HomeEstonia-StartupsConnecting top talents worldwide - Interview with Karoli Hindriks, Founder and CEO...

Connecting top talents worldwide – Interview with Karoli Hindriks, Founder and CEO of Jobbatical

In a digital world where your work/life location is no longer important, the world is your labour market. Global opportunities are available for everyone and the search can be endless. For the tech sector it might be even easier – they have Jobbatical.  

Jobbatical was founded in 2014 by Karoli Hindriks, Allan Mäeots and Ronald Hindriks. The company provides job seekers the opportunity to find positions with employers in the tech sector all over the world. Today the international tech job search platform has more than 100,000 users from 150+ countries and is changing people’s lives on daily basis.  

We talked to Jobbatical’s CEO Karoli Hindriks to learn more about her motivation, challenges and plans for the future.

At the age of 16 you became the youngest inventor in Estonia with a registered patent. Can you tell us more about that experience and how that has shaped your life ever since?

My first venture started with a school project. We established a student company and started brainstorming product ideas. As I come from Northern Europe, where from October to March it is very dark outside for most of the day, you can imagine traffic safety is an issue, especially for pedestrians. So back then I had an idea to start using reflective fabric to make fashionable reflectors for young people. My late father encouraged me to go to the patent office with my invention. It turned out to be a unique idea and I became my country’s youngest inventor. His encouragement opened my eyes in many ways – also to the fact that despite being a 16-year old girl from a small town in Eastern Europe, I could make a difference. Encouraged by this, I decided to start a real company and begin producing and selling my innovative reflectors. It wasn’t long when we were selling them across Northern Europe mainly, but also to countries like Portugal, Belgium and Germany.

From innovation you moved to entertainment and at 23 you became the youngest CEO MTV has ever had. What was the best thing about it?  

Oh, that is an interesting story! When MTV Baltics was set to be launched, I had initially agreed to help the Lithuanian founding team with marketing and PR for the Estonian market,  doing that in parallel to my reflector business. About half a year after the launch, I was offered the position of CEO of MTV Estonia. I was only 23 years old, without any prior media industry experience, but that didn’t discourage me – I decided that I will learn and figure it out! And learn we did, together with my team. We even managed to get one of our young garage bands, Bedwetters, whom we had launched on MTV Estonia to win an MTV European Music Award and perform on the main stage at the MTV EMA 2007 gala in Munich. This was probably the greatest marketing success that I’ve been part of with almost zero budget. What I loved in working for MTV was also the fact that it gave a really good glimpse into the show biz scene.

And now with Jobbatical you are connecting globetrotting talent to tech companies across the globe. How did it all start and where are you now?

My inspiration for Jobbatical came when I was in Silicon Valley, in the Singularity University study programme. It was there where I started to ask myself: why are so many amazing companies emerging from here and not anywhere else in the world? The answer, I realised, was that knowledgeable people are drawn to this location. So, I thought, what if we inspire knowledgeable people to discover their dream locations in other far-flung cities by moving there for a career journey? Instead of taking a 2-week holiday in a dream location, they could experience the true local life by spending a few years working there in a local team. I started to work on that idea in 2014 and we launched by the end of the same year. We are currently connecting talent from all countries in the world (besides North Korea and Chad Africa) to organisations across 49 countries. It has been inspiring to see the lives and teams that have been changed through our platform. One of my favourite Jobbatical stories is the one of Arnaud Castaignet, who previously was the Communication Advisor to the French President François Hollande and who now works for the Estonian government helping build the new digital nation. Or that of a Brazilian engineer Thiago Pappacena who moved to Milan to work as an engineer and made it to the CTO position in the same company, and he also became the citizen of Italy. Seeing how our team’s work has changed the lives of so many people is our biggest achievement thus far.

What does the process entail both for a job seeker and a hiring company?

The techies, creatives and business people looking to relocate are the ones that join Jobbatical. We help them discover companies in their dream locations who are open to hire internationals. For the companies we serve as talent scouts of sort, when these companies are unable to find ready-to-relocate people from their domestic market. Today we are also helping with immigration issues in 34 countries and growing.

With over 100,000+ registered professionals and 940 clients and 2,300+ international hiring campaigns across 76 countries, what is the biggest challenge for Jobbatical at the moment?

Building a startup is a constant battle of challenges since you are always in the search of answers and trying to figure out new models. Our challenge has been building a marketplace across multiple geographies that makes it more complicated than starting from one or two locations. In a way it is like having to dig tens of different river beds at the same time before you are able to see the water running. Our focus is on growing our marketplace between all the locations, improve the UX of the platform and get more people hired and relocated to their destinations of choice.

Jobbatical’s recruitment platform recently raised a $4 million funding round to expand to Asia-Pacific. What are your long-term plans about this region?

ASEAN is one of the fastest growing regions in the world with an average 5% GDP growth a year. We believe this market will continue to grow and we´ll be hearing about great companies that are being built in the ASEAN region.  

What are the current trends in international recruiting?  

I would point out four things: data-driven recruiting, social media integration, diversity and mobility.

Data-driven recruiting will definitely gain more traction in 2018. Data-driven recruitment process is a treasure trove of data that — when mined carefully — reveals important information on whether or not a candidate will be the high performing employee an organization is looking for. It’s the difference between making decisions on gut feeling and making them based on facts.

Social Media Integration is also seen as the new wave of recruitment. Job opportunities are popping up on platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and even Instagram. Because that’s where the eyeballs are, thus you automatically have a receptive audience for your job posts.

In LinkedIn’s study for the top Global Recruiting Trends of 2017, hiring more diverse candidates topped the charts as the key trend for the future. It got the majority of 37% out of 4 other rubrics under trends in international recruitment, such as Innovative interview tools, Big data, and even Soft skills assessments.

The mobility of the talent is also changing and people are more connected cross-border than ever. According to William Swing, the director-general of the International Organisation of Migration we are living in the era of highest human mobility in the recorded history. Global networks have blurred the traditional nation state borders and people have become more globally connected. With the growing talent shortage especially is the tech industry the cities have to start fighting for the skilled talent and the movement of people will define the success or failure of economies.

As part of the Estonia’s rising startup ecosystem, can you share some insights into the entrepreneurial climate there?

After Estonia regained its independence after the Soviet Occupation twenty six years ago, everybody in the country had to start from the scratch. After the money reform, every adult got 150 Estonian krooni (an equivalent to ~10 euros). One had to be entrepreneurial to build a life and a country with that small of a start capital! I think there were several smart decisions that helped move the country ahead fast, and enabled a future where twenty six years later, it is one of the most technologically advanced societies in the world. A few things that led this, I believe, are: 1) Transparency in the governance; 2) Estonia was built up from the scratch using the most modern technologies; 3) Openness to the world: Estonia has been embracing foreign investment and welcoming skilled people. I have had a chance to witness the entrepreneurial spirit starting with the time when the word “startup” did not yet exist up until now, when there are, according to some statistics, more startups per capita in Estonia than in any other European country. I think the keywords are simplicity and great user experience. It took me about ten minutes online to start Jobbatical in 2014 and I did it while sitting in a cafe. Starting your own business and maintaining it is so easy, the corporate tax is 0% – there are no excuses in Estonia not to become an entrepreneur!

What is the road ahead for Jobbatical?

With Jobbatical we want to become the one-stop platform for working/hiring cross border. I want to see millions of people finding teams they want to join abroad and working where they are happy, instead of working where they were accidentally born. And on the other hand, I want any place with a great team to have a chance to build a global company – be it Penang Island in Malaysia or Tallinn, Estonia.

EU-Startups recently named you as one of the 50 most influential women in Europe’s startup and venture capital space. What would be your advice for women entrepreneurs?

Building a vision is a bit like rock climbing. The main thing is not to look down since you may get dizzy. Just move forward, keep solving a challenge at a time and don’t look down. Otherwise it may get overwhelming. On each of our personal journeys there’ll be successes and failures. And whether we succeed or fail, it’s because we are human and not because we are girls. Don’t ever let anyone tell you otherwise.

Bojana Trajkovska
Bojana Trajkovska
Bojana is a startup enthusiast from the Balkan region. Currently exploring the entrepreneurial community in Italy. Passionate reader and traveller.

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