More than 20,000 job visits monthly, over 1,000 open jobs, and 2,000+ applications per month: the European startup job platform wecanbeheroes.io, which was launched only recently, is gaining momentum. Günter Tengel is one of the investors who joined the company’s recent EUR 1.5m funding round.
Tengel, the managing partner at Amrop Jenewein and Chairman of Amrop CEE, has many years of experience in the area of executive search and finding the right managers for top positions.
In an interview with Maria Baumgartner, co-founder and CEO of Speedinvest Heroes, he talks about the enormous potential of wecanbeheroes.io, the changing requirements for employers, the “cocooning” trend, and why he believes in a common European job market in the startup sector.
Trending Topics: Mr. Tengel, why did you participate in Speedinvest Heroes?
Günter Tengel: Both Speedinvest Heroes and I are in the people’s business and we are both passionate about it. We have been involved in executive search with Amrop for over 40 years, working on filling top positions. Over the years, Speedinvest has invested a lot not only in funding startups but also in their future development. The connection between technology and people is the right mix for the future.
Maria Baumgartner: Günter is the perfect investor for us because he has a lot of experience in the job market and he supports us significantly in setting up our job platform for startups from Europe.
Trending Topics: You have been seeing great potential in the CEE region for quite some time. What is the market like there? Is Eastern Europe just a talent pool for the West?
Tengel: There was, of course, a time when there was great influx of human capital from Eastern Europe to Western cities, for example from Romania and Poland to London. Now, we are also witnessing the opposite trend, so it is no longer a one-way movement. Talented people are no longer dependable on where the labor market is better – in Romania or in London. However, I don’t believe in a global labor market, but in a European one.
Trending Topics: What is it that prevents the development of a global job market? After all, many startups work remotely across national borders.
Tengel: The American job market is a completely separate job market that is strongly shaped by US companies. Silicon Valley is Silicon Valley. Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg cuts part of the salaries for those who work completely remotely and also the part that they save by living in another city.
That is a logic that will change the entire labor market. There will be a dichotomy: those who work in the company because of advantages such as higher salaries, and the others, who neglect certain advantages for the sake of having the freedom to work remotely. The European labor market, on the other hand, is extremely fragmented and needs to grow closer together. We see this as our task.
Trending Topics: What does wecanbeheroes.io do that others aren’t doing yet?
Baumgartner: Europe-wide job advertisements for the startup sector are the central topic. All other job platforms bring applicants into a certain ecosystem. We do it the other way around: We ask the applicant where he or she comes from and show them all possible places in Europe where they could work. We want to get to know the local markets. Our data scientists create rankings which users can use to select the cities that are best for them – for example, based on infrastructure, quality of life, and so on. Even if you are in Vienna, you will be shown where you could go in Europe.
Trending Topics: Can something like this come from Vienna? What about US competitors?
Tengel: Our classic American competitors in the executive search sector – essentially four companies – make 60 to 70 % of their sales in the USA. We come from Europe and have been the counter model to this for 40 years, we do 60 to 70 % of our business in Europe. We can do this because we deal extremely closely with the local markets. That’s why it makes sense to build a platform like this.
We would never have participated in a US or London platform, that would be top-down. A functioning European job platform must come from the bottom up, from the regions themselves. If that succeeds, then it can be a counter-model to American platforms.
Trending Topics: What does your analog business have in common with a digital platform, Mr. Tengel?
Tengel: Google receives 500,000 to 600,000 applications a year. The process is completely digital, but the final decision is made when people go out to eat. This is the most analogous thing there is. The future will therefore be about the intelligent connection between digital and analog.
The old executive search business model is dead. It’s a notebook with contacts in it. But just working with Linkedin is not possible either. You can generate information there and get completely new access to markets. But the technological platform alone is not enough. One of the essential things is that the two worlds learn from each other. Technology and relationships are not opposites.
Trending Topics: How have candidates’ expectations of employers changed?
Tengel: We are witnessing extreme counter-movements on the labor market. More and mor often, corporations hear from employees: Please don’t send me abroad, I’ve already seen everything, I want to stay at home. That is the countermovement to globalization. With remote work, you just pretend that you would work internationally, but in reality, you are sitting somewhere in the country and have a completely different reality of life. This cocooning is one trend and the other is the European labor market. There are both currents, and no one knows which will prevail.
Baumgartner: And with the young people it is absolutely clear: a generation is growing up who place enormous value on sustainability. The question is not what is on the homepage and what kind of carbon footprint it has, but whether the company is really meaningful. Yes, this is going to be a huge topic.
Trending Topics: For young people, the question arises whether they prefer to go into the corporate world or rather to a startup.
Baumgartner: The prevailing belief at the moment is that the work culture in a startup is better.
Tengel: Corporates have certainly been messing around in the past. Today, there are more and more people who no longer allow these working methods to be prescribed and who can afford to say no. Now, there are former board members of large companies who say that they would rather be in a startup and would never go back to corporate.
Baumgartner: However, I have to say critically that the social mix in startups is not really there yet. It’s still the rich kids who are mostly there. From our point of view, this has enormous potential for candidates. There may be initiatives for more female founders, but the social mix is still very weak. We are still a long way from public housing to the start-up world.
Tengel: We won’t be able to solve that with a job platform alone. The main reason for this is the education system. We have one of the best in the world, but with very little social mix.
Trending Topics: Are there any European competitors that wecanbeheroes.io has to keep at a distance?
Baumgartner: They don’t exist. There are only regional job platforms for local startup markets, but no platform where a Parisian scale-up could search for the best talent across Europe. In the end, we can become a European LinkedIn for startups.