Tokyo Dev

by Paul McMahon

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Service Introduction: Forkwell

One area I'm interested in is how people find jobs. The "traditional" way to find a job of sending out your resume to lots of companies and hoping for the best is clearly broken. Despite this, people all around the world, but especially in Japan, cling to it. So I got excited when I heard about Forkwell, a service that is trying to change this

Forkwell is a aims to be the LinkedIn for geeks. Although most of the users are currently in Japan, the service has a global focus, offering it in both English and Japanese.

At the core of the system is the ability for user's to register skills they are proficient in, such as git or ruby. The peers of the user can then indicate that he is infact proficient by +1'ing the skill. This way, users can show off their skills.

My profile on Forkwell

Yuka Ouka, one of the directors of Garbs, the company that built Forkwell, is also a frequent participant of Tokyo Rubyist Meetup. I interviewed Yuka last week about the service, and translated it from Japanese to English below.

How did you come up with the idea for Forkwell?

Originally, Forkwell was going to be a social recruiting service. Recently in Japan, companies looking for engineers ask their employees to recruit their friends, and if the friend is hired, the employee will get a bonus of say three hundred thousand yen. So, we thought we could do this as a social networking service.

In America, there's a similar service called Top Prospect. With the service, you login using Facebook or LinkedIn, get a list of jobs, and if you introduce someone to one of those jobs successfully, you will a bonus. We wanted to do something similar to that in Japan.

However, Top Prospect turned out to be unpopular, and the idea of sending job introductions out of the blue didn't seem appealing at all to the people I talked to. Instead of being so direct about it, we thought having a social networking service more like Facebook or LinkedIn, where job information could be introduced in a more casual manner would be better.

While originally we're going to focused on facilitating employee referrals, which we are still planning on doing, we thought it was important to start off by having something that was fun for engineers to use. So that's why we started off by releasing features like skill tags and +1 for skills.

Why did you decide to release Forkwell in both English and Japanese?

We wanted to make a global service, not something that was used just in Japan. Recently we've seen the release of lots of SNS services targeting geeks, like coderwall and geeklist. In Japan too, services like hat.io by Recruit have come out. Geeks don't use LinkedIn much, because it feels like it's just for suits, so I think everyone sees that there is an opportunity to make a LinkedIn for geeks. We want to be a part of this, and have people from all over the world use our service.

How are you planning on promoting Forkwell abroad?

Right now, Akira Matsuda is at RailsConf, and he's giving out stickers. We also received investment from a venture capital firm, so we're considering hiring a company to promote it abroad.

How are you planning on monetizing Forkwell?

Companies looking for engineers will post jobs. Forkwell's users will then be able to add a comment to the position and share it with friends. For instance, if a company posts a job looking for a Ruby on Rails engineer to help them make games, I might share a posting within Forkwell saying that I've worked for them before, and it's a good company, so if you're a Rails developer, why don't you apply. If one of my friends then applies for the job through Forkwell, I can write a reference for him. If my friend is hired, I'll receive the reward offered by the company, say 300,000 JPY, and garbs will get thirty percent, so in this case, 90,000 JPY.

What motivation do companies have to use Forkwell?

Recently, Japanese companies often ask recruiting agents to introduce employees. These agents collect people who are looking for a job, and will introduce those people to companies, regardless of whether or not they are actually skilled for the position. So it's up to the companies themselves to decide whether or not a person is skilled enough. I've heard from companies that only about one out of a hundred people that agents introduce are skilled enough. Despite this, if the companies hire that one person, they still need to pay 30% of the first year's salary. So the cost-performance for these agents is really bad.

We saw this problem, so we're focusing on introducing skilled engineers. Additionally, Forkwell is a lot cheaper than these agents.

Why would an engineer use forkwell?

For talented engineers, it is important to see what kind of environment they'll be working in. For instance, for a Rails developer, he'll want to work at a company that is using git and the newest version of Rails, and do development in an agile fashion. But it's hard to see what a normal company is like. If they use Forkwell, you can see that your friend, or friend of friend works at that company. If a skilled engineer is working at that company, then the company is probably a good place to work.

In Japan, it seems like engineers don't recruit their peers so much. Why do you think this is?

I think they are apprehensive about taking on the responsibility of recruiting someone. For instance, if they recruit a friend, and then the friend quits soon after, they feel responsible for it. In Japan, there isn't a culture of going through people when applying for jobs. In America and Europe, rather than directly sending your resume by email, you might ask your peers if they know of a good company. Once someone introduces a job, then you'll apply for it. With this method, because the introducer is thinking about both parties, I think it is rarer for people to get hired to a position that doesn't match their expectations, or a company to hire someone who wasn't as skilled as they thought he was. We want to encourage this method in Japan, and thought by building Forkwell we could help make the process smoother.

Compared to before, the culture of changing jobs in Japan is changing…

Companies like Gree and Cookpad, who are making their own web services, are recruiting people who used to work as “SIers”. Right now, its just the top engineers who are changing jobs, but starting from this year or next, I think we'll see this trend spreading downwards. We hope that Forkwell will add momentum to this movement.

What's been the biggest challenge for you with Forkwell?

There aren't any services like Forkwell in Japan, and even abroad, services like this aren't so common, so people don't readily understand it. It has been especially challenging to explain it to people who aren't engineers, as I need to explain how geeks think, and what kind of service appeals to them.