By Exec Edge Editorial Staff
Alejandro Betancourt Lopez has, over the last decade, expanded his career by focusing on passionate investing in a wide range of concerns—with an embrace of new technology being a common theme across his portfolio. From expanding existing retail concerns with branding strategies driven by social media to creating new platforms for workers and employers to find one another, Betancourt has found ways to expand economic development in these uncertain economic times by harnessing the power of innovation.
This includes one of his current projects that he’s most passionate about, the online staffing agency Jobandtalent. He was an early backer and continues to be one of its biggest shareholders. Founded in Spain—and now headquartered both there and in the United Kingdom—Jobandtalent uses advanced data matching methods and state-of-the-art online tools to bring together job seekers and employers in the ever-more fluid global economy. Its all online format has also made it a valuable tool during a global pandemic marked by working remotely and social distancing making in-person job interviews challenging.
Betancourt’s career may have begun in a traditional sector, but as he witnessed firsthand its investment in sustainable energy sources (wind, solar, and hydro), he came to appreciate the power of tech-driven change. Eventually, he cofounded a company that provides expert support to the thermoelectric power sector. This was his first step in becoming what he is today: a strategic and disciplined investor who always keeps his eyes on the horizon for sightings of new tech that can transform economic realities.
Betancourt continued to branch out until adding O’Hara Administration to his personal lineup in 2014. It’s an asset management concern and investment fund that now oversees a broad portfolio whose assets span a wide range of economic sectors. The company, with Betancourt as its majority shareholder, specializes in striking co-investment deals with institutional investors and with European banks to capitalize the development of new technologies via acquisitions.
O’Hara’s best-known play is as a major shareholder in Hawkers, a fashion sunglass brand that, after investing intensely in social media, has built market share throughout Europe, Africa, and Asia. Betancourt became its president when it was having difficulties. The European Business Review outlines the company’s growth arc: “At that time, the fashion sunglass company turned to Alejandro Betancourt Lopez to lead the company. Since then … Hawkers has grown into an international fashion firm. The company has grown over the years and now has more than 200 employees with offices in Barcelona, Los Angeles, Mexico City, Elche and Hong Kong … [with] market presence in more than 50 countries around the globe and has sold more than 4.5 million sunglasses.”
Founded in 2013 as a small concern, Hawkers caught the cusp of the burgeoning social media scene. The company now moves nearly five million units annually through online sales and retail outlets in Europe.
“Online marketing through social media was extremely cheap and not expensive (at that time). It was something that was not yet utilized by the big corporations. So, you could exploit that in the sense that you could reach customers in a very efficient way and convert that into real sales—if the product was right,” Betancourt recounts in a post on his blog. “The founders realized after trying several different products, that sunglasses were an item that can easily be the right price, and with the right targeting on social media, could convert into sales efficiently.”
This is just one example of how, for nearly a decade now, Betancourt has been a leader in capitalizing groundbreaking new ventures that harness technological change to either turn an existing market on its head or expand what is possible by taking a bold new approach. This is based not only on the culture of hard work he exemplifies but on his strategic, forward-looking thinking.
“Well, I think this is going to sound like a cliché, but I think the key to success is to just try to always think outside the box. Like I’ve said in other interviews, you have to be constant, but you also always have to be trying to do something new, trying to do something different that does not follow the trend,” says Betancourt in explaining his professional philosophy as an investor. “Because, when you follow the trend or compete with everybody else on the same level, you’re part of the herd. But if you try to be one step ahead by thinking outside the box, what’s going to happen next is you can start to predict the future by visualizing what will happen when the technological tools—’techno-tools’—come online. You’ll see that people are about to stop using the old tools and start doing it like ‘this’ because there are suddenly different tools available. I’m trying to get to that market before the traditionals or players get there.”
That’s why Jobandtalent has become such a focus for Betancourt. The digital temp staffing agency was founded in 2009 by Juan Urdiales and Felipe Navio in Madrid, Spain—and has been expanding ever since. It’s currently active in the United Kingdom, Spain, Germany, Sweden, France, Mexico, and Colombia and has over 10 million registered users seeking temporary appointments and over 150,000 businesses that handle recruitment via the platform.
According to its webpage, the gist of the company’s product is to solve problems on both sides of the employer/employee line: “Since the start of the decade, the labour market has increasingly shifted from a structured state to a much more fluid one, driven by new technology propping up the gig economy, as well as businesses’ demand for employment flexibility in the wake of the global financial crisis. However, this situation has had two negative, widespread effects … businesses are plagued with workforce management inefficiencies [and] workers are finding themselves in increasingly vulnerable and precarious employment situations … Jobandtalent has created a Workforce as a Service (WaaS) platform with the aim of solving these problems and making the increasing flexibility of the labour market beneficial, rather than detrimental, for businesses and workers alike.”
“I got involved early in 2013. The company had quite a history already. I don’t know the exact dates, but they were a small startup run by Felipe Navio, who was coming out of selling Tuenti, a social media platform that was sold to Telefónica during the high times when everybody was excited about social media. It was sold for about a hundred million dollars U.S., and it was a big rock star in the Spanish market,” Betancourt recalls. “So, he joined Jobandtalent and found investors, going out and relaunching. It was basically of job finder application in this beginning space. Like most of the companies at the time, you would go ahead and try to find a job online through Jobandtalent, which would Google search the best job for you and make a recommendation on your behalf.”
From this fairly rudimentary tech beginning, Jobandtalent pivoted as newer and more powerful tech was introduced—building something far more cutting edge and useful. It is now a one-stop virtual shop for a broad range of individuals who are available for temporary work assignments and companies that need flexibility in hiring.
“Companies no longer need to hire workers on their books, as they can hire directly through our marketplace to serve their demand more efficiently and reactively. Not only are companies able to make significant savings on labour costs, they benefit from more qualified workers and reduced attrition,” explains the company’s webpage. As for workers, they are employed continuously through various businesses on our platform, allowing them to earn a ‘living wage.’ Their schedules are also created to optimise their earnings and work-life balance. Finally, the scale of our platform will allow us to offer them a full suite of social benefits (insurance, pension plan, etc.) and perks usually reserved to those in traditional, permanent employment, as standard.”
Finding tech innovations that create new ways of solving problems is, in great part, what makes Betancourt such a strategic and disciplined planner and visionary. This meshes well with his ability to effectively communicate to a broad coalition of stakeholders and negotiate business deals at the highest levels.
“What we did, there were no digital, temporary job providers—meaning you could do everything online. These kinds of companies have a lot of infrastructure because they have to interview thousands of applicants, understand how to run their payroll, and then provide them companies or clients who need anything from, for example, a hundred employees to handle moving a factory or handling an election. You need to have people who can operate machines or act as temporary taxi drivers,” Betancourt explains. “So we did a complete digital platform. We charged our subscribers and said, ‘now you’re going to be part of Jobandtalent and we’ll find jobs for you.’ Our clients became the companies who needed to fill jobs. That was unique and we started growing like crazy. Today the company’s valued in the hundreds of millions of U.S. dollars. We are one of the temporary job provider leaders in Europe on a purely digital basis.”
The short-term shock of COVID-19 lockdowns—and the long-term changes to the workplace that are still sorting themselves out—has made Jobandtalent one of those companies that was uniquely positioned for the sudden tremor that a worldwide pandemic sent through the global economy.
“I’m pretty excited to be one of the early backers of Jobandtalent. I think the company still has way more to grow. I’m confident that the company is going to be a unicorn very soon,” Betancourt muses. “With what is happening in the world right now, where we are going through hard times—the pandemic has been a horrible thing for the world—companies are afraid of hiring. For workers, the lesser risk is to take temporary jobs. This has always been something that Jobandtalent had provided to companies that are trying to grow but don’t want the risk of getting stuck, having to fire people.”
The core of Jobandtalent is a proprietary job matching technology that, using advanced data metrics, matches businesses and jobseekers quickly and accurately. This allows companies to seamlessly find the talent they require in a constantly shifting labor market that is transforming due to Internet technologies. The company also offers a range of “old school” support such as scheduling and payroll services that make it attractive for everyone involved.
“One of the company’s core selling points so far has been its job-matching technology that uses linguistic analysis and machine learning to help job seekers find positions they perhaps wouldn’t normally be presented with—the company’s algorithms evaluate job ads and resumes to find the best matches,” VentureBeat reported in 2016.
This mix of cutting-edge tech and a deep understanding of traditional labor issues is what has made Jobandtalent such a force to be reckoned with.
“I’m hiring you for six months, then we’ll see what happens. Then Jobandtalent takes care of their package and everything,” Betancourt summarizes. “So, I think it’s something that’s part of the changing world and how everything is constantly evolving to different things—Jobandtalent is one step ahead. I truly believe this company has a lot to go with.”
It is becoming clear, due to the company’s growth and interest in it as an investment, that it was created by the right people at the right time. As the article in VentureBeat concluded in 2016: “‘We made the strategic decision to consolidate our expansion to South America and the U.K.—to ensure we maintained the quality of service and the high satisfaction rate of our users and companies with our expansion, as well as ensuring we reached a point of maturity within existing markets before seeking further expansion,’ said Jobandtalent cofounder Juan Urdiales to VentureBeat. And with $42 million more in its coffers, and a promise of more city launches on the horizon, a U.S. expansion won’t be too far off.”
Since then, it’s been a wide that Betancourt has thoroughly enjoyed as Jobandtalent has fulfilled its early promise and has continued to grow on two continents.
“It’s been amazing. I’m still one of the biggest shareholders in the company, but we have investors like the venture capital firm Atomico —whose founder also cofounded Skype, one of the biggest job providers worldwide. The company is really doing an amazing job,” Betancourt says. “We’re in Mexico, Colombia, all over Europe. We actually registered in the U.K. We’re a tech company.”
Attracting other serious investors was key to Jobandtalent’s ability to build-out its tech infrastructure and expand its presence in the staffing sectors. As VentureBeat reported in 2016, the then-startup “…raised a $42 million series B round led by Atomico, the VC firm created by Skype founder Niklas Zennström.” This allowed Jobandtalent to climb onto the stage with some of the sector’s big stars who were also attracting serious capitalization.
“One of the company’s core selling points so far has been its job-matching technology that uses linguistic analysis and machine learning to help job seekers find positions they perhaps wouldn’t normally be presented with — the company’s algorithms evaluate job ads and resumes to find the best matches,” VentureBeat went onto report. “While Jobandtalent once offered a web portal, it has now gone all-in on mobile, with native apps available for Android and iOS. This mimics moves made elsewhere in the recruitment realm, with Monster acquiring mobile-only job-hunting platform Jobr last week and fellow European recruitment startup Job Today also operating only on mobile devices.”
His getting in early with a company like Jobandtalent is just the kind of experience that makes it all worth it for Betancourt—along with the ROI. It’s exactly the kind of adrenaline rush that drives a passionate investor who is not only seeking his own professional development but also cares deeply about job creation.
“So, it was fun. It looked like a great company and, at the time the valuations were made—based on how many subscribers they had—all of that evolved. Today, the market gives valuation based on projections of revenues, wheel revenues, EBITDA, and how much you can grow the market. How many users you have and just a matter of a unicorn based on that,” Betancourt recounts. “Now the market doesn’t give valuations like before. That had changed. I think the market’s more savvy now, knows better how to understand what will be ‘something else’ and what won’t really make it. So, at the time that we joined, we were seeing a company that had a lot of interaction with its customers and a lot of subscribers, but we decided to drive it to a change into something else, something we thought we knew how to monetize.”
Although change is always afoot and ready to be capitalized upon, some things never change. Providing workable solutions to the marketplace will always be in style—something that the career of Alejandro Betancourt personifies.