Djoann Fal, Co-founder of GetLinks

What’s your story?

GetLinks started from a simple party at my home where I invited some 20+ friends and acquaintances working as programmers and entrepreneurs. What started out as a small party kept growing until we had 600 attendees by our 4th gathering. It was through these parties that I had the opportunity to interact with numerous programmers and entrepreneurs which sparked my interest in the startup and tech scene. It came to my attention that South East Asia had an equally exciting and vibrant startup ecosystem as Europe. Eager to be part of the startup scene, I began searching for co-founders to embark on our entrepreneurship journey together. I wanted to establish not just any startup but an interesting tech startup. Hence, when looking for co-founders, I knew that I had to onboard strong and like-minded entrepreneurs and programmers who were well versed in technology and business. It was through one of the events that I hosted where I met my co-founders, Prichaya Srifar (Chief Technology Officer at GetLinks) and Polpat Songthamjitti (Chief Marketing Officer).

Co-founders of GetLinks Polpat Songthamjitti, Djoann Fal and Prichaya Srifar (From left to right)

What were some of the obstacles that your company faced during its initial years and how did your team overcome it?

During our initial years, GetLinks faced an issue with fundraising. Even though we had established a clear mission which is to connect people who were interested in technology in Asia to a platform, we had no clear revenue model. This led us to near bankruptcy. Hence to save GetLinks, I ran a crowdfunding campaign on my birthday to ask my friends and networks to donate funds to us. While the campaign failed in raising sufficient money (only $ 1,000), it gained the attention of the media which attracted many angel investors. Things started to take off as numerous angel investors began contacting me. Through their help, we successfully raised an angel round. With the fund, we set up an office out of my bedroom and organised our first tech conference in Thailand.

How does your company separate itself from its competitors?

We are a candidate-centric platform. Everything that we do and all our user experience are designed and focused on giving our candidate users a sense of control and freedom. We make our platform easily accessible by keeping it free-of-charge for all candidates. On top of that, every candidate will have access to our talent coach that is dedicated to giving them career advice for free.

As for companies, we are a SaaS (Software as a service). We noticed that many businesses were suffering financial losses as they paid monthly subscriptions to job platforms without actually hiring anyone. These existing platforms were often largely similar to Job boards and therefore secured poor results for companies. Hence, the problem of facing a lot of noise and going through the tedious process of screening hundreds of applicants with limited successful hires, resulting in a lot of remaining job vacancies was still prevalent. For GetLinks, our pay per hire is a success fee model similar to the headhunting agencies, but without headhunters — handled by our online platform and our Talent Managers. Thus, this helps us to be 50–70% cheaper than headhunters.

What are your thoughts on the HR space primarily in Hong Kong, Thailand, Singapore and Vietnam?

These are the 4 markets where we operate in and they are of extremely different market segments. At GetLinks, we divided the geographic segments based on the maturity of the country’s technology sector. Singapore and Hong Kong were noted as more mature markets with a lot of competition and lesser space for innovative platforms to enter and change market habits. Thailand and Vietnam, on the other hand, were noted as a less mature market with poorer efficiency and a bigger potential for massive adoption of innovation. Hence, our focus would be where the innovation adoption opportunity lays the most. In South East Asia, we see the same opportunity in Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines. This can also be extended beyond this region to Brazil, Latin America, Africa, and Eastern Europe.

What are you working on right now that motivates you to get out of bed in the morning?

Today, I’m working on creating the future of GetLinks — white labelling our platform and matching algorithm for hundred other recruitment companies, to embrace the digital transformation in the HR tech industry through the “Talent Marketplace model”. We will be launching this at our upcoming conference happening in Vietnam this coming May.

After seeing people die without leaving much legacy behind them, it does make you question yourself on your purpose here. For me, after working at Rocket Internet, choosing to do my own thing was just a simple time x impact formula thinking: how, where and with who can I make the most impact and make myself somehow useful to the world. I don’t think there is a right answer for that, nor a static answer. Anyone will find their own answer at one point of time and this is something that can perpetually evolve as people’s lives evolve.

What is your company’s five-year plan? Any market expansion plan in the pipeline?

We aim to become the new operating system of Work in South East Asia. We see that every region has its own Talent Marketplace who have emerged and educated the market on this new model and now dominate the market. With the funding that we have raised from Alibaba and SEEK, we believe that with the right team, the right partners and the best marketplace product in Asia, we have all the chances to create this new market. Expansion to Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines are in our pipeline.

Looking back, what advice would you tell your younger self?

Don’t leave things to fate. Create and catalyze “serendipity”. There is no luck only serendipity and grit. Take ownership, and make your crazy dreams come true.