Storytelling about Index with Sergiu Matei

Welcome to the Use Case Podcast, episode 188. Today, we have Sergiu Matei from Index talking about the business case or use case for why practitioners choose Index to scale their engineering teams.

Index helps leading companies scale their engineering team through a global platform of remote engineers that can improve the chance of competing and building software products for many businesses, limited otherwise by in-country recruiting.

Show length: 29 minutes


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Sergiu Matei
Founder Index

Sergiu Matei is the founder of Index, the London-based platform helping enterprises like Vodafone and Twilio find and hire world-class remote software developers, and be globally compliant from the get-go. Before launching Index, Sergiu founded Travod, the translation marketplace providing 2,000+ brands such as Amazon and Swissport with locallyhired translators in 100+ countries in every continent across the globe.


Music:   Welcome to RecruitingDaily’s Use Case podcast, a show dedicated to the storytelling that happens, or should happen when practitioners purchase technology. Each episode is designed to inspire new ways and ideas to make your business better. As we speak with the brightest minds in recruitment and HR tech. That’s what we do. Here’s your host, William Tincup.

William Tincup:   Ladies and gentlemen, this is William Tincup and you are listening to the Use Case podcast. Today we have Sergiu on from Index, and we’re going to be learning about the business case or use case for why his prospects and customers use Index. Can’t wait to learn. So without any further ado, why don’t we bring Sergiu? Please, both correct my pronation of your name A, and B, introduce yourself and Index for us.

Sergiu Mattei:   William, great to be with you.

William Tincup:   Sure.

Sergiu Mattei:   My name is Sergiu [Mattei 00:   01:   00]. I’m founder of, which is building the platform for helping companies like GoEuro, Omio, Y Combinator startups, or enterprises like Twilio Vodafone find and hire remote software developers.

William Tincup:   So, pre-COVID it would’ve been important because software developers, especially in different places here in the states, it’s just scarcity. We just don’t have enough of them. So, it’s interesting about software developers is they were already… that a lot of teams were already remote. It wasn’t a foreign concept. You know companies that have entire development teams in Krakow, that’s just normal and that’s been going on for years. I’m sure COVID sped some of this for some engineers and some developers. So why don’t we talk a little bit about the origin of where Index came from. Why’d you decide of all the things you could build, why’d you decide to build that? And then we’ll unravel it from there.

Sergiu Mattei:   Yeah, totally. So I was living in San Francisco and was helping a few friends hire remote engineers from Eastern Europe. That’s where I’m originally from. And I thought okay, prior to that, I build a marketplace for hiring freelance translators.

William Tincup:   Right.

Sergiu Mattei:   And I was trying to figure out what I want to do next. And I thought, okay, maybe there is something more here into helping friends. Maybe I can do this at scale. It’s perhaps a service at the first kind of look at it, and we’re doing a lot of things that don’t scale. But the goal is to automate and to find ways to hire at the global level engineering talent. And then, we were struggling and serving this small subset of customers. And the struggle was into finding a product market fit and COVID came. And from 5% of the companies that were looking to hire remote, all of a sudden everyone was open to hire remote.

Sergiu Mattei:   And on the supply side talent in this remote revolution or acceleration also choose to work from home or for the companies that can offer that flexibility. And we have a lot of… We grew 10 X just in two years on both talent side and client side.

William Tincup:   Which is fantastic, and it’s also daunting too, right? Simultaneously it’s, you grow that fast it’s… a part of you is like, “Oh my gosh, this is fantastic.” And the other part is, “Oh my gosh, how are we going to actually make this work?” Before we get into the platform because I’d love to get into the tech. I want to get your take on do you think that we go backwards? So, when, if COVID ever ends, do you think there’s a flock back to for developers, software developers in particular, the community that you serve, do you think that they’re going to leave remote and go back to the offices? Or do you think it’s kind of a hybrid, some will some won’t? Or do you think once remote always remote? What’s your take on that right now?

Sergiu Mattei:   From what we see, there are two types of use case. One is remote and an office. So I want to work perhaps a couple of days in the office or maybe once week or maybe once a month. And then I don’t want to spend time on commute. I don’t want to-

William Tincup:   Right.

Sergiu Mattei:   … I don’t know, perhaps I have a good place at home that I can work from, and I’m more productive there without any office chit chat, and communication, and perhaps distractions. So that’s one use case. And the second one is what we see our engineering talent is looking for just remote with no willingness to go to an office or-

William Tincup:   Right.

Sergiu Mattei:   … to feel comfortable working from home. They can travel. They can stay with their family. So I don’t think we’re going back. I don’t see the world… At least from our perspective of hiring remote software developers, I don’t see a world where you would put people in a building and keep everyone there and… For some professions, perhaps for some type of meetings it’s great to have it in person.

William Tincup:   Right.

Sergiu Mattei:   Otherwise you can do once a quarter, once a year, once per month, if you wish, altogether meeting or a team building, or an offsite. But I don’t know, I-

William Tincup:   That’s what I’m seeing here in the US is, it’s going to be based on the talent, which is really interesting. It’s not so much the company’s control, it’s what does the talent want to do? If the talent wants to commute and they want to be in person, they want to be around other people and whatever, fantastic. But if the talent doesn’t, then the chances of that happening are very slim. So it’s really interesting the way the power dynamic has shifted from the employer to the talent. The talent, and especially in the area that you play in, the talents had power for a long time. But with COVID and remote, they’ve even got more power in that they can work the way that they want to work.

William Tincup:   And so I find it fascinating. And again, I don’t know how it’ll play out, I just… You’re steeped in it. And so I want to get your take. Take us into the platform, take us into Index. So new customer experience, what do they first experience when they experience Index?

Sergiu Mattei:   So at this stage, we have one side of the marketplace, which it’s the developer. And we are mainly supply driven, focus really on the developer first, rather than client first.

William Tincup:   Right.

Sergiu Mattei:   And for developers, the first step is to register with us. And then once they get into the system, we are able to vet them based on basic CV or resume or their skill set. Or with some automated testing, and test their English. As we hire globally, and a big part of our developers are in Eastern Europe, or LATAM, or other parts of the world. And our clients are mainly in US or UK, EU. We’re also testing their English level. Once they pass through the vetting, through the skill testing, through the English, and through their background check, there in the system. And then on other side, the client will register with us, will tell us a job that they’re looking to hire for. And we pitch that job to the developer rather than developer applying for the job itself. So we-

William Tincup:   Oh, cool.

Sergiu Mattei:   … we present the jobs for engineers, and they pick the ones that they’re interested in. And then we have a short list of some of our clients like that because we don’t send a lot of candidates. We send only those that are qualified, but also motivated. And the client will see two, three candidates, decide with whom they want to talk with, and then the match happens. And if that is a match on both sides during the interview or during those conversations, we create a contract and the client will pay Index. We will pay developers and we keep our margin. And then the relationship with client will grow over time. They will go and hire more developers through the talent marketplace.

William Tincup:   I love that. So let me make sure that the audience understands. One is kind of a background check in the sense of there’s a lot of ghosting, there’s a lot of fraud. There’s a lot of people creating fake profiles and stuff like that. So you want to make sure that this is a real person, so check. Second, based on some of your background in language. That’s fascinating that you can test out and make sure, if English is important to the company, then you can test that out as well. And I might have missed it, do you also test for skills in terms of development skills as well?

Sergiu Mattei:   Yes. That’s one of the stages. It may be done by the client, or may be done by us. It’s-

William Tincup:   Right.

Sergiu Mattei:   … it’s online test. Yeah.

William Tincup:   But at that point, you have a pretty good feel for who they are and what they’d like to do. And then it’s about putting the opportunities in front of them. You’re not really asking them to go and search, and find, and apply, and do all these other things. You are then matching them up and saying, “This might be good for you. You take a look at it. If it is, great, fantastic. If it isn’t, no worries there’ll be another one down the road.” If I have that right, I love that model.

Sergiu Mattei:   Yes. I think we still working on that. It’s not like the goal is to automate and to do it at scale. But when we started, we were doing a lot of things manually and acting more like a recruiting agency or service company.

William Tincup:   Right.

Sergiu Mattei:   But we are a tech company that happen to do recruiting or happen to do vetting. And the goal is to do it at scale and be able to hire thousands of engineering talents all around the world.

William Tincup:   And so, it’s going to be a question that the audience is obviously going to ask, do you consider yourself a staffing company or a technology? You just kind of, this is actually our future. We want to be more of a technology so that we can scale. When a customer asks us, “Hey, we need to hire.” In fact, I had a friend pre-COVID that had to hire 1,000 software developers. That’s actually, that’s what they had… And I was like, “Oh.” And it was like literally we were talking about it, he was like, “I have no idea where to start. I mean, literally don’t know where to start.” And it worked out. He did fine, but still you’ve got to be able to do that at scale. And not just the onesy, twosy that all of that stuff will be fine. But somebody’s going to come to you and say, we need 100, or 300, or whatever the number is, and you’ve got to be able to then provide that.

William Tincup:   And so technology service can get you so far, but you’re going to have to have technology that drives that. So, what is it, when prospects first interact with you and they interact with Index, what do they… Again, you’re solving a problem that pretty much every company has in terms of technical talent, and specifically software developers and finding that talent, but also engaging and retaining and doing all this. Every one’s got the same trouble. What do they find just fascinating about Index and its model?

Sergiu Mattei:   That’s a great question. So, one of our customers that is actually a phishing app, one of the popular phishing app. Maybe you are using it, perhaps. We talked with the director of [inaudible 00:   14:   48] in there, and what they told us is that the fact that what I said in the beginning, they don’t see too many candidates, but only the few that are vetted-

William Tincup:   Right.

Sergiu Mattei:   … really helps them into… So, their engineers that are also recruiting or interviewing, not spending time through dozens of interviews, but just the ones that are qualified, that are vetted. And helps them save time, save money, and also really being impressed about the talent they see at those interviews is really fascinating for majority of our clients. Also, I think-

William Tincup:   I see the hiring manager especially. When you’re interacting with a hiring manager, they don’t have time. I mean, you know this, right? I’m not telling you anything you don’t know. They don’t have time. So like scanning resume and evaluating, they just don’t have time for that stuff. So the ability to have someone technology that then says, “Here’s five candidates that are already vetted.” You’ve said that a couple times, I think it’s just really important to emphasize. They’re already qualified. Like these meet your standards. You have exacting standards. Fantastic, we’ve met them. Here’s five candidates. And then now we can go from there.

William Tincup:   I think just, again, for people that don’t have time, I think it just really, really, really helps people. So I can see it from a hiring manager. What’s been the response from the recruiters that you interact with?

Sergiu Mattei:   You mean a recruiter from the client side, right?

William Tincup:   Yeah. Do you-

Sergiu Mattei:   Believe it or not, we don’t. Yeah. I don’t remember one of the… Typically we work with director of engineering or CTOs or technical people.

William Tincup:   Right. And then there’s no need to have a recruiter, unless they’re a technical recruiter which is a bit different, but there’s… I could see you working more with directly with those, the engineering and technical leaders and hiring managers, and so I get that. I like that. So, tell me a little bit about the way that you’re structured. Because I know that, again, as both as a platform and a tech there’s different pricing models and things like that. We don’t need to get into the dollars and cents part, but just philosophically how does your model work?

Sergiu Mattei:   Yes. So, currently there are two models and we will be adding one more, I think this year. So first model is, we identify the ask, the monthly ask of the engineer, and then we put a markup on top of that. And we present the pricing for the client. And the client will choose the budget. And then if they hire the talent then client will pay us. We’ll retain our markup, our margins, and then pay the talent. So the talent will tell us what is their monthly salary? What is their ask? What is their request? This is one model.

Sergiu Mattei:   And the second model is where the client may choose to hire directly, not through the platform, but let’s say, I want to bring them on my payroll. I want right work direct, then they’ll pay a retainer fee, typical recruiting retainer.

William Tincup:   Right.

Sergiu Mattei:   And then the talent goes out of the platform and works directly with that client.

William Tincup:   Right. And what I love about that is there’s a pathway there. And a lot of staffing firms here in the US they’ve been beat, they’ve didn’t have that model, that part of the model. They can staff and they can be the in-between, but they didn’t have a model in case somebody falls in love with the talent and they want to bring them on board and make them a full-time employee, to go through all of that process. It’s like people were working around and outside, and it felt kind of dirty. But I think a lot of RPO and staffing firms went to a model of saying, “Hey, if you want to hire Jimmy, here’s how to do it.”

William Tincup:   If that’s ultimately you try before you buy. It worked out, and you really, really, really want them, fantastic great. Here’s a pathway. I love that you have that because people are going… It’s just inevitable. They’re going to fall in love with some of this talent, and they’re going to want them on their team in a different way than the way they’re currently on. So I love that. Give me an example of one of your favorite customer stories without naming names, of course.

Sergiu Mattei:   Yes.

William Tincup:   But just something that you’ve seen with one of your customers where they’ve just done something remarkable with Index, with the platform that just changing lives and really helping them out, etc.

Sergiu Mattei:   Typically, that’s a technology company that Razer USA, or the next rounds that is at this stage 50 to 100 employees, maybe a little bit more, 200, and is looking to scale fast to 500 and more perhaps. And is okay with hiring everywhere, doesn’t hire only based on the zip code. Has already distributed team, and values talent rather than location. Or will be open to hire everywhere. That’s one use case.

Sergiu Mattei:   And second one might be a more established company, an enterprise. Or a company that is looking to build a new product or maybe a new division, or they’re falling short on their product roadmap and they’re looking to hire a team of five 10. And they need that fast-

William Tincup:   Right.

Sergiu Mattei:   And maybe they don’t have the local access-

William Tincup:   Right.

Sergiu Mattei:   … to that talent because great talent maybe works at a startup or maybe works at a Google type company. So, these more established enterprises that are looking to develop their own technology, or maybe they have a technology and looking to scale that. And yeah, we find that those two use cases where we can bring most of the value.

William Tincup:   So first of all, what are some of the questions, the buying questions, that you love? Like you interact with these engineers, these hiring managers, they’re got some technical debt. They’ve got some of their teams, they’ve lost some of their team, or they’ve just got scale and they’ve got to go build 8,000 lines of code, and so they just need people. What should they be asking you? What are the questions that they should ask you?

Sergiu Mattei:   I think when you’re vetting talent marketplace, or a company that is able to partner with you to help you scale your engineering team, I think you should ask, “Okay, what kind of engineering talent is on the marketplace or is it in their network?” Are they more focused on specific technology or maybe a specific region or? Yeah. So the question about the supply side of the market, or the talent market. Second question maybe I would ask is, “How are you vetting the talent? What kind of processes and steps you have in place to do those background checks or test the skillset, test the language.”

William Tincup:   Language, yeah.

Sergiu Mattei:   Yeah. And also, “How do you make sure the talent stays long term in this remote world?” When we’re able to work for different companies, or those providers that help you find engineering talent need to look into churn or retention rate. How do you find those motivated developers or cultural fit talent? Because again, you may test for the skill for the language, but then if it’s not a cultural match you’re making a bad hire. And that’s not sustainable, not long term. So, yeah.

William Tincup:   I like that. And you know what’s interesting is software developers, it’s almost like they have their own language, right? It’s some of them care about culture, and fit, and being a part of team. And some, at least folks that I know, some of them just care about the lines of code. Like, can you actually do the job? And can you do the things that you say you can do? And can you do them really well and really fast? Okay. If you can do that, yeah, we don’t have to talk that often. We can be on Slack and as long as I can see that stuff, the outputs, nah, that’s all I care about. And again, that’s the full spectrum, right? You have folks all over the place. I absolutely love it.

William Tincup:   The last thing I wanted to ask you before we roll out is, the aha moment when people look at Index for maybe the first time. When you get a hiring manager, that senior level technical person that they’re struggling to hire. They’re struggling because maybe the old ways just haven’t worked for them or haven’t worked well for them, etc. What do they fall in love with? What do, when they look at Index, you take them through the platform, what do they kind of like, “Oh yes, this is exactly what I need.”

Sergiu Mattei:   I think at this stage what we managed to do well is to provide the candidates. like two, three vetted candidates in 48 hours.

William Tincup:   Oh, that’s fantastic. I didn’t. I should have asked that question.

Sergiu Mattei:   Yes.

William Tincup:   I’m glad you got there. So, speed and quality. So you give them 48 hours, which is, oh my gosh, that’s mind blowing, A. And B, because you’ve already vetted them, there’s quality. So-

Sergiu Mattei:   Yes.

William Tincup:   … okay. [crosstalk 00:   27:   29].

Sergiu Mattei:   It doesn’t happen always-

William Tincup:   Yeah. Yeah, of course.

Sergiu Mattei:   … but that’s the benchmark and we’ll be getting there at 100% of cases. But now we managed to do in the majority of cases, and yeah, the speed is one of the main values that we try to strive for and build upon, as we are building the platform and the Index.

William Tincup:   I can see people falling in love with that. Just the speed alone, but the speed and quality, and just being able to say, “This solves a problem that’s been a problem for me forever. And now I have a place. Now I have a thing that can actually help me with this.”

William Tincup:   Thank you so much for coming on the show. I absolutely appreciate. I know how busy you are and I love what you you’ve built. I mean, both structurally I love what you’ve built, but also because I know how many people struggle finding this talent, you’ve made it easier. And also the way that you vet I think it’s really important that the way that you’ve carefully gone through and pruned things to where you’re delivering qualified talent, and you’re doing it fast. That’s just a world class combination, so thank you so much.

Sergiu Mattei:   Thank you, William. It was a pleasure.

William Tincup:   Absolutely. And thanks for everyone listening to the Use Case podcast, until next time.

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The Use Case Podcast

William Tincup

William is the President & Editor-at-Large of RecruitingDaily. At the intersection of HR and technology, he’s a writer, speaker, advisor, consultant, investor, storyteller & teacher. He's been writing about HR and Recruiting related issues for longer than he cares to disclose. William serves on the Board of Advisors / Board of Directors for 20+ HR technology startups. William is a graduate of the University of Alabama at Birmingham with a BA in Art History. He also earned an MA in American Indian Studies from the University of Arizona and an MBA from Case Western Reserve University.


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