Good investments don’t come along all that often. So when a business idea comes along that changes an entire industry, we sit up and take notice more so than ever. We spoke to Charlie Taylor, the 27-year-old founder of Debut, an app which is changing the graduate recruitment industry forever.
How did you come up with the concept of your app Debut?
I built my app Debut because it was something I wanted whilst at University. In my last year of studying Philosophy, Politics and Economics at the University of York, I applied to 40 different graduate jobs and attended over 10 assessment centre days – an arduous and painful process. I could not understand why the world’s most mobile audience (students) were being engaged by the world’s most digital employers in the most non-mobile way possible. We as students were doing everything from our mobile phones. The world of careers for early stage talent had yet to have a native successful mobile platform offering. This is when the spark for Debut began…
After I completed EY’s graduate programme, qualifying in UK tax and joining the British Army Reserves, I decided to pursue the opportunity. I left EY and launched Debut just 15 months ago.
How did you go about seeking investment?
It was a tough process. But you just have to be confident and believe in yourself. Be passionate about what you are doing, but control your energy.
I pitched to as many people as possible and tried my best to soak up every single piece of feedback. A challenge for me was acquiring the skill of knowing what feedback to take on board and adapt moving forward. You need to be level-headed and have good judgement.
It’s important not to come across as desperate. Remember, you are selling yourself and your idea. Rather than seeming desperate, try to let your passion shine through instead.
Debut has raised an initial seed investment of £2.2m in its first 12 months.
The first pre-seed round (£250k) was raised from an angel investor with extensive industry experience. The second tranche (£250k) was a follow through from the first round.
The third round was £1.7m from institutional Venture Capitalists investors (led by LocalGlobe by Robin and Saul Klein, formerly Index Venture partners (TransferWise, City Mapper, Zoopla investors), with investments also from Initial Capital (Clash of Clans Playfish investors) and Entrée Capital (Deliveroo, Snapchat investors) and a high-profile angel investor (Paul Forster, former founder and CEO of Indeed).
We are working towards running a Series A investment in 2018.
You’re a Forbes 30 under 30 rising star! Congratulations! A lot of our readers are global investors – what would you say to them about why they should invest in tech start-ups? And why in the UK?
From Deliveroo to City Mapper, the UK is home to some of the most exciting tech start-ups.
The UK’s app economy is projected to increase more than 10-fold between 2013 and 2025 (£2.9bn to £30.8bn). Digital start-ups are growing 32% faster than the rest of the UK economy (in turnover).
There are also government tax incentives for angel investors and private individuals, such as the Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS). Through these, they can reclaim 30% of income tax relief if they invest in high risk businesses (early stage digital start-ups).
With the Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme (SEIS), investors get relief of 50% of the investment (with a maximum annual investment of £100,000 a year) against tax, with no capital gains tax to be paid on any profits made from the investment, loss relief, and potential inheritance tax benefits.
There are a lot of apps out there at the moment – how do you ensure that yours maintains high levels of engagement and regular new downloads?
Every day, we spend a lot of time improving the technology behind the app. This is to ensure the user journey is seamless, and it guarantees a positive and engaging experience. We are always thinking of new ways to interact with our users through the app, but we take pride in the speed, convenience, and accessibility we offer to our users.
Debut is not only improving access to careers, but it is creating a convenient place for our native mobile audience (16 – 24 year olds). Our app does this by putting every university student and graduate in the UK at the fingertips of leading employers. Now Debut is leading the native mobile space for careers in the UK – putting us at the heart of a digital generation.
To maintain high levels of engagement on an app, here’s Debut’s five key ingredients:
- Mobile personalisation – students have access to fresh, personalised content via the app
- Push notifications – students start to receive push notifications specifically tailored to their preferences with opportunities from employers
- Unique product features – students can benefit from our TalentSpot feature which enables them to receive direct invites for interviews with employers, skipping the first two stages of selection before they have even applied
- Gamification – students can win prizes such as mentorships and internships by playing games and challenges with employers
- Incentivisation – students can earn valuable career opportunities such as interviews, events with major employers, fast-tracking students to assessment centres
You are doing a lot of work to make the tech world more diverse, is this something close to your heart?
Yes, it is. I created Debut to push mobile technology to its limit, to improve access to careers. The UK is the start of our journey to improving access on a global scale.
It’s our belief that after investing decades of time and hard-earned money in education, students and their families should be met at the end with opportunities they deserve. Having access to a range of career opportunities and prospects should be a Human Right. The current, outdated system has failed millions of graduates already. Debut is on a mission to change that.
Debut’s vision is to become the global app for student and graduate careers. This year, with 50 FTSE companies joining the app and by using advanced technology, we are pioneering the process of making access to careers a Human Right. It’s a very exciting time for us!