Discover the colossal impact of global thinking in our new blog series “A Global Mindset: How 7 Standout Startups Navigate International Opportunity.” In each story, we learn how promising young entrepreneurs embrace new cultures, and this in case new languages, to amplify their success.
This week we had the opportunity of interviewing Jovana Rotula, co-founder of TieTalent, an online recruitment marketplace headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland.
A polyglot who has lived in more than five countries, Jovana’s background differentiates her from many. Find out how she’s been able to apply her blended cultural experiences to benefit, not only herself, but her company.
This is part 5 of 7 of our “A Global Mindset: How 7 Standout Startups Navigate International Opportunity” series. Check out part 4 with Eran Orr of VR Health.
Tell us a bit about TieTalent.
TieTalent is an online recruitment platform that instantly matches companies with tech talents focused on IT and digital marketing. We collect our candidates with the unique combination of artificial intelligence and human expertise. Our goal is to save companies 30-50% of their recruitment fees by removing the use of hiring agencies and reducing their hiring time.
How did this idea come about, and at what point did you realize it was more than just an idea and had the potential for something greater?
The idea started when I was in university with Marc, the co-founder of TieTalent. He did an internship in recruitment and afterward got a full-time job. He was able to move up very quickly in the recruitment agency and became a senior consultant which is where he saw a need for the service. We started to discuss the idea together and looked at things that could be optimized like time and feedback.
When I graduated, I applied to tons of jobs and never received any feedback. I always asked myself, why it had to be so hard. This is where my frustration with the process came from. Eventually, I did get an offer, but at the point, Marc and I were too far invested in the idea. He left his job as a consultant and decided to learn how to code. He attended 3W Academy where he learned two years of coding in a two-month program. On my end, I took marketing courses and gained certifications, and operations to put everything into place. It was at this point that we created TieTalent.
When we started it was very different from what it is today. It was still a platform, but more operational and less technology based. We launched our first MVP last October to see whether there was an interest in our product. We went into the field and received huge interest from companies. They loved the idea of being able to reduce their recruiting costs by 30-50%.
Is there a large entrepreneur community in Switzerland?
There definitely is and it keeps growing. Unfortunately, there is not a big entrepreneurial community in HR or recruitment. Switzerland, as you can imagine, is more focused on medical and robotics. In terms of startups, things are growing a lot faster in Laussane which is about forty minutes from Geneva by train. It’s the new hub for startups and technology, and near the MassChallenge campus.
We’re actually in the process of changing our headquarters from Geneva to Laussane because of the startup community. The government there provides more resources to startups whereas Geneva is better suited for banks and NGOs.
How did you discover MassChallenge and what pushed you to apply to their Switzerland program?
When we started we’d heard about different incubator programs. We’d actually heard of YCombinator and from there started researching more about different incubator and accelerator programs around the world and what they offer. We noticed there were many in the US, but unfortunately not that many in Europe. Because we wanted to start in Switzerland, we had to stay local and that’s how we came across MassChallenge. We were super excited to learn they had a Switzerland office, which is why we applied.
We were interested in the network and thought we could benefit from being in such a community. It was also perfect for the current stage we were in. We were in the very beginning stages and working out of a small room, so coming to MassChallenge was amazing.
Since participating MassChallenge, how has your start-up changed or developed?
Before we were a baby, now we are a kid. At that point, all we had was an idea that we were developing. Joining MassChallenge nudged us into this community of entrepreneurs. We were able to meet higher-ups from companies and potential clients. Since then we’ve got our first paying client and have gained revenue.
The mentors we met were also incredible. Two of them are now our advisors and with them, we’ve started establishing a structure within our company including a board. We are also in the process of becoming a corporation.
Can you speak about your experiences as a female entrepreneur?
It’s funny I get asked this question a lot. I think there’s a trend going on because I get asked this by everyone including clients, my family, friends, and other interviewers. Unfortunately, I don’t have the answer that everyone expects. I haven’t had any bad experiences, maybe it’s because I have an amazing male confounder by my side or maybe it’s because I have a very strong personality myself, so I don’t let anyone get in my way.
In general, I would say my experience so far my experience has been great. If anything, being a woman and an entrepreneur has been only positive. People in the media are interested in me and its given the company some spotlight. So overall it’s been a very positive and rewarding experience.
I also think things are changing. Now more than ever, I’m seeing more and more women entrepreneurs. In our Masschallenge program there were a little less than 10 women founders which is still small, but definitely growing. There are also several communities that are starting to promote this and push women to start their own companies.
You’ve lived in Serbia, Columbia, Venezuela, Peru, Kuwait, and Switzerland. Do you believe your different cultural experiences have helped you and your company achieve the success it has today?
Yes, definitely. I think it has a lot to do with being very open minded. Having been exposed to many different cultures you can understand people, where they come from, the different situations they go through and their different backgrounds. You become adaptable to different people and beliefs.
By changing locations so much I’m used to change and diversity. You start having more of a global perspective.
Having that in my DNA, makes me continue to strive for diversity. Even now, the group I work in is a group of six and we are all different nationalities.
Headquartered in Geneva, do you see TieTalent expanding globally?
We’ve always had a global mindset and had the idea to make something bigger. I understand some people want to start small and stay small, but we’ve always had international plans for TieTalent. First off, we wish to expand all across Switzerland, and the German part of Switzerland starting early next year. From there, everywhere, but starting with other European countries.
Language will be adapted based on the location, but those are the basics. We do want to have one platform that will be used by all countries and common amongst all countries, but there will certainly be constant development.
What is your thought process on expansion for people who want to break out of their country or launch/expand a company in a different country than their native one?
What is inevitable is learning how to speak the local language of where you are developing. I can speak French, but I’m not native. I know everyone can’t pick up languages, but find a partner that can. I speak four languages, which is a stretch but even two or three is very helpful. You’re able to talk to the local community, the government and understand, how to set up your business.
Be sure to check out our other 6 interviews in our series “A Global Mindset: How 7 Standout Startups Navigate International Opportunity”.
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