We recently had the chance to interview Martin Poreda, the co-founder and CEO of kununu. With kununu, employees are able to rate the working conditions at the companies they’ve worked for, giving potential team members the chance to see how it really is to work there.
kununu was founded in 2007 and is based in Vienna. The young company is the leading evaluation platform for employers in Germany, Austria and Switzerland.
Who had the idea for kununu and what made you sure it was the right one?
The idea for kununu evolved during my job search, after finishing my studies. Not only was I looking for the ideal job, but furthermore an employer that fitted my needs for employee benefits and lifestyle. Dissatisfied with the possibilities for employees to get inside information about the working climate and benefits of employers, I told my brother about it and we started to build the tool that we were both missing: kununu
kununu wasn’t the result of a brainstorming session to build an internet company. The idea evolved from a ‘hobby side-project’, as we both were employed full-time, into a successful company, which today has 14 employees, and is still growing.
How did you finance the startup-phase of kununu and who invested?
First we spent our savings, then our parents backed us with some money. Then, the first business angel was a close friend of ours. Later MediaLab, a joint venture of the two German publishing companies Madsack and WAZ, seed financed kununu, followed by another business angel.
Looking back – what would you do differently in the startup-stage and what were the main stumbling blocks of the first year?
I think we made only minor mistakes which didn’t cost us that much money or ‘experience-pain’. Nowadays I would act differently when dealing with investors, and not trust ‘supporters’ of your idea who want a percentage for ‘good advice’. The main stumbling block was to find an investor who didn’t want 30% for 50k, the lack of a realistic business model, closing partnerships with companies which had supposedly already made it, and overcoming the skepticism of investors and potential customers.
What makes kununu unique, or better than similar platforms out there?
kununu is the only platform in this field that is professionally run by specialists from the fields of HR, Sales, PR, Marketing, Controlling and IT. Other platforms are mainly still one-man-shows, without a 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 though, because we are always steps ahead in product development. In the end what it takes to run an internet platform in this sphere is the sound mixture of knowledge within the team (HR, Sales, IT, etc.), the backing and trust of our investors who believe in us, great partners (i.e. XING) and of course the trust of our users and loyal customers.
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?
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 a real – and not only a digital – presence in the countries where we run this employer evaluation platform.
How many people are working for kununu right now, and how do you support the corporate culture?
Right now we are 14 people. In 2010, we doubled our number of employees 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 learnt 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 (we call it like this) in the evenings. The regular team meetings during the day time are there to keep information flowing and so that every team member knows when to address issues to the founders or other members of the team. Also the founders try to have an open-door policy and are always there for the individuals’ needs. As CEOs, we learnt that employees are impressed and value when you react quickly to their requests. At kununu we support a corporate culture of openness, honesty, team work and modesty, and don’t accept divas of any kind.
What kind of marketing strategies do you use to promote kununu.com?
We facilitate word-of-mouth, are looking for partnerships with career-related platforms and invest in PR.
Where would you like to see kununu in 3 years?
In 3 years’s time, 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 and profit, while still optimizing our cost-structure and processes.
What would you do for a living, if you had not started a business?
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.
What has your experience been of Vienna as a location to start up a company?
Vienna is a very chilled place to start a company. Because of our small, but growing, startup scene, it is still possible to hire specialists with moderate salary requests. Competition for employees isn’t that harsh like in Berlin or other other German cities with a high number of tech companies. The startup scene is not very connected, but existing ties are strong and nobody is holding back with his/her experience with funding, technology or product development. Unfortunately, though, the lack of seed funding, business angels and VCs is still immanent for internet startups in Vienna.
Find this interesting? Be sure to check out our other founder interviews, to get inside tips and insights from their experience.