Australian start-ups are ‘crying out for sales talent’

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Australian technology start-ups are desperate for people to fill sales roles, with sales representatives needed even more than engineers and technical talent as companies fight for survival in the ongoing tech downturn.

Dan Brockwell is the 26-year-old co-founder of Earlywork Academy, which he describes as the nation’s first tech bootcamp with a job guarantee. According to Brockwell, Australian technology companies are facing an acute talent gap when it comes to sales, with many prospective workers put off by the societal stigma around sales roles.

Earlywork co-founders Marina Wu, Dan Brockwell and Jono Herman.Credit: Rhett Wyman

“Sales has the highest supply demand gap of any entry-level role in tech,” Brockwell said.

“We thought it would be engineers, but instead it’s sales and customer success roles that are the biggest gap.”

“Employers are crying out for talent, but universities and other education institutions aren’t today providing that talent pool. That’s our thesis in what we’re trying to build, which is a better business school for the tech industry. ”

Many people conflate tech sales roles with the stereotype of the used-car salesman, Brockwell said, when in reality sales cycles can take months of complex and strategic work that can often be highly rewarding. Tech companies themselves are also realising the importance of building out quality sales teams, particularly as a downturn continues to tear through the sector.

Earlywork began life in early 2021 as a newsletter designed to help university students and early career professionals get into tech jobs, and has grown into a program that takes 30 to 40 people per cohort and training them over a three-week period.

The startup’s co-founders including Brockwell began working full-time on the idea last year, and now more than 100 graduates have gone through the bootcamp.

Earlywork is now scaling up to include other roles in its program, and has raised a $1.5 million seed funding round led by private investment firm No Brand – the investment vehicle of Ari and Lucy Klinger – with support from Jelix Ventures, Archangel Ventures, Ultraviolet Ventures, former Atlassian president Jay Simons and Monsido executive Sam Rahmanian, among others.

Earlywork’s sales bootcamp is part of a broader shift away from traditional degrees, with many students instead keen to take on micro-courses that take just weeks. Tech companies including Google and LinkedIn have offered such programs for years, in what they see as a win-win to help with talent recruitment.

The Albanese government in December meanwhile launched a pilot program, dubbed MicroCred Seeker, featuring 425 microcredential courses from 56 registered providers.

Universities are also getting in on the action, in some cases supplanting their traditional qualifications with microcredential offerings.

A Coursera study last year surveyed 5000 students, and 90 per cent said that if universities included industry based microcredentials as part of an academic course, they would be likely to enrol.

Earlywork investor Rahmanian said economic opportunities lie in bridging the talent gap. He cited a recent workforce report from the Tech Council of Australia that revealed the tech sector is growing at 8 per cent per year, double the growth of other sectors.

Despite a wave of high-profile technology redundancies in the past 12 months, the local technology sector is adding more than 10,000 jobs per quarter.

“The tech industry is ripe with opportunities, and it’s only gaining momentum,” Rahmanian said.

“However, the challenge lies in the fact that many aspiring candidates lack proper guidance on how to break into the tech sector. Traditional educational institutions like universities haven’t adapted quickly enough to bridge this gap.”

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