Sonru Explores Africa, Finds Enormous Opportunity

by francine Hardaway on July 3, 2014

Africa will be the next big land of opportunity. I have heard this more than once, especially from my friend J’Lein Liese of the Foundation for Global Leadership, and this year have been told by some Brits to take a look at Nigeria, a country of enormous energy that has become the continent’s new technology hub. In the meantime, since I last visited Africa, the growth in infrastructure, energy, natural resources, and consumer goods has been remarkable, led by countries outside the US such as China. The World Bank says economic growth in Sub-Saharan Africa will continue to rise this year, from 4.7 per cent in 2013 to 5.2 percent this year, boosted by rising investment in natural resources and infrastructure, and by strong household spending.

Africa can’t develop without talent. It has been a great lesson watching one particular startup, Sonru, find its product-market fit in an unlikely place — NGOs and enterprises expanding from Europe to Africa.

 Daniel Richard, my son-in-law, is a French-Canadian (bilingual) expert in talent management software, having previously worked for Taleo, acquired by Oracle. After the acquisition, he teamed up with the Irish founder of a video recruiting product that had been seeded by the economic development efforts in Dublin during the Great Recession. And for the past three years, he’s been helping Ed roll out the Sonru product through Europe and North America.

Sonru has become the market leader in video recruitment software throughout Europe. But the most interesting thing about the company is that, rather than focus next on the US, where it has a competitor, Sonru has capitalized on its early success with nonprofits and moved into Africa in a big way. Africa’s a big continent, travel is expensive, and both for-profit and nonprofit companies want to use video recruiting for job candidates. Indeed, some nonprofits even want to use it to interview people they will serve.

And here’s a fascinating fact about countries in Africa, still bandwidth challenged – Sonru wins over Skype because Skype requires more bandwidth. According to Skype’s website, Skype needs 400Kbps to achieve a decent quality, whereas Sonru only requires 140Kbps. 

Job candidates seem to like video interviews for obvious reasons, even  though only 2% had ever done a video interview before. A quote from a candidate after completing the interview: “One of the coolest things I’ve ever done. Great experience.” Almost three out of four candidates prefer Sonru’s automated video interview, done at the candidate’s convenience but populated by the hiring manager’s questions, to a phone screening.

So while the enterprise will always be market #1 for any talent management company, Sonru is proving that other markets, less obvious, like nonprofits and universities, can also reveal themselves. Especially if you are prepared to listen to where the market takes you when it is telling you something about where you are needed.

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