Especially after the initial product launch and after achieving the first milestones, startups most often try to get some press coverage, in order to increase theattention of venture capital firms, business angels and early adopters for their product or service. For that reasons, they usually reach out to local or international tech and startup publications. Getting featured in one of those can be as challenging as securing funding or getting your first customers. So it’s important for startups to take a close look a the publications they aim to target and to avoid common mistakes.
The tech and startup media landscape, internationally, in Europe, Spain & Barcelona: Aside of international tech publications like TechCrunch, TheNextWeb and Venturebeat, there are European startup/tech publications like tech.eu and EU-Startups, Spanish ones like El Referente and TodoStartups, as well as local ones in Barcelona like Barcinno and Barcelona Startup News. In order to get to know some of these startup publications better and to get a behind the scenes view, we recently organized a little round table discussion with Vivien from Barcelona Startup News, Sophie from Barcinno and Thomas from EU-Startups. If you’re interested in Startup PR, the role/state of tech media and the startup ecosystem in Barcelona, this one is for you:
During the discussion, there already came up a few tips and tricks. Publications like Barcinno, Barcelona Startup News, and especially international startup publications receive a huge amount of press releases per day, so in order to increase your chances of getting press coverage, you should really make sure to reach out the right way. To provide you with an overview, below you’ll find a summary from the discussion between Vivien, Sophie and Thomas, and some additional best practices:
What is news? The fact that your startup exists or just launched is usually not newsworthy. Unless you just invented a time machine or teleportation technology. Most interesting content for startup and tech publications is exclusive information and news that make their readers go „wow”!
Prepare a good press pitch: Provide all relevant information. Make it as simple as possible for the editors to understand your product, it’s USP and why your story is newsworthy! Keep your email pitch short and suggest an interesting angle for an article. Also: Don’t ask for permission to send a press release. Just do it!
Sending your press releases via email: Keep your emails to each of the contacted editors short and don’t send too many releases to the same editor in quick succession. Send them out individually, with a personal note (never: Dear editor…). If your email shows that you understand/read the publication, your chances of grabbing the editor’s attention clearly increase. Best case, the press release will be sent by someone the editor already knows.
Be a good communicator: When contacting editors, pick the subject line of your email carefully and make it stand out. Some editors of popular startup/tech publications get a few hundred emails a day, so you wanna make sure they at least open your email. If they do, and afterwards reply with some questions, save them time, by quickly replying. Sometimes it’s really a matter of minutes. If you don’t reply fast enough, the editor might already consider another story. On the other hand, if you are the one asking questions, make sure the editor can answer with one line or a simple „yes“ or „no“. Saving time is key!
Keys to good press releases: Great content and exciting news spreads automatically around the web. Your press releases should be a good read, easy to understand and as interesting as possible. Readers of startup publications, like pretty much all humans, like big numbers, interesting facts they didn’t know yet, successful people/stars, nice pictures, stories that spark emotions.
A sense of exclusivity: Media people like to talk to the people in charge. That being said, press releases should be sent by the startup’s CEO not by an intern or a PR firm. This is true especially for early-stage startups. And: Journalists like exclusives! By giving a publication the exclusive right to publish first (embargoed news) you will clearly increase your chances of getting featured there!
The perfect timing for sending your press release: Send your press release with advance notice. For example: If you’d like to see your news/story covered on Wednesday afternoon, reach out on Monday morning at the latest, saying that the day of the announcement will be Wednesday. The most important thing to keep in mind is: Editors don’t like old news! On the same day the first press coverage about a specific topic goes online, all other media outlets should have received the corresponding press release. Otherwise your chances to get additional press coverage are almost at 0%.
And if it doesn’t work out? Don’t take it personal if a publication doesn’t write about you and your startup! If your team and idea is strong, you will make it anyway! Other ways to get visibility for your startup are to properly present it on AngelList, Crunchbase, F6S, Product Hunt, Betalist, and of course on big social media channels like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram.
In itnig’s Podcast #26 Bernat Farrero, CEO at itnig and César Migueláñez, Product Director at Factorial, talk with Pol Narbona, Product Owner at Typeform about Product Management.
Pol shares his story with us: How he arrived at Typeform, how he started out as a Product Owner and gives us a little overview on how he works with two road maps — Discovery & Delivery — in Product Management. For the whole talk you can view this video on the Dual Track Agile methodology:
First of all, we ask him to situate us and give us a bit of context before we enter in detail into his career path.
What is Typeform?
Typeform is a software for online data collection: forms, surveys, register forms — converting a bureaucratic thing into a conversation. But this is probably just the boring explanation of the produc t— we are really strong in design and user interaction.
How did you arrive at Typeform?
I am from Barcelona and started to study here but then I had the chance to go to the US with a sport’s internship. In the 3rd year at uni I was doing some market research and needed to create a survey, I used Typeform and when I shared the survey the respondents were really surprised. I was studying Business & Tech and when I was finishing uni I started to look for jobs all over Europe. Actually I think Typeform was the only company in Barcelona I applied for. As they did not have any open positions in the Product team I started as Data Analyst, as part of the Customer Success team. Here I came to understand user behavior and I started seeing how the product team works. After a while and a restructuring of the teams, I applied internally for product owner position and here I am now.
I finished my university studies and started working at Typeform a year and a half ago. At that time I was employee #90 if you will and now, 1.5 years later we are about 180 people in the team. I think this gives a good impression of our rapid growth.
How do you work at Typeform in Product Management?
At Typeform we separate ourselves into different product teams, distributed along the User Journey:
Discover (top of the funnel, acquisition, public sites)
Subscribe (user subscription, demo environment to try product)
Conclude (results based work, e.g.integration with partners)
In the Conclude team for example we work in different colonies with Designers, UX, Developers, QA and Product Owners. The colonies give us the info that people working in this colony are focussed on this part of the user journey.
These colonies are not hermetic, we switch between teams, actually it is pretty common for developers to be working on different parts of the funnel from time to time. This allows us to divide the product up in different parts and assign an objetive and metric to each of them.
However, we are changing this again as we discovered that there are lot of dependencies. For example: We wanted to create a user journey for a specific persona but if other teams are working on other priorities there are dependencies that arise. Now we are going for a more horizontal approach to have more context at the moment of working together.
And you said you use Dual Track Agile as work methodology?
Yes, we do Discovery & Delivery in parallel. While the team works on delivery of a tested feature, I can dedicate myself to identify new opportunities that come later.
In general, throughout all teams we work in 2 weeks sprints and with Scrum. We have seen that these are compatible with the Discovery & Delivery Agile roadmap.
Gymforless has been acquired by Sodexo BRS Spain on February 1st 2018. Gymforless is a market place that gives access to more than a 1.000 fitness clubs to consumers and employees — combining thus a BtoC and BtoBtoC model.
From a simple gym access app Gymforless has become a benefit plan for companies, offering a better quality of life to their employees. As such Gymforless has attracted the attention of Sodexo Spain and the group has decided to acquire the startup. The leader in the sector of restaurant tickets plans to integrate Gymforless into their portfolio of services dedicated to contributing to the quality of life of employees and their motivation.
In this short video interview Oriol Vinzia, CEO of Gymforless talks about the past, present and future of the company:
With this acquisition Gymforless will become part of strong group while maintaining its autonomy.
“They know we are a startup and they understand we need to be able to grow at the pace of a startup.”
“If we integrate completely they know we’ll lose speed. In a few years the structure will definitely be different but at the moment we we will remain independent while creating partnerships with their existing clients.
Corporate wellness is a trend. Everybody talks about it and it becomes more and more important for companies to offer benefit policies to retain their talent. Everybody wants to work out and have it as easy as possible. With Gymforless companies can give their employees just that!”
Oriol, how did you start at Gymforless?
I joined Gymforless after the startup was founded and had been working for about a year. Guillermo Libre whom I met through Groupalia while we worked there together called me.
It was easy for him to convince me as Gymforless combines my two passions: sports and ecommerce. I started my career at Decathlon and later switched to online while working at Vente Privee and seven years at Groupalia, in the sales and marketing area.
How was your start?
When I joined Gymforless, Guillermo who had founded the company was about to leave so right away we went through a change of leadership.
The change of CEO in a very young company is not easy — I had to integrate in the team quickly and take new steps in a new direction together. As an app we started selling day passes but then pivoted to what you now know as Gymforless Club. Through our Club app you get to access different gyms in your area, you get to chose the day, activity and sports center.
The market is very competitive with a wide range of independent gyms and only very few gym chains it is also very fragmented and dispersed. We bring the gyms together so that consumers can chose easily. For gyms we bring them new users who discover their activities — Gymforless brings them extra revenue.
How did you approach sales and expansions within a city?
When Gymforless started it was not easy to sell — we did not have the app but had to sell the idea and there was nothing comparable to Gymforless in the fitness industry. So we looked to other areas where similar models are working. Booking.com does the same for hotels or ElTenedor for restaurants. We were a new player in the market, so it was first hard to explain it to gyms but after the first year the acquisition of customers has become much easier.
First we needed volume of partners and then we brought the customers. We were generating a high volume of transactions and we realized that this was an attractive offer for companies. Now we have a team dedicated to acquiring gyms, another team dedicated to acquiring companies as customers who offer Gymforless as a benefit to their employees and thirdly we have our marketing team concerned with acquiring final consumers. With this new area dedicated to b2b customers we were able to grow much faster and we’ll see what this new partnership with Sodexo will bring.
Since I updated my Linkedin profile a little while ago to reflect my new responsibility for Talent Acquisition at itnig I have been bombarded with messages and offers about improving our employer branding. It is honestly something we have never thought about since showing ourselves as who we are at itnig or any of our startups came naturally to us. Now I wonder if there is some truth to the idea of creating a brand not just for your customers but for your future employees too? Does a promotional video or an enhanced Linkedin company page really have an impact on us finding and signing on the right people to grow our teams and companies?
Does this video make you want to work with us?
Employer brand — Image, Identity & Perception
When we started out at itnig, recruitment and employer branding went through our personalities. Our employer branding was the perception of our personality, our reputation and our enthusiasm for the product. New hires were convinced about us as people — that our CEO would have a destination in mind and be able to lead us there, that our CTO would know to implement these plans and to create a strong system, that our CMO would understand the market and adapt or shape according to customer’s preferences, that our COO would keep up with operations and quality standards no matter the rush…In the beginning we were all the employer brand as persons with our positive attributes but also flaws. But how does this play out when the company grows, when it is no longer possible nor desirable that the personalities of the different employees ressemble the company as a whole?
Going from personality-hiring to company-hiring
Our first hires were our friends or people we met through extended networks like our first marketing intern for the French market whom I was introduced to through a guitar playing couchsurfer who stayed at my house for a week. Old university friends came to join our Sales team in Barcelona, friends of cousins of one of our team members became part of Camaloon and past colleagues were dragged along from the old employer to find a place at itnig. But with time we ran out of suitable candidates and had to find other ways: job offers, university contacts & head hunting.
And this is where I am being told to create a brand just like we do in customer acquisition and to think of our candidates as another kind of customer to whom we need to show the value of working with us not just through our interviews and personalities, job descriptions and offers but also through actively promoting it on social media and other outlets.
If we are having fun at work, spending our time on exciting projects be it technologically or in terms of customer acquisition funnels and are a team of interesting people, is that not enough to attract?
An employer brand should show what we as a company can offer new team members, why anybody should chose to sign on with us and what employees can expect in the long run.
The expectations we set
In new team members we look for curiosity, drive, potential to grow, dedication and willingness or openness to contribute.
I worked freelance for a long time and even though I truly enjoyed my work and learned a lot it was always second. I was first a potter, a guitar player, a student… and then an online marketer. In a startup like ours at itnig this could not work out. If all our team members thought like that we could not achieve what we have set out. With such ambitious growth goals it’s hard to accept anybody in our team who does not first identify as important part and impulsor of our organization. This does not have to mean long hours at the office but it means dedication, concentration and determination.
A startup does not have room for hands without brains that follows and executes orders. We all need to think about what we want to achieve, to plan how to achieve it and of course to question ourselves on the way.
We are a young, international team driven by professional and personal challenges. An insatiable curiosity. A bunch of people asking ‘Why?’. As companies with unknown, insecurity and instability in the market we have be quick to adapt, and with financial constraints the most interesting we can offer is not the salary. We opt for learning, for opportunities for growth and it’s also a philosophy of frugality. Of being able to make the most of scarce resources, of scrambling and inventing. Of getting creative and not comfortable. We don’t want money to be the motivator for any person who joins our team.
That is what we look for and value in a person when we search a new full stack developer, sales agent or Admin specialists, but what do candidates look for in us?
What we represent so far
When candidates face the decision between starting at Factorial, Quipu, Camaloon…and another startup, what makes the differences? In the interviews I have conducted over the past weeks that was always one of the answers I was curious about. What do you look for in a company? What makes a good company for you? However — unfortunately until now — I have only heard pretty standard answers which makes me think that maybe most have not given it as much thought as research and the insistence of an enhanced Linkedin company page suggests.
When I speak to recruitment agents or agencies I hear a lot of panic: ‘You need to work on your employer branding, all of Barcelona’s startups are fighting for the same talent as you, you need to stand out. Why should a candidate decide to start with you when there are so many other similar startup companies?’
According to a study conducted by a German university group amongst US college graduates (https://hbr.org/2015/12/what-makes-a-start-up-an-employer-of-choice), these (and in extrapolation we) evaluate a company based on:
– its office location
– the innovation at the company
– the degree to which employees can have an impact
– the founder’s qualifications like past (successful) ventures or prestigious universities
– any legitmacy-enhancing qualities like big-name investors
– lifestyle perks like free food, yoga classes, day car, bring your dog to work…
All of these have an impact on the decision yet the most important one is lifestyle perks with free fruits and coffee, sport offers and an openness to include the closest people too. When scrolling through job offers or thinking about similar startup offers my impression is that this is standard by now. Most have a beautiful office space with catered fruit and free coffee and offer spaces for sport and exercise such as a subsidized Gym4Less membership.
And it’s our job as an employer to make these factors clear to any candidate, to make innovation visible, to talk about our past experiences, to present our employees and their trajectory and to make office-life as comfortable as possible. Deep down I feel that this is something we naturally do because we enjoy going to work, because we shape our workplace ourselves and we take responsibility for it. Initiatives like free breakfasts do not come commanded from above, it’s us as a team who come up with it. However with the company scaling, it’s probably a good moment to revise it, to observe if really everybody is having their part in it and if not to ask if anything is missing.
So I started researching what employer branding means and what experts on this topic recommend to do to create such a brand. In textbooks employer branding is defined as:
“An organization’s reputation as an employer, and its value proposition to its employees, as opposed to its more general corporate brand reputation and value proposition to customers.”
and steps to create it are suggested as follow (taken a mix of recommendations from different sources):
1) Define your company’s core values
At our last party we asked our guests to define itnig. We were told itnig is a cultivating space for new ideas to take form, friends, a company in which you can grow, learn & have fun and even a mix of knowledge and good practices that push you to find a good solution and accompanies you. Avanguard.
2) Look at employees and customers as one big community
Just like you try to attract customers who purchase your service or product you need to view a candidate as somebody to attract and retain. And the ways and channels for acquisition are rather similar.
I would add to create a funnel just as you would for a customer who does not convert right away. Maybe the candidate is not the right fit at this moment but can be valuable for another position at another point in time. So keep in touch and communicate.
At the very beginning at Camaloon, after our first year, we decided to reach out directly to companies and offer our services to them and so we set up a sales team. After a successful phase in Spain with our first two ninjas, we set out to find our first italian sales team. We received so many applications that it was hard to evaluate the profiles against one another and as sales itself is inherently a social job, we decided to try group interviews and invited five candidates at the same time. With two Camalooners and five candidates we took up the whole meeting room and with the selection of personalities we had picked it almost seemed we were interviewing a rock band and not a group of sales professionals. The group interview was interesting — yet as such did not give room to everyone — and the five left Camaloon happily and even went out for a drink right after as we observed them through the window of our office. Anyways, the important part for me here was to keep in touch. Even though we had only been able to get a first impressions as such, I remember one person whom we did not hire for this position weeks or month later and he eventually became our social media specialist. Now, 5 years in, he is still there leading our community.
Community thinking — a big tank. Keep together, keep communicating, seed reminders or create situations like events or conferences to bump into each other from time to time.
3) Be digital and think mobile — Use social media
A no brainer.
4) Foster lifelong learning
We are curious people, it is something innate in us. Young people who want to learn, who are here to acquire more capacities and knowledge. Development opportunities within the startups but also in the whole community. We try to foster it by opening up our space for meetup groups, by organizing events ourselves and by creating spaces for language classes, yoga sessions etc…
We ask ourselves constantly what is more important: Talent or Experience?
5) Have your employees speak for you
With the fancy term Employee advocacy we define all team members or stakeholders representing the brand. I think this is unavoidable in a very good sense of the word. We spend most of our waking time at work, we dedicate ourselves to our projects and of course we love to talk about them!
6) Involve your team in hiring
Even though we do have a human resource department, we collaborate with each team for the hiring process. The team needs to be involved because in the end the new person is going to work with them but I think it’s also a big part of showing who we are and how we work to a candidate interviewing with us. And for HR it also means having someone experienced in the specific field being able to exactly explain the job position and asses the candidates.
7) Have HR and Marketing work together
HR & Marketing to create the brand and communicate but I would go a step further and involve everybody in the company.
We surround ourselves with like-minded people: In some cases, it’s a flaw I would say that we always stick to those that think like us but in some cases this human tendency can also reveal a positive side. We have a brilliant PPC analyst on board and are looking to someone with a similar sharp eye, it’s likely that they might be friends.
8) Create a positive customer experience for your candidates
Throughout the selection process from the job description, to the application review, the interviews — be it by phone or in the office — until the ‘keep in touch’ messages we think it’s important to establish a good and positive relationship with our candidates. We would like to stay in touch, to recommend our company to others and to be in the same space moving forward.
I have been writing this article on the train going back to my hometown in Germany. After three years working freelance as online marketer I just got settled back in an office environment and in a new field, human resource. Thus, my impressions over the past weeks have been plentiful — like a wave washing over me and most days I was running behind to get things done, to understand or to find the right person to talk to. Now, at this moment, with the landscape passing by through the train window and a sense of distance not being in Barcelona and an office environment anymore, it’s a bit easier to take a step back and to reflect about things. What first started out as annoyance with recruitment specialists trying to sell me something I thought was unnecessary I realized we are already doing a lot of employer branding — unconsciously just not through a dedicated website or a promotional video. Intuitively we have been following the suggestions to market our company, to think about our values, to involve our teams and to create a great customer experience for our candidates.
Last week we spoke about how product designers start a new project and deal with past baggage and today we want to further explore this with Juan Rodriguez, CEO at Camaloon, who joined the startup after it has been running for 5 years.
For this Podcast #20 Bernat Farrero, CEO at itnig, Jordi Romero, CEO at Factorial, César Migueláñez, Product Director at Factorial, Masumi Mutsuda, Media at itnig and Juan Rodríguez, CEO at Camaloon came together to talk about the challenges a CEO faces while joining an existing company.
How do you as CEO plan changes in an already existing company?
Firstly, it is necessary to evaluate if there is even the need to make a change or if instead the company can continue as such? In our case Camaloon had a very strong and positive company culture from the get-go but it has been lost a bit on the way. So when I started I aimed to revive this initial startup culture.
Camaloon is a company based on technology, we want to grow differentiating ourselves from our competitors through the product. This means that we are always looking for tech talent who can bring the differentiating factor to the company.
When I started in the spring of last year, the company culture had gone a little bit of track, we were focussing on other areas and when I joined, my challenge lay in bringing us back on track.
When you decide to enter a new company at the most important decision making role in an already working company, how do you understand how the dynamics work? How do you decide the way to go? How do you develop what needs to change?
You observe the synergies in the teams, the dynamics. Is there a good communication between teams?
Of course there are many approaches but I believe in the end you base yourself on intuition, you have only a short window to make a change.
I would say it’s a mix of data analysis, observation and intuition. You try to provoke change observe where the road blocks lay, you have to move quickly as if you don’t make any changes in the first two months it will be hard to overcome the inertia moving forward.
When entering a new company and pushing for strategic transformation I think it’s important to:
Make decisions quickly
Fix strategic north
Focus people (feel secure, perform better)
Maintain the same message continuously
How was your first day at Camaloon?
First I arrived somewhat incognito, I sat down next to our admin department and asked for data. Everyone thought I was a tax auditor or investor, nobody talked to me and everyone was very polite. Then, on my first real day as a CEO I sat down between marketing and technology director. I started talking to everybody in the office and in our production plant.
Was there anything surprising?
All I knew about Camaloon before starting came from Bernat and he is an entrepreneur so when I started I was surprised to see that there was no startup culture. It was a very corporate and traditional company, with many departments and a deep structure.
And for you, Bernat, how were the first months of not being Camaloon’s CEO? Was it hard to hand over your control?
Yes and No. It was hard as I had worked daily with the Camaloon team, had a strong relationship and Camalooners came running to me even after Juan started. As first reaction I had the instinct of jumping in as always. But it was also easy to hand over control to Juan as he was 100% aligned in strategy and I realized his way of attacking the problems not only seemed right but I also saw he had the capacity to implement them. I had no doubt.
And indeed, Camaloon is growing. We are adding new products, entering new segments and going all in for technology. We are looking for great talent and great growth opportunity for team members, actually we are looking for Sales, Marketing & Tech professionals of all areas: itnig.net/jobs