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27.05.2021Cyprian Łakomy

Elvium: Denmark’s leading online recruitment system

Elvium is a Danish web-based human resources management system, founded in 2012. Its CEO, Jesper Andersen, walks us through its beginnings and highlights the most recent developments.

What are the origins of Elvium?

There is a whole story written about this in the Danish press. I was working at Nokia for many years. Denmark had a strong and successful R&D department. 1,200 engineers developed mobile phones in Copenhagen. After several years, Nokia collapsed. We were given one-year salaries, very good leave packages, and could still use the office. I was more like: “OK, let’s put my CV into several databases”.

I remember receiving automatic e-mails saying “Hi! We have new jobs for you”. I found it very poor because it was based just on a keyword match between an offer and my application. It was 2 years before LinkedIn launched its functionality of rating skills. That is how I came up with my first idea for a business. CompetenceMe, that's how my first business was supposed to be called, was an application that enabled you to rate someone’s competencies after you’ve worked with them. I still find that idea more compelling, because it obliged you to tell the truth instead of rating people for stuff they only claim to know or do.

In fact, I always wanted to be an entrepreneur. The company offered a relocation project, that would even help you start your own business. But it was not on my mind back then. The conditions in Nokia were incredibly attractive. Salaries, lunches, all kinds of perks. It didn’t even feel like going to work, but more like a big playground. You don’t leave such places voluntarily.

Then what were your first steps toward entrepreneurship?

I started researching the startup scene, I read about software development and creating SaaS applications. I realized that without a critical mass of users the entire CompetenceMe idea would not happen. Simultaneously, I investigated the HR industry. I talked to companies, psychologists, and unemployed people, and found out that there might be a potential for a job application screening product I had in mind. Subsequently, I found my first team of engineers and started the work on the project.

Then my wife received an opportunity to do half a year of her Ph.D. at the University of California, Berkeley. I didn’t have a job but still had a salary, so I went with her. In the US, I met quite a few successful entrepreneurs and learned a lot from them. After I came back to Denmark, I realized that I and my dev team were working on completely different projects. We had to split.

Soon afterward, I met Grzegorz (Ciepiel, one of the co-founders of Prograils). We built Elvium together.

It can be said that both Elvium and Prograils have been in a close business relationship since day one.

Yes, you can say this was also the birth of Prograils. At that time, Prograils was only Grzegorz and Maciej (Litwiniuk, Prograils’ co-founder and CEO). As both companies grew over the years, Grzegorz decided to dedicate himself to Prograils exclusively. Unfortunately, he passed away soon afterward. But we have kept on developing Elvium together with Maciej and the growing dev team.

How did Elvium get traction?

After a certain time, we grew big enough to attract investors. The first one, I met at a party, and he told me his father might be interested in our product. He invested 100,000 EUR. The first investor led us to the second one, a CEO at a very successful company. We ended up raising another 700,000 EUR. This enabled me to dedicate myself to Elvium full-time and hire people.

Technical question: were you aware of the technologies that could best fit your business goals before going into a collaboration with a software development team?

I did not pay that much attention to whether we started with Ruby on Rails or something else. At that time, it was quite a new and very popular framework. Today it is maybe not that common anymore, but there are still quite a few big companies using Rails. I didn’t do any tech audit back when we started.

How many companies use Elvium in 2021?

We have 110 customers, mainly from Denmark. Important notice: circa 10 of them are really big retail store networks owning around 500 stores. Another 100 are separate companies.

Elvium stores lots of sensitive applicant data. What do you do to prevent leaks and maintain the system’s security?

It is safe to say I trust Prograils for their information security standards, confirmed with the ISO 27001 certificate. On my part, I switched our security setup tool to Amazon Web Services in 2018. Although it cost us a fortune, I am very happy that someone else takes care of it for us.

How deeply has the world of recruitment experienced the aftermath of covid-19? How does Elvium respond to the situation?

Well, we had done online sales for about 5 years before covid. The majority of ways we approach customers didn’t change. Actually, the pandemic helped us. Suddenly everyone has a computer and a working camera and does not have to mess up with the settings when you call them. The pandemic improved everyone’s readiness to handle their issue online.

In terms of the HR industry, we have seen a whole year of zero sales. Due to the pandemic, companies have cut staff and were not interested in recruitment systems. Right now, Elvium is only me at our Copenhagen office. Some people are helping me with SEO, marketing, and of course, Prograils is my almost full-stack software development team, but I don’t have any permanent employees at the moment.

On one hand, this is a crisis for us: I, too, had to lay off people and move into a smaller location. On the other hand, I kept the development at full scale during that turbulent period and Elvium is ready to experience growth again, while the economy here in Denmark is reopening itself.

We are halfway through 2021. Have you noticed any new trends or patterns in the way companies were running their recruitment processes in the past months, that are possibly to stay with them?

They are adding more video interviews. They are only meeting with the people they want to hire. I think this one is to stay with us, as it is less time-consuming.

Are there any new features, integrations, or improvements Elvium has in store for the upcoming months?

Recently, we have launched a very complex contract module. It helps with digital signing and is GDPR-compliant. Up till now, when preparing the contract the employer would normally call an employee to get their bank account and social security number. Such data would probably be sent in a non-compliant way, via e-mail or SMS, and the recruiter would not delete the message. Elvium’s template-based contract system enables an employee to fill in all the necessary fields and keeps the contract in a closed-loop system. Once it is completed, you can send it to digital signing. I think this feature makes Elvium an even stronger, 100 percent GDPR-compliant product.

Sounds very promising. Thank you for the interview and all the best for the future of Elvium!

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