JobTalk Germany: Entrepreneur series

Not your usual job website

Not your usual job website
The Jobspotting founders' team. Robin Eric Haak is second from left.
In our weekly feature series, The Local looks into a successful entrepreneur's life - the story behind their successes, major challenges and how being an entrepreneur changed them forever. This week, Sparsh Sharma talks to Robin Eric Haak, founder and COO of Berlin-based Jobspotting.

How did you come up with this business idea?

Jobspotting's founder and CEO, Hessam Lavi worked at Google in Dublin for many years. There he met Jan Backes (founder and CDO) and Manuel Holtz (founder and CTO). Lavi also met his German wife there and they moved to Berlin, where he found it was needlessly painful for foreigners to find jobs in startups.

In order to give himself, and other jobseekers, a platform, he started BerlinStartupJobs and later, LondonStartupJobs. Though these websites were started on the side, their huge popularity showed a vital need for this kind of information. The sites have over 100,000 views per month.

Lavi is a big fan of sites like Pandora that make recommendations based on the users’ taste and figured there was need for a similar system in job portals too. So he called up Jan and Manuel, given their expertise in data backend, to discuss the feasibility of this idea.

They have now created technologies that classify job ads, analyze semantics and can produce detailed skills graphs for users, providing relevant job matches.

When they met Saeed Amidi, investor in Dropbox, Paypal and 2,000+ other companies, he encouraged them to join the Axel Springer Plug and Play accelerator, which I had co-founded.

That's how I became friends with them. Next, they received investment and Stefan Gross-Selbeck, one of the angels and former CEO of eBay and XING, asked them to appoint a business head. That’s where I came in and became a co-founder.

What were the initial challenges? How did you overcome them?

The technical backend is pretty hardcore. This is most likely why no company in the classified job market has really stood out – with the exception of LinkedIn. As we have a mind-bogglingly amazing engineering team, we are well on our way to solving this problem.

This is no hipster, boy-band startup but a group of experts trying to solve a serious problem by working efficiently. The founders’ have a combined work experience in Google of over 20 years.

How has the journey been so far?

Creating the technical backend took us 10 months. Now our focus is to make the product really exceptional.

We have created a personalized job-feed that adapts to each user, an explore function that allows people to discover how the scenario is in different job verticals and locations, an iOS app, a magazine as well as company pages that provide users with info about the companies that have posted jobs. This was no piece of cake!

The core ideal of our product is not only for jobseekers to find the most relevant jobs but also use Jobspotting to visualise their futures and make the most informed career choices.

We have partnered with companies like XING, Monster, Stepstone, CW and many more to provide the widest net for all jobs being posted. It will be a constant challenge to find the perfect jobs for jobseekers and take the pain out of the process for them but also exciting. Personally, I am extra excited about the magazine where you can read insights, interviews and information about all things career.

How has becoming an entrepreneur changed you, personally?

I came to Jobspotting from one of the most influential corporates in a country that is the world’s third biggest exporter. There are a lot of corporate challenges that I no longer have to solve. I have much more time to focus on working efficiently without worrying about causing offence or internal office politics.

Everyone believes in the company, and our goal of helping people. We are not doing it for fame and fortune but for people unhappy in their jobs or unsure about jobs best suited to them.

Certainly, I now have more responsibilities and a tighter budget, so the pressure to succeed is higher. But I also have complete ownership of the pace I work at and how fast I can keep pushing forward.

Personally, I think now is the time to utilize what I have learned, and hope that by giving it everything, we can change something. Sometimes it’s hard to stay confident when you know that nothing in life is forever, or can be taken for granted, but following a vision to positively influence people’s lives makes it easier.

Any other personal reflections or message to budding entrepreneurs?

I don’t understand people who say, ‘I don’t have the time’. I always have time, it’s about prioritizing. I think a lot of people need to work on this.

I hope we, in Europe, will come around to the US point of view where everyone just gets one shot. For e.g. if I meet Andreessen Horowitz, he will give me just an hour. If we agree, it’s a deal. If it doesn’t work, I won’t get another chance, which is fair enough.

In Europe, everyone is so busy and important that the same process takes a lot longer. I really don’t get it and hope the startup mentality will change our working culture and lead to more efficiency in the future.

Are you an entrepreneur in Germany? Contact us and we might feature your story

Sparsh Sharma works as a freelance journalist for The Local and blogs about his experiences in Denmark. You can follow him on Twitter at @sparsh_s.

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