Posts in Start Ups
Hiring for startups and why asking for CVs is elitist
hiringjuniors

A case study

During my assignment in London, one of my essential tasks was to hire a team and train them in social media marketing. I knew that the only way to do this was by hiring someone who loves football, the passion of our target group, and who enjoys writing about it. We didn’t need a senior writer or someone with a background of academic achievements. The person we needed was someone with enthusiasm for the topic and a good grasp of grammar.

About a week before I came to London, I announced that we were looking for an intern on several job platforms, such as; Indeed.co.uk or WorkInStartups.com. When writing the job listing, I specified that we didn’t want any resumés, instead we wanted to see two short articles.

We received more than 50 applications in less than a week. The majority of applicants sent us a CV and, as you might expect, no samples of their copy. Sorting through them was easy: we dumped them all!
We then received some good applications, which enabled us to judge the applicants based on their tone of voice and whether their writing style was what we wanted our brand to be associated with. We were also looking for someone who could write several blog posts a week.

After sorting through all the resumes I selected two guys to interview over Skype. This interview enabled me to talk a little more about our aims and how the applicant would fit within the team and what I, and eventually the team, expected from the person joining. I also explained that we would train them whilst they were interning for us in return for their work. After the two Skype interviews I chose to invite one of the guys to come and meet everyone.

The Skype interviews proved extremely beneficial because the applicant was far more relaxed on the video call compared to his interview at the office, during which he spoke extremely fast and was very tense, perhaps a sign that he really wanted to work with us. During the interview we asked about the applicant’s background and discovered that not only had he dropped out of Uni but had also aborted other previous work commitments.

After the interview was over, a long discussion followed: Was he the right person to hire or should we look for someone else? We decided on a compromise and invited him to join us for a week’s trial, paid of course. We wanted to give him a chance without us having to commit immediately. Don't forget that his copy was what made us invite him in the first place.

After two days, we knew getting our new intern on board had been the right choice; he turned out to be extremely bright and had just been a little unlucky in the past; I found I was sitting at a desk with a hilariously funny guy with excellent general knowledge and whose work was detailed and original, he exceeded all of my expectations. This made me question industry standards and why we still hire based on CVs; this guy would not have been sitting at that desk if we had hired like most people in the industry.

The only way we can foster social mobility is by not judging people on where they come from and where they studied. At the end of the day all that matters is where people want to be today and if they’re big enough to reach it.

The founders had other full-time commitments, so the intern and I mostly worked on our own. We met every day at Campus London, an amazing space Google built to support London’s startup scene.

I don’t know much about football but I know a lot about the dynamic of social platforms; my goal was to explain all I knew to my new partner-in-crime and have him go from there. I never said: “This is not how you do it.” Instead I asked “Would you click that headline?” The only general rule I ever set was not to do any hard sell. Instead, I encouraged him to be entertaining, join conversations and have fun throughout the day talking to people and eventually building a community for the brand. Together we decided on certain measures and set goals that were to be reached within a reasonable time frame.

After about three weeks I showed our intern a brand report I had done for another company and then asked him to do something similar for the brand we were working on together; I asked him to develop brand guidelines and define the brand’s voice. He hit the spot exactly and analysed everything, even the stuff I wasn’t happy about. By encouraging him to spot his own weaknesses, he was changing from school dropout to a really good copywriter within less than a month.

I forgot to take down the job ad on WorkInStartUps.com and got a really nice email from an applicant. He sent two really good articles, so I asked him for a Skype interview and also had him download the app and give me feedback. I figured that even if we already had someone in role, it might be beneficial to keep a record of people the company could work with in the future and also get some product feedback all at the same time (sneaky I know).

During our Skype call I was honest about the fact that we already had someone who we were very happy with. I asked what his dream job would be and also asked him to give me feedback on the app and what he thought was missing. His dream job was in creative advertising, his product feedback was excellent and he sounded just like the person we needed to work with the team once I was gone. As we didn’t need a copywriter I set him another challenge to come up with a concept that would lead to 5,000 downloads in two weeks.

We invited him in for an interview and were blown away by the exceptional concepts he presented to us so we decided to welcome a second intern on board; to help us with the execution of the ideas and do the media work and to help him get a step closer to where he wanted to be; in creative advertising.

As for me, I believe that internships should be mutually beneficial. I’m in the habit of asking for feedback once a week to see what the intern would like to learn and grow into. I don’t make it easy for people to join a team but once they do, it’s my aim to make sure they see personal progress every single day.

What has been your most beneficial hiring and training technique? Let me know of some of your tips, tricks or comment on what I have written above. I’d love some feedback.

Generation Internship: What’s up with Berlin? 
dirtyberlin

Germany counts about 600.000 interns. German interns are skilled, highly educated and often have a proven track of work experience. To the majority of us, these people might sound like the perfect candidates for full-time positions. However, in Germany they're most likely to be hired as low-cost interns. 
Interns are cheap, digitally-savvy and given their grade of education, they’re probably not utterly stupid. Put simply, they’ll for sure know how to get work done. 

As you can read in various start-up oriented media, no one’s got the money to hire people to make coffee. To me, this kind of argument sounds as if interns would indeed contribute with their knowledge and have the skills to do much more; not just the regularly mentioned cup of coffee. 

It doesn’t come as much of a surprise that when the German government announced their decision to establish a minimal salary of 8,50 per hour, many companies – especially start-ups – began to protest. From 2015 on, full-time interns are supposed to earn about 1.400,- Euro gross, which especially in Berlin is not that much less (or even more?) than what many fully employed people earn. 

For many years, Berlin’s sold itself for being cheap but sexy and a city where everything goes – including low salaries. Although prices might be lower than in other European capitals, most of people who live and work here would probably agree that the price level has been on a steep rise. Often, without the parental help, living in the German capital wouldn’t be doable. 

In Berlin, being part of a start-up is considered hip and cool. Many young people want to be part of the scene so badly, that they’d accept payment that’s close to nothing. It’s a salary that hardly pays for an individual, even less encourages you to become part of a community and imagine yourself to stay here after you're done with partying. 

So far, the main counter argument presented in the media has been raised by start-ups and small companies that say how much time they’d spend on teaching an intern all the essentials. In an industry that has hardly surpassed its teenage years, it’s hard to say that an intern couldn’t learn most of the things in a shorter amount of time than what an established corporation takes to on-board their new hires. This argument seems to be even more applicable given that in many start-ups every morning feels a little bit like an utterly new beginning. Kick-off meetings would often be used to discuss what people on the team read before they decide what they'd like to try out. No one's got a real guarantee what will work or not. It's all about a hands-on approach and a forward thinking attitude. In a startup there's no space for defined job-titles or tasks. Everyone does everything and hustles as much as they can.

Somehow, my common sense tells me that this might unearth a deeper rooted issue. If interns earn more money, how can businesses defend how little they pay to all their other employees?

The question really is, how much longer will Berliners want to earn a salary that doesn’t allow them to grow up, have kids and become stable? It might have been ok in times when Berlin partied hard and behaved like a teenager, but the time seems to be over. The city’s growing up and the government’s just encouraging people and businesses to do so too.

First appeared on http://www.thecitytribune.net

Why women shouldn’t accept conventional hygiene products.
rubycup

The one thing I've probably never discussed with any of my girlfriends is my period. We get it. We might mention our hurting tummies. We move on. Never ever have I mentioned any issues that I might have had when inserting tampons or using pads. It's – as you can imagine – not a topic. Ever.

Let's recap: Once a month all of us use bleached cotton & viscose products, which we either wear in our underwear or use internally. Although we usually make a wide curve to avoid non-organic fruit and veggies, we don't hesitate when buying bleached hygienic products for internal use.

What's wrong with us?

"It's comfortable and I've always done it like that," might cross your mind. It has definitely crossed mine. It's easy not to have to deal with any additional decision-making. Also, are there any alternatives?

There are, but I promise you – no one's interested in helping you to find out about them. There is no real economic reason that a menstrual cup would become a topic for western women. Given that every woman spends two to four euros each month on tampons or pads, what company would be crazy enough to want to make you aware of sustainable alternatives? Especially when those sustainable solutions are so sustainable that by winning you as a customer, they would immediately lose any potential future profit from you. The fact that it's bleached and probably not that awesome for your body is not even part of the discussion.

Put simply, it's a big business no one's really interested in disrupting.

I've recently come across a menstrual cup called Ruby Cup. First, I supported them because two of my dear friends have worked there, but then I realised that I'm actually onto something much bigger.

I supported a campaign called #keepgirlsinschool and ordered a Ruby Cup for myself.

Now I know I won't go back. Although I had to get over myself and change my behaviour I've become so used to in the last 14 years, I know it's worth doing it and telling my friends. Asking you to think about switching, means asking you to reconsider what you've accepted as the only option, which you've probably never questioned. I also know that it would take every single one of us and the willingness to tell our girlfriends to make them aware of what we take for granted.

I don't even care about you being more sustainable – I care about all of us not using bleached products inside our bodies. Tampons & pads are a big business. No one's ever been interested in making you switch to a more sustainable product. But you should hold your friends dear enough to tell them. To tell them why they should be using a Ruby Cup and not tampons or pads.

The expanding role of the designer.
roleofdesigner

Only recently I've been confronted with the question of whether or not I consider myself a designer. Now, that's quite a tricky one.

Ever since I left University I've never had the term 'designer' anywhere imaginably close to my job title. Although I hold diplomas that will assure you that I'm a reasonably skilled designer for fashion communication and interior architecture, I've never designed a product since I graduated.

In the old terms, you'd describe a designer as someone who creates products. In the new age – the age that makes physical objects somehow obsolete – the role of  a designer has evolved. There are so many other fields acquiring trained designers. As the world has become virtually connected, many new roles and job titles have evolved along the way: roles for which no official training has yet been defined.

To get back to the title of this blog post, I'd like to share the suggested roles that were presented at the last Service Design Meet-Up in Berlin. One of the main topics was the definition of common or new work fields designers have nowadays.

The team around Martin Jordan presented these seven roles:

Seems like I am a designer after all. How about you? Any thoughts?

Culture, are we changing yet?
therealberlin

"..But you're one of the start-up people everyone's talking about. That sounds pretty rockstar to me." Well, fair enough. I might be just that. With all its clichés. That's indeed exceptional and great. Still, there are things that should be highlighted. Just because they are rather unusual, which I am more than ever aware of.

One thing I've noticed repetitively, is what I might want to call the AirBnB- factor. It's something I consider worth a note as it's so bold and rather different than what our society would define as 'normal'; As the standard of the 'middle class' if you know what I mean.

In the start-up world flexibility is what seems most important. We're flexible in terms of jobs, homes and relationships. Being able to come and leave seems like the thing of the hour. Any place we've dreamed of visiting one day in the future, we can now call home anytime we decide we want to. We can go wherever we want; Do whatever we like. We can live in the now and not care about (our) future.

For some of us, it means to live out of a suitcase. That might of course be amazing and I admire people who can actually do this consequently, but there are also a few who like to keep their homes, their things, their memories somewhere together. There are people, who like to keep some security defined by having a place they can always go back to.

More and more I seem to be meeting people who sublet their apartments. When you're gone for a few months or regularly for a few days every week, it seems like the thing to do. When I say sublet, I don't necessarily mean that you'd clear out your personal things and actually sublet. It's much rather 'borrowing' your things to someone who needs them more than you do. You leave your house with a stranger and change the bed sheets every time you come back to what you still call home.

While the general idea of being an adult and having a relationship with someone is build on the idea of shared possessions; On shopping for things together. In the start up world 'home' as such seems to have become less of a private matter. In the physical aspect it's a place that's defined by personal goods for use and not as much as a place curated and filled with objects indicating certain status. We keep a home as a symbol of security we seem to be in need of.

While home is still somewhere personal pictures are on display, we seem to have gotten comfortable with the idea of having other people use our possessions. We share and we share for real. Also, this time it's not a sign of poverty. It's rather the complete opposite: We share as a sign of chosen luxury, following our hunger for freedom. Home in the start-up world is not defined by what we have. Much rather it's defined by the self-acknowledgement of who we are. Objects become things we use, not things we possess. Now there is just one more question to ask.. Is this a bubble that's going to burst? Or is home about to change its status for real? You tell me.