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.
This time, I spoke to Sebastian Block, Marketing Manager, and Liwei Zhao, HR Manager, from OptioPay. The company’s office is in the heart of Berlin, right next to one of the few remaining portions of the Berlin Wall. These days it’s known as the East Side Gallery and is famous for its graffiti murals. The wall is a reminder of Berlin’s past, but OptioPay is definitely a part of its “Silicon Allee” future.
So what does OptioPay do?
“OptioPay offers an online payment platform for companies that make a lot of payments, allowing them to increase the value of the payments for their recipients by offering higher-value gift cards from well-known retailers as a payment method,” Sebastian tells me.
Basically, anyone being paid through the platform can choose to receive straight-up cash or gift cards. They can also choose to split the payment over different methods. The gift cards also offer a higher value. For example, a 100€ payment could be taken as a 120€ gift card. With retailers like Amazon and Zalando on the platform, it’s a pretty attractive option.
What makes OptioPay a unique place to work and why should candidates apply to you?
“OptioPay is located in Berlin, the Fintech capital and heart of the startup scene. Here, you can not only immerse yourself into startup culture but also meet and share ideas with other smart and ambitious entrepreneurs,” says Liwei. She mentions OptioPay’s frequent BBQs and after-work drinks, to which other successful startuppers are often invited. It’s a great chance to meet other people in the community and expand your network, she says.
“You work closely with the founders and acquire a sense of achievement from seeing how your every action shapes the direction of our business.”
She also talks about the potential for growth at OptioPay: “We give guidance to those people who would like to push themselves about how to take on more responsibility and gain new skills. At OptioPay, you work closely with the founders and acquire a sense of achievement from seeing how your every action shapes the direction of our business.” Liwei also mentions the office’s view of the River Spree, the iconic East Side Gallery and another Berlin landmark, the Oberbaumbrücke.
“We believe that people can produce their best results if they have fun at work and in life in general.”
Another thing she highlights is OptioPay’s very international team, in which 14 different nations are represented, saying: “If you appreciate different cultures, you will like OptioPay. And don’t forget that we provide an unlimited supply of drinks, breakfast, and fruits to keep you energised all day. We believe that people can produce their best results if they have fun at work and in life in general.”
How do you think recruiting for a startup is different to recruiting for other companies?
Liwei comes up with four major differences: “First is the importance of each recruitment. For large companies, tasks can be very specialised. For example, one person in the HR department can be solely responsible for preparing accommodation for employees. If the person does not perform well, the impact is limited. However, in startups, it is usual for every person to take on responsibility for various tasks. So a bad hire can have a direct influence on all aspects of the business. As a result, it is very important to ensure the quality of every hire.”
“Second,” she says, “ is the recruiting scale. Depending on the speed of growth, the scale of recruiting can vary quickly and constantly. We may only hire one person for this month and 10 people for the next. Some startups have hired 60 people in a month due to their fast growth.”
“You don’t need to do many rounds of interviews and answer similar questions to different people. We all know how it feels. That’s why we don’t do it in startups.”
She also highlights differences in the hiring process: “Unlike large companies, the recruiting process in startups is usually pretty straightforward. You don’t need to do many rounds of interviews and answer similar questions to different people. We all know how it feels. That’s why we don’t do it in startups.”
Her fourth point is about culture fit: “Besides skills and experience, we pay a lot of attention to candidates’ personalities. We are looking for people who are enthusiastic and passionate. Due to the nature of startups, people with these personalities fit into startup culture more easily and find their work here more meaningful and interesting. On the contrary, people who are used to formal procedures and routine schedules may find themselves more comfortable in large companies.”
“We are looking for people who are enthusiastic and passionate.”
What is the one characteristic you think is vital for working in a startup environment?
“In order to succeed in a startup, you need to be comfortable with pressure.”
“One of the most important characteristics for startup people is learning by doing. Because startups have such a fast-paced and dynamic environment, you will often need to take responsibility for something that you are not familiar with or something you have never done before,” Liwei says. “In order to succeed in a startup, you need to be comfortable with this kind of pressure and be able to find a way to tackle problems by yourself with limited guidance. But, at the same time, you will learn a lot and find yourself growing incredibly fast.”
Can you tell us a little bit about your application process and how StartupCVs has helped that?
“Our application process is simple, clear and quick,” Liwei tells me, before outlining how it works. “After the resume review, qualified candidates will be invited to do a phone interview. Applicants for internships usually receive an offer after a second phone interview. For full-time positions, we usually give an offer after a face-to-face interview.”
“Our application process is simple, clear and quick.”
One thing that impresses me is the way OptioPay chooses to handle unsuccessful applicants. Liwei tells me they are always notified immediately, saying: “We understand that job seekers are eager to know the results of their application. That’s why we will always inform the candidates of the process status.”
“We know that [the candidates on StartupCVs] have the enthusiasm and capability to work in a fast-paced environment.”
When I bring up StartupCVs Liwei tells me that it saves time for them by cutting out part of the screening process: “Because StartupCVs is a recruiting platform specialised in the startup area, most of the candidates using this platform have not only relatively good understanding of startups but also experience working in startups. So we know that they have the enthusiasm and capability to work in a fast-paced environment. We also find the filter tool very convenient to sort out the most suitable candidates.”
She adds: “However, the most useful function is the short summary of each candidate. It allows recruiters to have an overview about most important features of each candidate without reading the entire CV.”
Why is Berlin the place to be?
For OptioPay there are three reasons: fintech, talent and startups. Berlin has a well-developed fintech market, according to Sebastian. He tells me: “The Fintech market has grown up and is very professional now in Berlin. Many entrepreneurs here have started their second or third company. Some of them have also invested in several Fintech companies.”
He also thinks there is a superb pool of talent available in Berlin, not just from Germany but from all over the world. He tells me: “This exciting nature is also reflected in our team composition. With currently 70% international employees, our team diversity shows that Berlin is indeed a great incentive for international talent.”
“There are many well-marked networks here by which we are able to help each other and exchange opinions about risks and opportunities.”
Sebastian explains that Berlin’s status as a startup hub made it a clear choice for the company’s location: “Berlin has a very good infrastructure in terms of funding, incubators and business partners. The Berlin startup community is characterised by cohesion and cooperation. There are many well-marked networks here by which we are able to help each other and exchange opinions about risks and opportunities.”
If you liked this peek inside OptioPay, 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.
Featured Image: Flickr.com