Interview with Martin Poreda (kununu)

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We recently had the chance to interview Martin Poreda – the   co-founder and CEO of kununu. With kununu.com employees are enabled to rate the working conditions at the companies they are working for or have worked for in the past. The young company is the leading evaluation platform for employers in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. kununu was founded in 2007 and is based in Vienna.

EU-Startups.com: Who had the idea for kununu and what made you sure it was the right one?

Martin Poreda: The idea for kununu evolved during my job search after finishing my studies. Not only I was looking for the ideal job but furthermore for an employer that fitted my needs (employee benefits) and lifestyle. Dissatisfied with the possibilities for employees to get inside information about working climate and benefits of employers, I told my brother about it and we startet to build the tool, that we were both missing: kununu

kununu wasn´t the result of an brainstorming session for building an internet company. The idea later evolved from a „hobby-sideproject“ (we both were full-time employed) to a successful company with (today) 14 employees and still growing.

EU-Startups.com: How did you finance the startup-phase of kununu and who invested?

Martin Poreda: First we spent our savings, then our parents backed us with some money and the first business angel was a close friend of ours. Later MediaLab (a joint venture of the two publishing companies Madsack and WAZ – both german companies) seed-financed kununu, followed by another business angel.

EU-Startups.com: Looking back – what would you do differently in the startup-stage and what were the main stumbling blocks of the first year?

Martin Poreda: I think we made only minor mistakes which didn´t cost us that much money or „experience-pain“. Nowadays I would act differently in dealing with investors, don´t trust „supporters“ of your idea who want % for a „good“ advice. The main stumbling block was to find an investor, who didn´t want 30% for 50k, the lack of a realistic business modell, closing partnerships with companies which „already made it“ and the overcoming of the sceptisims by investors and potential customers.

EU-Startups.com: What makes kununu unique or better as similar platforms out there?

Martin Poreda: kununu is the only platform, which is professionaly run by specialists in the field of HR, Sales, PR, Marketing, Controlling and IT. Other platforms are mainly still one-man-shows, without user-base, ratings, customers, investors and or press coverage. Unfortunately our „competitors“ are rather copying us than being a challenge for us. Attempts to copy kununu will never succeed because we are always steps ahaid in product development. In the end it is the sound mixture of knowledge within the team (HR, Sales, IT …) to run an internet-platform with this topic, the backing and trust of our investors who believe in us, great partners (f.e. XING) and of course the trust of our users and loyal customers.

EU-Startups.com: Right now kununu.com is only available in the German language. Do you have any plans to enter additional markets within or outside the EU soon?

Martin Poreda: Right now – our focus is not geographical expansion. „Focus“ is one of our key management principles and right now we are focusing on expanding our market-leadership in Germany, Switzerland and Austria. HR is a peoples business, that is why it´s important to show real – not only digital – presence in the countries you run an „employer evaluation“-platform.

EU-Startups.com: How many people are working for kununu right now and how do you support the corporate culture?

Martin Poreda: Right now we are 14 people. In 2010 we doubled our employes and are very proud to announce that we pay the salaries with our positive-cash flow and not investors-money. In the next 2-4 years we plan to double our staff. We learned that good corporate culture is based on communication. We have – depending on the department – weekly meetings, a monthly team-breakfast and quarterly a team-cuddling event in the evenings. (we call it like this) The regular team-meetings during day-time are there to keep information flowing and every team-member knows when to adress issues to the founders or other members of the team. Also the founders try to live an open-door-policy and are always open for the individuals needs. As CEOs we learned that employees are impressed and value, when you react quickly to their requests. At kununu we support an corporate culture of openness, honesty, team-work and modesty and don´t accept divas of any kind.

EU-Startups.com: What kind of marketing strategies do you use to promote kununu.com?

Martin Poreda: We faciliate word-of-mouth, are looking for partnerships with career-related platforms and invest in pr.

EU-Startups.com: Where do you like to see your business (kununu) in 3 years?

Martin Poreda: In 3 years we will have more products established in the market which we are already working on, will grow our team across all departments and grow constantly in terms of turnover, profit, while still optimizing our cost-structure and processes.

EU-Startups.com: What would you do for a living, if you had not started a business?

Martin Poreda: I would be an unhappy employee, wondering every day why I am so bored and under-challenged at work. I would probably still be in key account management with a multinational company – like I was before kununu …

EU-Startups.com: How is your experience with Vienna as a location to start a company?

Martin Poreda: Vienna is a very chilled place to start a company. Because of our small start-up scene (but growing!) it is still possible to hire specialists with moderate salary-wishes. Competition for employees isn´t that harsh like in Berlin oder other german cities with a high number of Tec-Companies. The start-up scene is not very connected but existing ties are strong and nobody is holding back with his/her experience with funding, technology and product development. The lack of seed-funding, business angels or VCs is still immanent for Internet start-ups.