“It’s how you respond to these situations that shows your entrepreneurial mindset”: Interview with Equalture’s co-founder Charlotte

Judith Snel/Content met Content

How do you put aside your gut feeling and introduce data into HR decisions?

Equalture is a Rotterdam-based software startup enabling growing companies to build the right team composition and secure sustainable growth. The company, which was founded in 2018, recently raised €1 million and has just launched a new product, ‘Remotely’, which assesses teams on the 8 skills proven to be crucial for remote working, including practical recommendations to improve these skills right away.

We grabbed some time to talk to Equalture’s co-founder Charlotte Melkert, who, alongside her twin sister and co-founder Fleur Melkert plus their dream team, has helped more than 250 scaleups worldwide to grow sustainably. Read on to find out about Equalture’s growth journey, the recommendations Charlotte gives to entrepreneurs going through the corona crisis and tips on keeping team spirit high while working remotely.

How did you come up with the idea for Equalture?

I started my first company together with my twin sister Fleur when I was 19, which was a recruitment agency. This company allowed us to experience recruitment practices in lots of different companies, ranging from global enterprises to SMEs, startups and all sizes in between.

What heavily surprised me back then (in 2016) was the state of mind that people were still having with regard to hiring and team building. At that time, companies heavily focused on subjective information to base “people decisions” on, such as resumes in hiring and gut feeling in team building.

Living in an era where technological developments keep impressing us every day, we thought it was a real shame that companies didn’t disrupt their People Strategy by introducing technological innovations.

So that’s what we wanted to do. Removing gut feeling and introducing data in every form of people decision making. This starts with objectively benchmarking your current team to develop skills and determine your ideal next hire profile, to making hiring decisions based on AI and neuroscience rather than an old-fashioned resume.

How have your objectives and goals changed?

Our long-term goal has always been the same: Helping companies build great teams that enable sustainable growth. We highly believe (and research has also shown) that these ‘great teams’ are characterised by the right diversity and combination of skill sets, competencies and personalities. So that was our goal from day one and still is.

In terms of objectives, we definitely made changes. Or, to phrase it correctly, we keep writing down new objectives as soon as we mark the previous ones as ‘achieved’. In 2018 it started with launching our product. And once you launch your product, all of a sudden, your main objective is not product-related anymore, but sales-related: generating €X revenue.

In September 2019, we decided to start with fundraising. Our objective was raising €1 million funding within 6 months. And we made it within those 6 months! So, we just started with our next chapter of objectives: scaling to 3 different European regions in 2020.

Your ‘end game’ (that’s how we call our long-term goal/vision) should never change, because that’s the reason why your company exists. The reason why you fell in love with your concept one day, providing you with the drive to fight for it every day. Objectives, however, should definitely change, because these depend on your growth stage.

My tip when it comes to writing down your objectives: Write down as many as you can. Every success, even the smallest one, is worth a celebration! We have a golden rule here at Equalture that we drink champagne after ‘completing a milestone’. This keeps the team spirit up!

Because of the current pandemic, many startups and scaleups have to adapt to the new reality. What did you have to change in your company and what recommendations would you give to other startup and scaleup founders?

Pivot. That’s the magic word for entrepreneurs in 2020. The coronavirus indeed heavily impacts everyone, including startups. It’s how you respond to these situations, however, that shows your entrepreneurial mindset. For 99% of startups there’s a pivot opportunity. So being able to pivot is not so much of a challenge. It’s about whether you find your own pivot opportunity and how quickly you can adapt your company. This requires a lot of creativity and MVP-thinking, but that’s what makes entrepreneurs being entrepreneurs, right?

This is what we did, for instance. Due to the coronavirus, everyone is forced to work from home now. But how to make sure that your team is ready for that in order to prevent yourself from suffering tremendously in terms of productivity? So that’s why we decided to launch ‘Remotely’. This product uses our very own neuro-assessment games to assess teams on the 8 skills that have proven to be crucial for remote working, including practical recommendations to improve these skills right away.

It took us only 3 days to come up with a strategy, product, website and sales pitch. For us, this is now the ideal product to help our current customers and also attract new customers.

During the current situation, most people are working from home. Can you share some tips on how to deal with that?

A very easy-to-implement tip that helped us extremely: Introduce a virtual coffee channel! We are now with 13 people here at Equalture, divided in three different teams: Development/Product, Sales and Customer Success. During the first two weeks of working fully remotely, we experienced that social interaction between the teams was decreasing.

And of course, team spirit is more important than ever in these uncertain times. This is why we work with Slack for internal communication and Google Hangouts for video calls.

My tip: create a video call link and a channel in Slack (or another internal communication channel) where you can pin this video call link. We call this the Coffee Channel. Now, when someone is having a coffee in the morning or a beer at the end of the day, this person can just join the coffee video call and ask if someone else wants to join as well. A super easy, yet very effective way to keep up the social spirit!