November 11, 2015

We Know Startups: HitFox

We Know Startups: HitFox

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 tell people what it’s like to work at a startup.

HitFox's sofas are colourful, its walls are painted with cartoon graffiti, and floor-to-ceiling windows fill the open-plan office with light. So far, so startup. But in my conversation with Katrin Müller, Team Lead People & Organization, and Lukas Jaworski, Director of Communications, it soon becomes clear that HitFox is about much more than following a template.

So what does HitFox do?

Katrin gives me the simplest answer: “HitFox is a company builder that builds company builders.”Lukas adds: “To understand it you need to understand what HitFox is. It's a story of three friends.” He is referring to HitFox's founders, Jan Beckers and Tim Koschella, and Hendrik Krawinkel.HitFox started in game distribution, before pivoting to game advertising and then becoming a company builder a year after founding. Companies from the HitFox stable now include ad2games, AppLift, Zeotap and fintech company builder FinLeap. Now the Hitfox Group has more than 15 companies operating in over 120 markets and employs more than 500 people.

What makes HitFox a unique place to work and why should candidates apply to you?

Both Lukas and Katrin are evangelical about their company.“We built a great ecosystem, with on one hand experts and, on the other hand, an entrepreneurial environment where people can learn,” says Katrin, emphasising that HitFox is a place to “exchange and gain knowledge from industry experts.”Lukas also thinks this is a key differentiator, saying: “In other startups you don't have it in that ratio. We really focus on and target industry experts that people can learn from.”

“It's a place driven by the full freedom to try out everything.”

Throughout our conversation, learning and personal growth are topics that keep coming up and are obviously integral at HitFox. Lukas defines the company culture by saying: “It's a place driven by the full freedom to try out everything.”

“You always get the advice you need.”

Katrin also tells me: “You always get the advice you need”, which means that people can experiment without making any drastic mistakes.Lukas points out that Hitfox's tagline is “Growing companies and people” and tells me that focus on development really comes from the top, saying: “Jan Beckers is focused on people and growing them.”“He has a really great feeling for people and their potential,” adds Katrin. “Jan knows how to empower and enable people.” She explains that this focus has spread throughout the company. They want people to try things out and learn from that experience.“If you hire great people, don't tell them what to do – give them space to get their shit done,” says Lukas.

How do you think recruiting for a startup is different to recruiting for other companies?

Katrin used to work at a steelworks company, so she is able to offer a direct comparison, saying it's “completely different.”

"What is important in the startup environment is that you catch the potential.”

In a corporate environment, she says, recruitment is “very standardised and not individual. And what is important in the startup environment is that you catch the potential.”She stresses again how important potential is for startups in general and for HitFox in particular. At HitFox, Katrin says, they focus not on “What have they done?” but “What can they do?” when looking at applications.“We don't hire someone if we can't imagine them in a higher role,” she says.

What is the one characteristic you think is vital for working in a startup environment?

“The most important characteristic is passion. It's a lot of work, it's hard work, sometimes it's pressure. So, passion and potential is a major focus,” says Katrin, reiterating her earlier emphasis. “And dedication, I would also add.”

"Passion and potential is a major focus."

For Lukas, these characteristics are inseparable. “If you see passion and potential, you are going to end up with dedication,” he says.

“This company's DNA is passion.”

Katrin agrees: “This is how the company grew that big and became that successful. Jan is a great magnet for talent. Since he became so famous for his passion, people want to work with him.”“This company's DNA is passion,” says Lukas.

Can you tell us a little bit about your application process?

“Usually we get a lot of applications every month,” says Katrin. “Approximately a thousand. We have to filter quite a lot.” She also tells me that they don't only consider applicants for the role they applied for but consider whether there are other open positions that could be a good fit.

After initial Skype or phone interviews and depending on the role, candidates may be given psychometric tests or a case study to work on.Katrin tells me that these are not the primary factor in the hiring process, though, recognising that candidates may not show their best in these scenarios. “It's an unnatural situation and you are nervous,” she says.

Rather they are a way to get an insight into how applicants think. “We try to put them in the HitFox glasses,” says Lukas. He says that the hiring process isn't standardised but is developed internally for different positions.While a selection process with tests and multiple interviews may seem excessive to some job seekers, Lukas has a different take on things. “Some people say, ‘I had to speak to nine people. What a pain in the ass.’ Is it a pain in the ass or is it a chance to meet the people you will work with?”

Culture fit is important to consider for both the employer and the candidate, he points out. For him, a person may be talented but can't display that talent if they don't get on with those around them.

Why is Berlin the place to be?

“I just love Berlin,” Katrin is quick to tell me, explaining that she came to the city to study and planned to go abroad afterwards but ended up staying. “Berlin just keeps you here,” she says.

"Berlin is a great magnet for talent.”

“It doesn't just keep people. It also attracts people. Berlin is a great magnet for talent.”Lukas agrees, saying: “If you look for talent from all over the world, you should have your office in Berlin. They love to come here. It's way easier to convince someone from San Francisco to work with us in Berlin than anywhere else.”

He thinks the atmosphere of freedom in the city is important, too, saying: “A huge part of innovation comes with freedom. If you don't have freedom of mind, you won't innovate.”

"Great atmosphere where freedom and passion is visible in the streets.”

“It's something HitFox depends on. This great atmosphere where freedom and passion is visible in the streets.

”While Berlin is also known for its relatively cheap cost of living, Lukas rejects this as a reason for it attracting so much talent, saying: “If you want to live cheaply go to Brandenburg [the German state surrounding Berlin]. That's not what makes Berlin, Berlin. It's the inspiration and not the poverty that makes the difference.”

If you liked this peek inside HitFox, 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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