Startups have a very particular atmosphere and working at one is entirely unlike working anywhere else. Because of what we do, we come into contact with a lot of exciting, fresh companies. To give job seekers a better insight we thought we’d showcase some of our favourites and show what it’s like to work at a startup.
To kick off this series of articles, I visited Kiveda, took a look around their offices and chatted to Richard Ruben, Head of Product & Marketing. Kiveda’s office used to be a cinema, although you wouldn’t guess that now. The first thing you see when you walk in is a big, shiny kitchen, which makes sense at the office of Europe’s leading online kitchen retailer. Moving further inside, there are shelves of sample worktops in all kinds of colours.
“White is always the most popular. That won’t change,” says Richard when I ask about them on our quick tour. He shows me where various teams sit and the equipment they use for live video chats with customers, before we sit down on a sofa. It’s a startup, so of course there are sofas. This one is green.
So what does Kiveda do?
“Our whole approach is different.”
Kiveda sells kitchens. When I ask Richard what marks Kiveda out from other retailers in the same space, he tells me “Our whole approach is different.”
There is a whole planning process which takes place on- and offline when a customer buys a kitchen. The first step is making an appointment to talk to an advisor for a video chat. When the chat is scheduled, the customer sends detailed information to Kiveda (such as measurements, floor plans and preferences), so that the advisor can prepare two or three proposals before the video chat and have them ready to show the customer. Then, it usually takes an hour or two to nail down the details.
Once the kitchen has been chosen, Kiveda sends someone to the customer’s home to laser measure the room and make sure there are no mistakes. Kiveda’s is a full-package service, so not only is that service free but delivery and installation are also included. It’s a convenient, efficient process with an affordable price point.
What makes Kiveda a unique place to work and why should candidates apply to you?
“It’s super fast-moving.”
“It’s super fast-moving,” says Richard and, to illustrate his point, he tells me the company has already altered its focus three times in its two-and-a-half-year history. In the beginning, it was a straight e-commerce play, then there was a switch to direct sales with representatives out in cars doing face-to-face meetings, lastly they hit on the current online planning method.
“A lot of people here made their own paths.”
He tells me that Kiveda’s 46 employees have to know how to constantly adjust, which is part of both the challenge and the fun, adding: “What is interesting here is that a lot of people here made their own paths.” For example, Kiveda’s Head of Retail started off in logistics but had some great ideas and made the jump, which was something the company encouraged him to do.
“People have the chance to rise quickly or do something else completely.”
With such a fast-moving environment, he says, “people have the chance to rise quickly or do something else completely. It’s a super interesting workplace but you have responsibilities from day one.”
Kiveda is also growing quickly. Last December, it acquired KüchenQuelle, a 36-year-old Nuremberg-based kitchen retailer. As an older company, KüchenQuelle already had an established customer base. That’s great for Kiveda; Richard explains “With the two brands we can reach different markets.”
The company also reached a deal with electronics retailer Saturn to open a series of concession stores. So far there are six of these shops-within-a-shop, with the biggest at Berlin’s Alexanderplatz.
Kiveda also has some serious experience to back up this rapid growth. CEO Michael Börnicke is, in Richard’s words, “quite an established figure for a startup.” That’s putting it mildly. His impressive CV includes stints as Commercial Director of German TV network ProSieben, CEO of Premiere AG and CFO of Escada SE.
How do you think recruiting for a startup is different to recruiting for other companies?
“You have to find people that are self-driven.”
“We have such a small team. You really have to find the perfect fit. You interview more intensely. You have to find people that are self-driven,” says Richard.
What is the one characteristic you think is vital for working in a startup environment?
“I’d rather get a driven person with no experience than the other way around.”
Richard hits on the same word. “I would say probably driven is the most important. I think most other things can be learned. I’d rather get a driven person with no experience than the other way around,” he says.
He goes on to explain how there isn’t time for lengthy onboarding in a startup. People have to hit the ground running and that takes motivation.
Can you tell us a little bit about your application process and how Taledo has helped that?
“I try to prepare a lot of questions that go a bit deeper.”
Richard says that he likes to speak to a few candidates thoroughly, rather than vice versa. He also thinks that an interview which essentially runs through a candidate’s CV, as might be expected in a corporate environment, isn’t the best way to find real talent.
“I try to prepare a lot of questions that go a bit deeper,” he says. “Some of them are things you usually learn after a couple of years.” He doesn’t expect candidates to always know the answers but he wants to see how they react and how they think.
He also always makes sure to have a second person in the interview: “The assessment of a second person is really important because you might miss something or misjudge.”
“In a startup, time is always an important factor.”
Of course, I ask him about using Taledo in his recruitment. He tells me: “The biggest advantage is that you can look at a lot of candidates immediately [rather than writing an ad and waiting for it to be approved]. In a startup, time is always an important factor.”
“You are also quite sure people want to work at a startup. We used to do our job ads on Stepstone and we had some pretty ridiculous people here.”
“When I heard about Taledo, I checked it out pretty much right away,” he says.
“Quite a lot of people had interesting CVs and there wasn’t a lot that was misleading or not useful,” he continues, “but what is really useful is seeing the level of position they are looking for.”
Out of the three or four people he contacted, Erika stood out. Richard offered her a job straight afterwards. He tells me: “We were looking for a little bit more experience but had a really good feeling about her and felt that would surpass whatever advantage someone else may have.”
Why is Berlin the place to be, both for Kiveda and on a personal level?
Richard grew up in Berlin, actually in Prenzlauerberg, the same area where Kiveda’s office is located, so it’s no surprise that he’s a pretty big fan of the city.
“I can’t imagine living somewhere else. It’s vibrant and fast-moving.”
“I can’t imagine living somewhere else. It’s big and, at the same time, not too big. It’s vibrant and fast-moving. When I think about how it was when I was growing up… It’s so much more cosmopolitan now,” he says.
“Most of our partners and startups we work with can just drop by.”
It’s also a great place for Kiveda and the rest of its employees, he says. “One part that’s really good is most of our partners and startups we work with can just drop by. So, the density of startups is an advantage.” He also mentions the vast choice of restaurants nearby, contrasting it to KüchenQuelle’s office in Nuremberg, which has to have its own canteen due to the lack of options in the area.
If you liked this peek inside Kiveda, watch out for other articles in our We Know Startups series.
If you are a startup and are interested in being featured in our We Know Startups series, drop us a line on [email protected]. We’d love to hear from you.
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