Our popular Meet the client series reveals the inside story on the companies we support with legal services. We caught up with Tom Davenport, Managing Director of recruitment software company Alvius and its subsidiary job sites TalentPool and UK Startup Jobs about the challenges involved with building platforms and how people power your success.
Name and job title
Tom Davenport, Managing Director – Commercial, and Co-Founder, Alvius
What is it your company does?
We’re a software company with a mission to connect people and opportunity through technology. Our SaaS business Alvius sells recruitment software that enables organisations to build bespoke talent pools, helping them drive efficiency and save on recruitment agency costs, as well as platforms which enable those organisations to organise and manage large numbers of candidates for different jobs. We also own and operate two popular consumer-facing platforms, TalentPool.com and UKStartupJobs.
Who do you work with?
We’ve got around 1,000 clients across our three brands, with leading names like Deliveroo, Marvel, Swoon Editions, Patch and My Tutor all recruiting through our consumer platforms. We provide talent management software to public and private sector organisations and are the only approved supplier of talent pool technology to London’s local authorities.
How long have you been in business and how has your business grown?
I started Alvius in 2014 with Andrew Lavelle, my Co-Founder and Co-MD. We were always going to do this: Andrew, who leads our tech, has been building websites since he was a teenager, and I have been creating initiatives since then too. We’ve grown to a team of 40 in the past five years, but of course Covid has had an impact. Occasionally it’s been tough, but generally it’s been a pleasure. First off, we grew in the product and software area to build out our talent pool product. I’m especially proud of our sales and operations team, which is staffed by parents who work from home on an ultra-flexible basis. Our business model fits well with flexible working, meaning our team can combine a rewarding career with meeting their family and caring responsibilities.
What inspired you to start/join your business?
Andrew and I both started at the same management consultancy as graduates. So we saw both sides of the recruitment coin, going from graduates to employees. Our experiences got us thinking about the wider recruitment and talent management space. We realised that SMEs faced huge challenges when it came to attracting talent, because they simply didn’t have the reach of a corporate brand name. And yet small businesses had fantastic opportunities on offer, but couldn’t get the candidates when they published that ‘we’re recruiting’ social media post. This is the pain point we wanted to address. We set up TalentPool to connect high-quality graduates with SMEs and start-ups who don’t normally receive applicants.
What have been the biggest recent challenges you have faced and how did you overcome them?
Obviously Covid has proved a major challenge for us in many respects, as we’ve seen our revenue drop. Getting our response right, in terms of how to deal with fallout from the pandemic appropriately and compassionately, that has been a test.
I’d also say that building platforms at our scale is a hard slog, especially when you set the bar high and have uncompromising standards as we do. The platform needs to work, be elegant and easy to use. You’re usually working with limited resources and to tough deadlines. There are always delays, unexpected complexities, things you didn’t anticipate that come back to bite you – it’s like building a house – or even a skyscraper! Data security is something else we need to get right, as we hold data on over 100,000 people. You need really good technical management and project management and to have a shared vision and understanding of where everyone is going. We have been very lucky with our own people though – the team we have now are perfect for the job.
What are your hopes/goals for the next 1-3 years?
We plan to deliver the benefits of Alvius software to more and more large organisations. It’s a pleasure to help our clients replace outmoded and archaic systems with modern, well-built intuitive platforms. With TalentPool and UKStartupJobs, we plan to get our volumes back up to the level we were at before Covid. Our overarching aim is to help companies find the right people and more people to find the right job.
What has it been like to work with Harper James? Tell us about your experience.
I’m a very happy client indeed, very pleased and very impressed. I work principally with two of your solicitors, Sarah Gunton and Ian Carson, who are both exceptional in my view. They have been a huge help to us on many, many occasions. What I find particularly positive, the things that make a difference are:
- They’re responsive and clear in communication.
- The quality of work is very high and there’s a real sense of humility from Sarah and Ian, they take ownership. I really value this.
- Harper James solicitors don’t speak in the legalese which I have heard too many times from other solicitors and which is totally unhelpful. We’re in an era when if I want to know what the law is, I can go to Google and find out how the law works in minutes. I’m not looking for that. What I’m after is focused, considered advice about the specific situations that I face. By which I mean, do you think this is a good idea? Their response might be ‘Yes’ or ‘No’. One word is often all I’m looking for! My solicitor gives a view and I really value that.
- Harper James offers real value for money.
How have the services Harper James provided you with enabled you to develop your business?
Harper James removes the stress for us. I know that we can get advice quickly, without some sort of golden clock being turned on when you pick up the phone. This means we can focus on running the business. Everything we do is in part due to the suppliers we have. After six years, we have landed on people that we are very happy with.