Tyba | Interview with its co-founder & Managing Director – Eiso Kant
In Madrid, we met the Co-founder and Managing Director of Tyba – Eiso Kant. Tyba is an online platform that gives businesses access to its junior talent database using cloud-based recruiting tools.
Eiso told us about the business model of Tyba, about their corporate strategy, the development of the recruiting market, as well as his advices for other entrepreneurs.
The transcript of the interview is provided below.
Martin: Today we are in Madrid at Tyba. Eiso, who are you and what do you do?
Eiso: Hi. My name is Eiso Kant and I’m the Managing Director here at Tyba. And my day-to-day responsibilities vary, but our main goal is to fix junior recruitment here. That’s what the whole company works towards.
Martin: What did you do before you started this company?
Eiso: So before I started this company, we actually started it while studying together with 3 co-founders, myself from the Netherlands, Jorge is half Spanish half German, and Philip from Germany. And so, we actually started this while studying but however before studying, I was personally involved in several other startup projects.
Martin: Okay. Can you tell us a little bit about your entrepreneurial journey?
Eiso: So my entrepreneurial journey started relatively early. When I was 14, I was in an international school in the Netherlands and we were given this project for about 5 months, where you’re allowed to do pretty much whatever you wanted, as long as you did a write up on it.
We had a family friend who is shutting down a store, which had over 15,000 pieces of classic prints, art. In 1920th century lithographies. And I was always a bit of a pure geek and I said, can I settle these things for you online. So it’s such a shame that the store was going offline.
Well, offline offline. And then, I started learning a bit how to program, learn a bit how to design, use Photoshop and about 5 months later after taking pictures of all of these 15,000 friends, launching it all in store. I learned a big lesson, is that build it and they will come does not apply on the online.
But that actually worked out, and several months later, the whole inventory was sold. And that was my first experience in, I didn’t even know the word startup back then, but into having a little internet company. And since then I’ve been involved in different projects.
Later on, I expanded a little bit, working as a freelancer, primarily as a programmer but also as a design freelancer. No one here really knows it, I think. Designs weren’t too good.
And moving forward into that, I worked a lot in the online publishing sphere. So actually, having it one moment network with over 1,000 sites that had writers working for it and continuously publishing content and making money in the old days of Google AdSense. It’s not that lucrative anymore, but it used to be.
That moved into several other projects. A project which was put around the company working for retails here in Germany, where we published a lot of the medical content online and later on after finishing my high school, a startup called Twollars, where we raised money for charities through Twitter. We were the first company to do so and we worked with many big brands and we had a lot of exposure at that time, it was a great experience. And I found myself in between Europe and San Francisco.
TYBA BUSINESS MODEL
Martin: Let’s talk about Tyba’s business model. Can you briefly explain what you exactly do?
Eiso: So, Tyba exists to make it easy for companies to hire the right junior talent, so interns, but also people up to 4 -5 years of work experience. And at the same time, we exist to make it much easier for that talent to find the opportunity, the job, and the place that they love to be at. So our mission is to fix the junior recruitment.
In terms of business model and how that works, we’re completely free for the talent side and we actually will always be. From the company side, at the moment they choose, to actually want to interview candidates and then also hire them, that’s where we charged them.
Today we have a very strong focus on what we internally call sexy fast growing companies, so startups are a very big part of that. And we’re growing now across Europe and have been at most major hubs in Europe already, where we actually go and visit all of these companies and profile them on a new platform that’s launching actually next month.
Martin: And how do you improve this matching between the people looking for a job and the sexy fast growing startups?
Eiso: So one of the things that we do here is that, we’re very much a technology company. Can’t see it, but behind us is a large engineering team.
Martin: Yes, that’s right.
Eiso: And we have a very regular selection process of how we hire. And what we look at why we’re such a technology oriented company is that, we believe in the data that young people give us. Information if you allow in my platform, place they’ve studied, interests, books they’ve read, museums they’ve visited, lot’s and lot’s of what we internally call data points. At the same time we learn from the companies, a very structured data about who they’re looking for. Just essentially taking a job requirement and turning that into a more structured information.
What we then do is, we have different algorithms, we have what we internally call a recommendation engine, which is similar to how today when you rate a movie on IMDb or you’re looking at Flix for suggestion movies. That technology is called recommendation engines, we apply that to matching. And at the same time, we do matching on what we internally call a semantic level. So one of the things, you’re a young person, you graduated from, did you study business?
Eiso: So you study business. And one of the things you might know that there’s about 50 different ways to name a business degree. Business Administration, International Business, Management, and it goes on and on. So they are all synonyms. At the same time those things that are related to business, which essentially International Marketing, Sales, all of these things. So we do is, we take all those terms and we internally call a mapping.
One of the things is that what we can do is, we have a recommendation engine that works across hundreds and hundreds of different areas to do the matching. But we also have all this very structured data that allows us to know when a young person tells us what they studied or what their interested in, or where they worked, we know much more about it.
So there’s a lot of technical things, among them is too much details, this is essentially the high level overview of how we do our matching. And we continuously working on improving that.
Martin: How do you acquire the individuals using your platform?
Eiso: So the biggest growth is word of mouth. At the end of the day, if you think about it, you get someone a job. I mean, they’re going to tell their friends. And that’s essentially the fundamental part of our business. There are obviously other channels from the entering to new markets, sometimes it’s paid acquisition. At the same time we have a fantastic network of student ambassadors across Europe. There are currently 120 and they cover means the top schools spread all over Europe from the Copenhagen Business School to Munich, to Berlin, everywhere, I mean in Spain as well.
And then there’s the fourth channel, is that we have partnerships with universities. So today actually we have partnerships with schools such as LSE, Kings College, I can spell many more fancy names. Essentially what that means is that, when we have interesting opportunities that match what we know that students are interested in, they publicize it towards their talent.
Martin: For free?
Eiso: For free. And we have this, I mean with growing partnerships in many countries right now. In the moment many partnerships are being closed in Germany.
Martin: Okay. Interesting. Is there some kind of a built-in virality in your product as well?
Eiso: So this concept of viral loops and growth hacking, you know, you sent free invites to your cousins and what not and. We’ve played a lot around with that. And we had some initial traction actually around doing that. But we realized that fundamentally, it wasn’t serving our mission. So what we actually said is, guys, when we do our job right, when we get people into jobs, we see that there’s growth. When we see that we can give people real opportunities and do better than the status quo, which today are shitty job sites. And so we actually don’t focus that much anymore, especially in the new platform that’s launching on send invites to here, especially many of these sites who try to trick people into doing it.
Virality works in my opinion, how we look at it, when there’s something inherently viral to your product. A chat system like WhatsApp, where you know you can not exist without writing with other people has some inherent virality. Tagging people in pictures because you want to notify other people about these things. But still finding your job is quite a personal thing. And so, there might be some things that we’d figure out in the future, but we haven’t yet today.
Martin: Okay. Interesting.
Martin: Regarding the corporate strategy of you, what do you think are the most important drivers in order to become a very successful company?
Eiso: So corporate strategy, it’s a totally overused word and it’s quite a fancy word as well. We look at essentially 3 different things.
We look at:
- what’s the next 18 months for us,
- what’s the next 3 years, and
- where do we want to be in 5 years. And when we get to 5 years, it’s not strategy, it’s vision. Our vision is to be the number player globally in junior recruitment.
So this is where we want to get to.
How we look at kind of the short and medium term, in terms of strategy, is that it’s driven by a few things.
- It’s driven by the basic metric of getting people placed into jobs.
- At the same time, our strategy heavily focused on deciding where to go geographically and where to go in what verticals.
So, geographic expansion for us is when we want to own a continent, essentially, or part of the continent. So right now, between now and the end of the year, we’re heavily expanding in Europe, we’ve been at most European cities, yet I think we’re still missing Paris, which is happening in a few weeks. By the time this is published, we’ll be there as well. At the same time we are starting in South East Asia. We have already been placing some people in jobs, those not our main market focus, in Mexico and Colombia.
So we’re seeing, for us the opportunity is global. Everywhere you go to, companies are hiring young people. There are some cultural differences, and we can talk a little more about this in a bit. But overall, fundamentally, people graduating, people wanting to leave jobs, and going into new ones, happen everywhere.
And yes, there is an economic cycle, some countries that are booming and hence it’s faster to grow. However even here in Spain today, we see that companies struggle to hire young people. And this country has 50% youth unemployment. So it’s not so much the fact that talent availability, it’s often a problem of matching, of actually search.
So can a company actually reach the young people that it’ looking for? Of course Google can reach anyone it’s looking for. But if you’re a startup with 50 people and actually no one really knows who you are, it’s not as easy sometimes to actually go get the talent on board.
So it’s a 2-sided problem. It’s a problem of being able to actually reach the talent and after you reached them, to actually do the matching part. And we focus on both areas.
Martin: Eiso, you have made a very good bridge to market development. I would like to understand how the market for recruiting differs in between the European countries and how the development over the last years has been happening?
Eiso: So, there are a few things that’s interesting to note.
And the first thing is, the trends on the talent side. So one of the things where and maybe you remember this from when you’re graduating is that, everyone maybe you’re a bit too young, wanted to go into consulting and investment banking. And that’s essentially, you know, any graduates in class 6 – 7 years ago, you know, a Bachelor in Business from any of the schools or Masters or MBAs, it’s investment banking consulting. I’m talking about business talent now, which is essentially social science is the big growth of all graduating talent in Europe, with engineering and sciences being next.
Today that’s starting to differ and Germany is a very good example, Berlin is a very good example of this as well, for the good and for the bad. That all of the sudden, there’s 3 options for business student graduate. And not just for business students by the way, it’s for engineering and other sciences as well, is that it’s no longer just about the traditional corporate brands, the Goldman Sachs, the PWC, Accenture, the Lloyd, all of the names that we can round off. But startups have become a real possibility. And people are excited about them. And this is a trend we see in Europe, it’s a trend we see in the US, it’s a trend that has not yet to happening in Asia or South America or the Middle East.
And in Europe and the US, it’s fundamentally built on 2 things. It’s built on the fact that we’re a generation that’s been told to be happy. And it’s a generation that’s starting to realize that when they’re talking to their friends or people a little bit older about what is it like to work at Goldman Sachs, what is it like to work at Booz & company, I was for a little while at Booz & company. “Well guys, I never leave the Oxford at 2 am, I never have weekends, I shouted out a lot”… I mean it goes on and on and on and on. So people have become a little bit more spoiled in a good way and sometimes in a bit between the 2 extremes. And so, and this build up on everything that we’ve seen from the Steve Jobs’ speech given at Stanford, that’s had a big impact on this generation, to Mark Zuckerberg coming and being a role model and there’s a lot of things that you can add on to this to say why we get to this point. And the fact there are many children today from divorced homes.
So this word “happiness” and wanting to be happy not just in your life but also in your career, matters to them. And startups are great outlet for that, because they allow people to focus on the things they care about most in their first years of their job. And it’s not money. It was money if maybe 2 decades ago, it’s still money today in several more developing economies.
But actually purpose, masteries to being able to get better and like learning in your skill, all of these things, the team that we get to work with are much more important factors today for young people to decide where they want to work and the exact dollar you’re amounting on their paycheck. So this is a little bit about the trend on the talent side.
On the company side, we’re seeing several trends as well. Corporate companies are starting to realize, that these things are happening. And they’re trying to adapt. Not all of them yet, and many aren’t yet but we’re seeing more and more great companies starting to realize that talent today is not there to stay for the next 20 years. And they are starting accept it and sometime being okay with it. I’ve seen the examples, I’m not going to name the exact companies, but it’s the big large multinational companies that say, “We want you to be here one or 2 years and then we want you to leave our company. We want you to work abroad in another company and we love to have you back 3 years later. Or we want and go develop you, we want to actually…” Because they realize they can’t no longer retain someone for 20 years in the same company, because that’s not the reality of us anymore.
And this is one major trend that we starting to see happen. At the same time, we see a bigger growing volume of startups happening in Europe, and the US and hence being an actual labor market. There is a significant volume today that can actually be considered a real labor market. There’s some EU report that just came out trying to estimate the size and you know millions of jobs being created through some of these new companies. So this is another thing where we see that, you know, startups take, there’s a new company that’s being founded doesn’t have legacy, so they take a look around and say what are the best practices in recruiting, in HR, in managing people, in policy, all of these things and they’re implementing those. So it means that a lot of the legacy staff of existing corporate companies, the strictness about hours or about a holiday policy or things like this, it is starting to changing at startups because they’re their taking and this doesn’t work in the past, this is what’s applicable to today’s youth.
And then what we see, the funny thing is that the big companies then copy from the startups again and that’s quite an interesting side.
Martin: Okay. In terms of the difference between the recruiting markets, between for example in Europe between Germany and around. Can you tell us about that?
Eiso: So there are a few things that we see. Obviously there are companies in Europe that are doing better than others. So we have to start an economy that are, Spain actually starting to kick up and strengthen quite a bit now at the moment. We’ve been through to peak of the recession here now since about last month. It’s in the US and other places.
But there is still high youth unemployment, in Spain, Italy, Greece, Ireland as well. And we see that there are talent flows happening from these countries to Northern European countries where there are huge demands for especially engineering talent. This is usually only limited by language. So in countries where English or German in our case, is not as well taught, or not as well spread, we see some of the barriers of those flows. But the willingness of the talent is huge. People are starting to move more inside Europe because they have to.
So some of them are very interesting. We do see that there’s many countries that people return to after a few years, it’s pretty hard to live in Spain and to go to Germany and be under grey sky most of the year and then actually decided for 2 – 3 years you want to stay for the rest of your life.
So we do actually in reality see that these things bring people back to their countries. So some of them maybe will say yes there’s a lot of outflow, and there’s people coming. Actually, there’s as much as people coming back at a time period as they’re leaving. And it might not become purely reflected in the immigration, immigration numbers yet. But we see this already happening and we’ll see that as the economy strengthens in the Southern countries again, we expect a lot of young people to return to their homes.
ADVICE TO ENTREPRENEURS FROM EISO KANT
Martin: Eiso, we always try to help our first time entrepreneurs with some advice from other entrepreneurs. And I think you have one or two very interesting learnings that you would like to share with our readers?
Eiso: So, I have no idea… Actually, the first thing I’m going to tell you is that, any piece of advice anyone is going to give you, might work for you, might work for me, but it might not work someone else. And that’s one of the main things that we’ve learnt is that, yes you can gather advice from people and you should always, you know, what we do actually here is we start with reading blogs and books, with extra talking to experts, our advisors and then actually come up with a summarized conclusion.
But one of the things that we’ve learnt is that, the experience that has helped our company, might actually not help another company. But the way we approached actually by looking at gathering advice and going through systematically through these kind of steps, has help us a tremendous amount. I’m able to sit here and the whole company able to exist on the shoulders of many fantastic people who have helped us over the last years. That’s a bit of a general advice about advice and how useful that is.
But, some more concrete pieces of advice, we believe that people in your company are everything. We believe that the number one asset for any startup is not its app or its money in the bank, it’s actually people that sit there.
As a startup you’re trying to disrupt, in most cases, the existing industry or you’re trying to change something that’s the status quo, or trying to introduce something new. And you have to move faster than everyone else. You have to do it better. And that only works if you have the right people in your company.
How we do our recruitment here, is that we focus it on essentially two main areas. We don’t care so much about the formal education that you’ve had or your age or where you’re from or even the language that you speak as long as we can communicate together. We care about the fact that you have a high willingness and the ability to always be learning. And that’s incredibly important for us. Because as you come into a startup, it’s a dynamic environment, there’s a lot of things always changing, a lot of new projects coming up, your role might even change over time, and we need people there who can consistently actually keep on getting better at their jobs.
So these is a little bit very concrete in terms of how we, we’re a recruitment company, who genuinely believes that recruiting is actually the pillar of our success.
And then, a little bit of cliché advice, you can’t see it but I’m actually reading it from the wall behind. It says, “It’s really hard to beat the team that never gives up.” And actually someone in my company brought this the other page in our About page, and when Chuck was writing this, he said, this is exactly what defines what we’ve been doing for the last 3 years with this company. A relentless and continuous focus on having a mission and wanting to succeed at that mission and being able to tackle whatever comes at you. You’ll probably heard this in the word of emotional roller coaster a lot, where in the morning, you know you think, you’re on top of the world with your company but in the evening you think the whole thing is about to fall apart because a deal fell through in between. Managed that roller coaster. Get enough sleep, be able to and know the fact that you’re in a roller coaster because there’s always ups and there’s always downs. With a little bit of luck, you’re going to get to the finish line.
Martin: Thank you very much, Eiso. And one quick thing, especially with the Tyba – Entrepreneurial Insights relation would be, if some when in the future you want to start a company, a quick start would be just using Tyba to get into a startup company, learn some skills and then continue reading Entrepreneurial Insights and then you have all that you need for starting a great company.
Eiso: I couldn’t agree more.
Martin: Thank you very much.
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