“Imagine not knowing who’s coming to get you out of bed in the morning.”
For Jordan O’Reilly, this wasn’t a difficult scenario to imagine. The lives of Jordan, his younger brother, Shane, who lived with Cerebral Palsy, and his family, were once touched by complications with care such as this day in, day out.
“My younger brother had a disability, which meant that he relied on that direct one-on-one care almost every day: getting out of bed in the morning, through to going to bed in the evening and almost everything in between, he relied on someone to be there to support him,” says Jordan. “[It was] just incredibly disempowering. Having no choice or control over who was providing that support because it was administered by a third party agency was very difficult.”
The challenge wasn’t just that Shane, who sadly passed away in 2011 at the age of 21, had no idea who might walk through the door on any given morning – it was wondering if they’d even show up at all.
“It was… just a really inefficient system,” says Jordan. “Lots of phone calls back and forth, not being able to communicate directly with some of the most important people in our lives, these support workers. It was [also] just incredibly expensive.”
With a science degree in occupational therapy and career experience as a support worker to boot, Jordan could see both sides of the situation: care was often as personalised as mass-produced cardboard boxes, and carers themselves sometimes felt helpless about taking on new clients whose needs they weren’t sure they could meet. Most importantly, when it came to fundamental decisions about choosing carers, the system itself excluded the very people it is designed to serve.
“I thought, ‘What if we could do something better?’” recalls Jordan. “‘What if we could build an online platform and give families and individuals full choice and control over their workers, also giving workers the ability to manage their own schedule, earn industry-leading wages and have much more flexibility and control of their work time?’”
So in January 2015, Jordan and his sister Laura launched Hireup – a matchmaking platform that bypasses third parties and places clients directly in touch with potential carers. The focus is on building real relationships; with connection first, care later. The platform has just clocked its 5000th user.
There was some serious business savvy that went into building such an intelligent and people-focused platform, especially considering Jordan himself had no business training. Here are some of our favourite business insights from this young, socially-minded entrepreneur:
On deciding to launch the business with a for-profit model
“We realised HireUp had fantastic potential and it needed to be out and in front of people quite quickly and so, one of the advantages of starting a for-profit, for-purpose business is that you can move a bit quicker: you’re not reliant on grants and fundraising but there are other ways you can finance it to get it going a bit quicker and speed to market was a really key factor in the HireUp proposition. We landed on a for-purpose social business model that’s allowed us to get to market really quickly and get it in front of people to test it and it’s fantastic to see that people are really adopting it and that speed is serving us really well.”
On finding the right investors
“We were able to raise what’s called a money through an impact investment, in late 2015. So we completed our first and to date, our only capital raise then and as I say, we took it as an impact investment which is essentially just, we found investors who were as interested in any financial return down the track as they are in the social return. And we obviously track and measure that very carefully.”
On learning how to build a business
“It was really just a matter of test and learn and you know, start and fail and learn really, was the journey. The first version of the platform literally just matched people and after a couple of phone calls, I took it to some of my friends in the sector, they said great but, what about insurance? And I went, OK, give me a week. And so I’d race back and start madly researching about what insurance was like so it was really just a process of building as quick as possible, getting it out, talking to people about what it looked like and just slowly, over six, nine, twelve months it started to take shape and really taught me exactly what we needed to do in terms of building a fantastic product.”
On what drives him
“I know the value of every cent in a support package and with the new NDIS package… so that was the real driving force and still is to be honest with you, the real driving force behind why I’m so passionate about making this work. I understand intimately, which a lot of people don’t understand unless you’ve lived it or you’ve with a family member who relies on someone to help them out of bed and into the shower in the morning, it’s an incredibly… it’s a really big thing in many people’s lives and so giving people the most effective, most cost-efficient, most empowering way to manage that part of their lives is the real motivation for me.”