not even launched yet and I was asking her if MaGIC would be interested to sign up with WOBB. I considered it a very important meeting, because if she liked what I was doing, she could’ve introduced me to other startups,” he recounted. “I got a bit nervous when she looked at the PDF mock up, paused for a long time (as though she needed time to think of something to say that’s nice and not too discouraging) and then said, ‘This looks like a blog’. And I laughed and said, ‘Yeah, I know, it’s ugly’. I promised her that it would look a lot better when we launched it. I would like to think I kept that promise.”

5. They used exclusivity to growth hack their downloads.

How Wobb looked like at the start.

Just before they launched the first version of their mobile app, they closed their website for a couple of weeks and made it an “Invite Only” platform. Once users signed up, they moved them up the download queue, and when it was their turn they’d receive an invite to download the app.

Users who referred their friends to the app would also move up the queue. This was an effective strategy that allowed them to acquire 1000 users within a short space of time with very little marketing.

6. They are corporate nomads.

Image Credit: WOBB
Image Credit: WOBB

WOBB’s team (referred to as Wobbsters) first started working from cafes, and then eventually one of Derek’s startup friends, Storehub, offered them their meeting room to use as an office and they even went through all the trouble of buying the furniture to ensure that the team was comfortable in their new office space. However after several months, the team moved out to work at a nice cosy apartment but that didn’t last long either as they grew considerably quick, and their neighbours weren’t happy that they were working from home.

One of their investors later offered them their spare office in Mont Kiara, and the team has been working there since. However, they will be moving out again to their own office in Damansara in March, and they will gradually work on the office to ensure that it represents their culture and collective beliefs. Hopefully that office will be here to stay.

7. Derek almost gave up—but he didn’t.

Image Credit: WOBB
Image Credit: WOBB

Many people from WOBB’s core team left mid last year, and it was a time when they still hadn’t built enough traction and there were a significant number of issues with the product that had to be addressed. “It was a very emotional time for me personally, as I pondered whether we would want to continue, or call it quits. It was a mountain to climb because the mobile app needed a lot of work, and I lacked technical expertise myself, and we were running low on funds, it was pretty much over,” he revealed. “But I kept thinking about how so many jobseekers have messaged me personally to tell me how much they loved our platform, and wished it had existed sooner. And that spurred my belief that we had an amazing product, but I just needed to get our house in order.”

To rectify the situation, Derek sat down alone one night, pulled out a huge notebook, and started rewriting their story and what WOBB was all about. He believed that at the core, they were all about finding companies with the right culture, using a simple and fun mobile app, and he badly wanted to get back to that. At that point, he stopped thinking of WOBB as a technology business and started thinking of it as a business, pure and simple.

“I always approach things by starting with the problem, and think about how the product will solve that problem, and the answer isn’t always technology” he added. “And just like that, we’ve grown to what we are today.”

8. The whole team is involved in the hiring process.

Image Credit: WOBB
Image Credit: WOBB

The team at WOBB usually decides if a person gets hired to work with them. Derek typically interviews them first at a café somewhere to determine if they have the right drive and then the interviewee has to sit in for a second interview with the entire team, and it’s usually much tougher than the first interview. “There were many occasions where I wanted to hire someone, but the team rejected, so it’s a no,” he mentioned. “This is because we believe in culture fit, so it doesn’t matter how good someone is, if they do not work well with the team, we won’t hire them.”

He also recalled one moment where they had 8 people interview one person at the same time, and he described as the “scariest panel interview you’ll ever face”. And their team started throwing weird questions to the interviewees like, “Who is your favourite fictional villain, and why?”

“If you have $1 mil USD to start any business you like, what would you do?” and, “Give us a 30-second elevator pitch of WOBB as though you were introducing us to random stranger.”

The answers usually give them an insight into what their worldview is and it also helps them assess things like their sense of humor and tenacity.

9. They bond with job seekers over a cup of coffee.

Image Credit: DerekToh .com
Image Credit: DerekToh .com

Derek actually takes time out of his schedule to meet WOBB’s jobseekers in person over coffee. “Every jobseeker that signs up on WOBB will receive an email directly from me or one of the Wobbsters to invite them to meet me for coffee. We want to be beyond just a tech business. So I take the time to meet our users to understand their problems, and what they need in their careers,” he said.

In fact, just two weeks ago he decided to invite other startup founders to join him while he meets jobseekers for coffee, and he claimed that the response was overwhelming. They currently have 8 different startup founders attending the coffee session but the session is limited to only 40 jobseekers, in order to maintain casual and personal.

However, the moment they opened up their registration, they received 200 applications within the first hour, and they had to close it down because they didn’t have time to handpick from so many registrations.

(WOBB’s first ever Casual Coffee session is going to be held on the 9th of March. It’s going to be a private event held at a café in Bangsar.)

10. They organise the Awesome Tour every 3 months.

Image Credit: WOBB
Image Credit: WOBB

One Wobbster was inspired to physically bring potential job seekers to companies as they already display different companies’ cultures on their website. The team now handpicks 15 to 20 people across Malaysia once they submit their CVs and video cover letters and they take them on an Awesome Tour every 3 months. To date, they’ve brought them to meet the people and visit the office at Google, Maxis, Quintiq, Paypal, KFIT, Mind Valley and Nuffnang.

“I believe we are the only Malaysian business to have ever done this, and the jobseekers and employers love it,” Derek exclaimed.

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