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IGNITING THE SPARK with Gary McKay, APPII

David Farquharson

APPII believes that career satisfaction and success should be available to all – and this disruptive new career management, verification, and recruitment business is setting out to deliver just that. Based on blockchain technology originally developed for the Financial Services industry, APPII is driven by a passion for change; not only to the process of recruitment but also towards a social climate where equal opportunity truly does exist. We spoke with CEO Gary McKay to understand more about APPII’s exciting launch, the focus that comes from leaving the blanket of a salary and the satisfaction of doing well, whilst doing good.

Gary McKay
Gary McKay

The moment that ignited the spark in me to start a business was…

Having just returned to the UK after 18 years in Australia, I was looking for my next dream job and speaking to several recruiters about potential opportunities. I knew that the process of finding the right role would be challenging, but not as frustrating as it turned out to be.

The recruitment agencies I was talking to didn’t know me or the organisations I worked for in Australia, so highlighting my experience on my CV was a real challenge. In addition to this, from my perspective, the process was onerous, I had to interact with many recruitment agencies to maximise the opportunities available to me, and, even then, it wasn’t guaranteed that I knew of all available opportunities out there.

My most recent role in Australia was with a financial services company where there was a huge focus on technology driving business transformation, and experimentation with how blockchain technology (the underlying tech for Bitcoin) could disrupt the traditional banking model. So, on my return to the UK, using blockchain to disrupt traditional business models was at the forefront of my mind. Could the technology make verification and recruitment easier?

In discussing opportunities with the founders of APPII we said; surely we can make the verification and recruitment process more efficient and more enjoyable for both the candidate and the employer? We’d underpin a new self-service platform with blockchain technology, artificial intelligence, and advanced analytics, and, with that, APPII was born!

We want to build a business that can help the career management, verification, and recruitment sector be more efficient, and, at the same time, maximise the potential of individuals and businesses.

We believe the current broker model (e.g. recruitment) between parties who want to talk to each other can hamper business growth, and diminish the ability of individuals maximising their potential. As a candidate, should we not be able to talk to an employer unencumbered, enabling them to see our skills and competencies in their context, and should employers not be able to see all potential candidates – not just the candidates that intermediaries choose to present to them?

Furthermore, we want to level the playing field for those candidates who are in socially, economically or demographically challenging circumstances. How can we help those people find equal job opportunities? For example, in industries where gender diversity is a challenge, how can we encourage diversity and drive social mobility?

I think social conscience is so important to business because…

Social mobility has always been an important priority for me and the other founders. We want to help diminish the widening academic attainment gap of people from socially or economically challenged backgrounds, and break down barriers created through conscious and unconscious bias. Addressing academic attainment gaps is an imperative for individuals maximising their potential. We believe the APPII platform can assist with bridging the academic attainment gap and drive workforce diversity, again, to maximise the potential of everyone, not just the privileged or those in cohorts not often discriminated against.

The thing that’s most surprised me since I made that move is…

One of the scariest things about starting a new business is the prospect of having no income for an extended period. Taking the leap to not having the comfort of a regular salary is somewhat of a daunting prospect.

However, having no income helps with focusing on the most important thing each day. In the larger corporate world, we sometimes slip into taking our time – knowing that there is a financial safety net. For me, financial urgency increased my focus and made me more productive than I have ever been before. My ability to time manage, to get things done, to focus on the more important tasks, in and out of work, has significantly improved.

The toughest challenge has been…

Explaining what we are doing in simple terms.

We’re trying to do something novel - completely different to what is expected in the recruitment sector. It takes time to explain the way that technology can help with the problems the industry faces and our thinking is often challenged.

We absolutely believe in the benefit that APPII can bring and are immersed in it. Bringing people along with you on the journey, and explaining the disruption in simple terms is an imperative… yet very challenging!

My biggest success has been…

One of the biggest successes is that we managed to get into Westminster and the Scottish Government to talk to MPs about the opportunity, and with great reception. We explained how the technology platform can benefit industries in the UK, and beyond, and the MPs acknowledged huge merit in what we are trying to achieve. It felt like a big success to see people with huge responsibility understand what we are doing and offer support to try and help us get to market.

In five years’ time, success would look like…

Success would see us working across global recruitment markets and helping as many people achieve their potential as possible.

I’d like to believe that we’d have diminished the cost of acquiring talent for businesses and therefore help re-allocate capital traditionally incurred in recruitment expenses for business growth.

We’d see individuals achieve their potential sooner, and achieve successes in their career that they would never have imagined before.

Equally important is creating a material change in the social side of recruitment, to be promoting equal opportunities for people from poorer or challenged backgrounds. Ensuring everyone can go to university or get places on training programmes - for us to be able to facilitate that would be fantastic.

Driving material social benefit excites me as much as seeing something that is commercially successful, I would love to see APPII driving a huge social change.

I’m very good at…

Relating to people of all different backgrounds and all walks of life. My parents brought me up to interact with everyone in the same way, to see everyone as equals, and to treat everyone the same.

The type of person I look to recruit into my organisation is…

Someone who has a sense of doing something bigger for society and recognising that working for APPII can help achieve their own societal objectives. I love working with people who are constantly seeking new knowledge and applying their enthusiasm, knowledge, and skills to make life better and easier for the colleagues they work with and the customers they serve.

The part of my day I most look forward to is…

I look forward to finishing and having dinner with my family! There’s nothing better than sitting around the table with a one year old, a 4-year old, and my wife – who, incidentally, has the hardest job in the world looking after our children all day.

We talk about what we’ve been up to, chill out, and talk about what has made their day special.

If I could give my 18-year old self one piece of advice, it would be…

Be vulnerable, take risks, whether it be at work putting up your hand for greater responsibility, whether it be in relationships allowing someone to get to know you better, or whether it be in general day to day life. Love what you do and love who you do it with.

Outside of work I can be found…

Enjoying the simple things, spending time with my family, sitting on the rocks by the sea doing a bit of fishing, in the garden doing the weeds… or in cupboards hiding from my children.

My philosophy on life is…

Do everything with the best intentions.

If I was asking the questions, I would want to know…

How do you switch off when you need to switch off? I find myself constantly thinking about what I’m doing and I’d love to know if anyone has that discipline of being able to focus on things that aren’t about a new business.

What I like about working with Ignition Law…

It’s just the vibe, I’ve worked with a few of the team and they all have the same passion for my business! Alex has been fantastic; he gets straight to the point. I feel comfortable that he has my back and he’s doing the right thing. I like how Ignition are out there doing something differently, something unexpected and they are very keen on doing the little extras that mean a lot.

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