Nowadays, our networks are more accessible than ever. Our friends and colleagues and ex-colleagues are just a click away. But it’s also true that we tend to guard our networks from others. Because we recognize their value to strangers, it often takes more than a “pretty please" to tap into them.
In fact, it takes a pretty strong incentive. Like an all-expensive-paid language immersion trip anywhere in the world.
Voxy, a New York City-based tech company that’s “reinventing the way the world learns language” is doing just that. If you happen to know a talented front-end or app engineer, and you get them to apply for a job at Voxy, and that friend is eventually hired, you get a free trip.
“You want people to feel comfortable opening up their network,” said Gregg Carey, who co-founded the company in 2010. “You don’t simply ask them to share something like that without having a direct relationship with Voxy. It’s presumptuous.”
The winner gets to decide where to jet off to – whether to pack their swimsuit or mukluks – while Voxy picks up the tab for the flight, meals, accommodations, and language immersion.
Wait, what was that last part? Yup, they’ll pay for you to learn the language of your chosen destination by chartering your tuition to a local school. In a way, the recruitment campaign is about mass appeal (who doesn’t like free stuff? And travel?), but it’s also consistent with the company’s mission.
“We wanted to reflect the spirit of the company and how we feel about education, with language being, in addition to a communication tool, a way to bridge cultural differences,” said Carey, who characterizes Voxy's software as being "100 percent personalized to the individual." Apparently, it can turn any English conversation (like our interview, he explained) into a series of lessons.
Carey borrowed the crowdsourcing strategy from a friend, who also works in a startup tech space. “They were offering a year’s worth of free burritos at Chipotle to whoever could refer a friend,” he recalled.
The idea works on many levels. It’s not just about creating a temporary buzz, but may in fact benefit the company’s mission in the long term (besides providing them with a bright new employee). Carey surmises that when the trip-winner returns, rejuvenated and chock full of new vocabulary, they’ll want to share their language-learning experiences with the new hire. “So there’s a dialogue, there’s banter emerging from that initiation," he said.
Although bilingualism is not an employment requirement at Voxy, Carey estimates that 30 to 40 percent of their staff can speak a second language.
“Exposure to other cultures and another language is something that gives them perspective on our product,” he said.
In terms of the trip, there are a few limitations in place, including a $4000 total expenditure cap. Carey thinks it will be interesting to see how people’s choices reflect their priorities.
“Are they going to be chilling on a beach or will they make choices based more on the language aspect?”
Either way, it’s up to the individual who produces the best candidate.
I asked him if he thought we all have a rockstar engineer in our network. “Now, more than ever,” he replied.