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Zenjob set out to improve the future of work with technology – Interview with Zenjob founder & CEO Fritz Trott

The Zenjob founders believe you should be able to do a job that you like and that at the same time allows you to fund your life as a student. Founded in 2015 and headquartered in Berlin, Zenjob offers students jobs in real-time through an app and provides companies with a platform that manages their staffing needs.

Today, already more than 8,000 students fund their studies through Zenjob and over 1,100 companies trust the platform with providing great talent. Zenjob already raised over €8 million in venture capital by investors like Acton Capital, Redalpine and Atlantic Labs. The company’s team currently consists of more than 160 employees. To learn more about the company’s growth path and future plans, we sat down with the co-founder and CEO Fritz Trott, the guy in the middle of the picture above, for a little interview. Here it is:

What is Zenjob and how was your entrepreneurial journey so far?

Zenjob is an on-demand staffing platform. We support companies in different sectors such as logistics, events, concerts, retail and the hotel industry with temporary student employees at short notice. For companies, we want to solve the most pressing problems around short-term staffing. For our talents (this is how we call the students), we offer a flexible working model and an easy way to find a short-term job. In our daily business, we focus on digitizing the entire process for both sides, companies and talents. At this point in time, Zenjob has over 160 employees and more than 1,100 paying customers.

We started with the vision to build a software that enables people to have control of their work life. Since day one, the journey has been very exciting, a true rollercoaster ride. We had everything from highs to lows but we take the rough with the smooth: lowest lows like close to shutting down and highest highs like releasing a software that allows staffing to be 25x faster and more efficient compared to other competitors.

What were the main stumbling blocks for Zenjob in the first 2 years and how did you overcome them?

The staffing and HR industry was a new field for us. Cihan comes from a tech engineering background, Frederik from legal and I from growth. We started the company as if it were an e-commerce or food delivery platform. At the beginning, things did not work out at all. This business is ultra-local. It is about a lot of contracts, about payrolling and about human resources. We had to learn this the hard way. It was a lot of work until we got to finally using digital contracts, implementing e-signature for job contracts and finding a scalable way of staffing 500 people within 5 hours. The second stumbling block was that the industry we encountered, was still stuck in the stone age. The industry is ruled by old dinosaurs. In the past, we lost customers because they could only fax. Today, customers enjoy working with us, because we enable them to use new technologies. And they realize that using a web-based app is much simpler and more efficient.

Last month Zenjob staffed over 10,000 student jobs. Why does the platform resonate so well with students and through which marketing channels do you reach them best?

The young generation has different demands on the labor market than older generations did. They primarily want to live freely and self-determinedly. Our talents want a flexible working environment, which is compatible not only with their lecture schedule but also their individual needs. The trend towards greater individuality and flexibility is a strong impulse within the young generation, which impacts on society and the labor market. Our business model offers just the kind of flexibility, which they are looking for: They decide autonomously when, where and how often they work. This gives them the freedom in life which they are looking for.

Our talents refer a lot of their friends to us after their positive experience with Zenjob. Our “refer-a-friend” campaign is one of the best campaigns we run. We also reach our talents through other digital marketing channels such as search and social media. In addition, we do a lot of on-campus activity such as distributing flyers and posters, student promotions, campus brand ambassadors and Zenjob booths.

What is Zenjob’s unique value proposition and what sets it apart from its competitors?

Many of our clients originally came to us because temporary employment agencies often take weeks to supply staff. Using automated technologies, we usually find personnel within 24 hours and are therefore much faster.

We also want to offer our clients and talents a unique experience through new products. Staff bookings are not only supposed to be fast, but also simple and intuitive. Many companies still go with an inflexible and complex paper solution, even though an automated solution is much more efficient. The workflow for our customers and talents has been automated in many points already: our customers can request staff with just a few clicks. Algorithms subsequently match the job candidates. They receive suitable jobs on their smartphones shortly afterwards. They can confirm the job with just one click in the app. After confirming, the work-contract can be signed electronically by entering a SMS Mobile Tan. Our goal for the end of 2018 is to have a fully automated workflow throughout.

Who are your customers and in which industries is the demand particularly high?

We see the highest demand in the retail sector. International fashion chains and Germany-wide supermarket chains have high staffing levels. Logistics companies, event organizers and first-class hotels also often request personnel. We also see new jobs being created all the time. For a tech-startup, we find talents who drive through inner cities in a car, in order to register free parking spaces with the help of sensors. Other talents work in a 3D-manufactory.

What’s your take on AI and robots? Will “simple” jobs soon be replaced by machines?

It will be a long time, before simple jobs can be taken over by robots completely. Human qualities cannot just be taken over and replaced tomorrow. New technologies will also create many new jobs, which we cannot foresee today.

One of our mid-term goals is to be able to predict personnel-requirements at a particular time and place through data-based learning processes. In the future, we not only want to find staff, but also to be able to predict, how much personnel our customers will need for example in the next week. Also AI will take on a very important role in HR and personnel management. In recruiting, this will mean finding the perfect “fit”. AI-software can do what people can’t: the evaluation of large quantities of information on personality and skills in respect to the relevant job requirements. The automated matching of candidate and job will be further optimized with the help of AI-software.

Your vision is to “humanize” the work through technology and flexibility. What will the job market look like in 10 years?

The famous Mary Meeker (American venture capitalist) has shown in her Internet Trend Report 2018, that on-demand jobs have the largest growth rate on the US-labor market. This can be explained on the one hand with the high demand for greater flexibility in working life. On the other hand by the technological development of job-platforms. The success of companies such as Uber, Airbnb or Deliveroo shows that on-demand business work on the European job market too.

“Humanization of the job-market” means that the individual needs of people are placed in the center of the modern labor-market. The job-market is changing from one which favors employers towards one which favors employees. Flexibility will be the key for companies to hold employees. More autonomy and the freedom to choose working hours and workplace according to individual needs will increase job-satisfaction, motivation and productivity of the employees. New technological solutions can enable different kinds of flexibility (i.e. flexible work hours, remote office) and solve problems of the past.

Zenjob increased its revenue by 1,000% compared to the previous year. Are there any plans to expand outside of Germany?

In the next few years, we want to be active in 10 more cities. Then we want to go across Europe.

Do you want to open your business model for target groups other than students?

New digital products and technologies, the trend towards an on-demand economy and changing needs of the young generation Z are changing our labor market. Our goal is to break up the inflexible structures of today’s working hours. We have already paved the way towards a new kind of work with a working model which offers freedom and flexibility. In the next five years, there will still be traditional employment relationships, but for those who want to live freely and self-determinedly, Zenjob will be the first choice.

Editor’s Note: For an overview regarding exciting startup jobs, make sure to check out the EU-Startups Job Board.

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Thomas Ohr
Thomas Ohr
Thomas Ohr is the "Editor in Chief" of EU-Startups.com and started the blog in October 2010. He is excited about Europe's future, passionate about new business ideas and lives in Barcelona (Spain).

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