Start-up Rockstar targets Microsoft pros - TechCentral

Start-up Rockstar targets Microsoft pros

Paul Slade

Paul Slade

Johannesburg-based start-up Rockstar 365 is a new “ranking” platform for Microsoft-based IT professionals to showcase their abilities in order to win the right kind of business or land their perfect job. Launched in South Africa, the team behind it is already taking the service global.

The platform requires users to sign up using their Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn account, and then displays their Microsoft-related technology expertise using a scoring and ranking system.

“The single most important factor contributing to the success of an IT project is the selection of resources. Yet finding and selecting the required team is still a completely subjective process,” says Rockstar 365 CEO Paul Slade.

Rockstar produces a detailed profile page for each of its users — or “Rockstars” — to showcase their expertise in order to win more business, land their next job, or just be recognised among their peers.

“Ultimately, we are giving Microsoft pros a place to rapidly establish their credibility and stand alongside their peers based on their portfolio of work.”

Rockstar 365 is a global platform focused on technology areas such as customer relationship management (CRM) and SharePoint. “With the tools available to a start-up like Rockstar 365, there is no reason to constrain ourselves to a location,” Slade says.

That said, the sign up rate in South Africa has been “phenomenal”.

“The number of Rockstars in South Africa shows just how much great talent we have locally,” says Slade.

Rockstar 365 was conceptualised in December 2012 and, a month later, the website landing page was live.

“As with any good start-up, the goal was to make assumptions and then test those assumptions as quickly as possible. Without writing a single line of code, we deployed a simple landing page to gauge interest and topped 400 sign-ups in one week.”

After registering the business, the company built a beta version of its platform and went live on 7 March 2013, ahead of Microsoft Convergence 2013 event in New Orleans. In just over seven months, the platform has attracted more than 10 000 users across 65 countries.

“Based on direct feedback via email, Rockstars have leveraged their ranking to earn more than US$2,5m in new business. In addition, more than 200 have used their ranking during the hiring process,” says Slade.The start-up itself has a monetisation strategy. “In coming weeks, we will release Rockstar company pages, a paid feature that will help companies attract the world’s top Microsoft talent by showcasing their company culture and highlighting vacancies,” says Slade.

“Until now, we feel that the “hiring process” has been fundamentally broken. With the launch of company pages, we will improve this for both the companies that are looking to hire great talent and for the Rockstars who are open to or actively looking for new positions.”

Rockstar company pages will cost between US$179 and $899 a month and will launch first with companies such as 3fifteen, New Signature, Keyrus and Slickdata.

Rockstar 365 has three co-founders: 34-year-old CEO Slade, who ran a successful CRM practice that was acquired and who later worked for Microsoft; Lawrence Cawood, 30, owner of Vinewave.com, who also serves as chief of engineering and design; and Sven Laurencik, 33, who holds the chief operating officer position.

The company is self-funded. “Courting investors and negotiating the structure of these deals takes time and focus. We made a decision early on to figure out the 100 most important things that we should be doing as a team and then check them off in order of priority,” says Slade.

Slade says, too, that it was fortunate for the team that Rockstar 365 was in self-funding position allowing the company to keep its priorities focused on the platform and users.

Rockstar 365 regards LinkedIn as its biggest competitor. “Listening to our users’ feedback is a huge part of our business, and a must for any start-up. As long as we provide significant value and reach to the right audience, we can outpace our competitors.”

Plans for 2014 include growing the user base across world and creating a mobile app. “Mobile is a critical part of our strategy,” says Slade.  — (c) 2013 NewsCentral Media

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