Meet Germany's Effortless All-In-One HR Software Startup Kenjo


Executive Summary

Kenjo is Germany’s rising HR Tech star. They are the main competitor of Personio but are more standardized with a larger potential customer base. Despite being very young, they have already customers across Europe and the US. They count amongst their early investors the co-founders of the unicorns Taxfix and Wefox. 

"Kenjo is the number one challenger of unicorn Personio"David Padilla, Co-Founder and CEO Kenjo

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“I thought always I was ending up in London, but then Julian Teicke — now the founder and CEO unicorn WeFox — called me up … .”David Padilla, Co-Founder and CEO Kenjo

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Welcome to start up red DOT IO, your podcast and Youtube blog covering the German startup scene with News, interviews and live efits. Hello and welcome everybody. This is Joe from celebrator. I oh, your startup podcast and Youtube blog from Germany, looking a little bit sweaty because we're recording this at the end of June twenty two, and it's actually getting really, really hard right now in Germany, and you know, we German guys are not used to it. That's a totally different story for David, my guest today. Hey, give it hi, Hio. How are you? I'm doing great, and I remember Um in Madrid it gets really, really hot, right, that's right. Yeah, you're right, you're right. So this is actually not not so difficult for me, fortunately, but I believe in Germany for a long time now. This is my six year now. So yeah, Um, I think I you know, I'm not. I'm not getting used to it. And today you are our interview guests because you're running Ken Jo, which we will get to later. And Ken Jo, I would you said it is the number one challenger of Personio, which is already a Unicorn here in Germany. Is that approximately right? This is. That's absolutely right. That's absolutely right, wonderful. So now we have set the stage, let us take a little dive into what are you doing? So basically we realized we've been both in Madrid two thousand and four during the drain bombings, but at this time we didn't know each other. But you've been growing up there and UM, can you tell us a little bit what you've been doing before, because I've seen you've been, uh, Java coder. Can you tell a joke, a coded joke? Yes, absolutely, in my so at the beginning of my career I have technical background. I I actually studied in in Scotland for for two years, then went back to Spain. I did ID ID consulting for a for a few years before I studied in my my my entrepreneur, journey and developer. Joke, I it's been a long time since. I don't call and I'm not so involved into calling anymore, and so I guess I'll use a classic one, the classic joke of it's not a it's not a back, it's a feature. Whenever someone complains about the about the prolactics, they don't know how to use it, and I think it's also one of those it's one of those jokes that brings a lot of joy to developers, you know, because they're like, Hey, I did this the way it was supposed to at least they way I was told I should do it, and it's there. Now. If it doesn't work, I suspected I don't my job. Yeah, the the usual thing, the program the problem is in front of the screen right. Um, I...

...have seen you have started as a salesforce developer in lovely tourich for minded age. I think that's where your entrepreneur journey really started. Can you tell us a little bit about what you've been doing there and how you moved up to the head of operations there? Absolutely, Yes. And so after a few years in Spain working in I consulting and where I mainly was working in Cald computing and safe force in the Salforce, the safeforce ecosystem, and that that was. That connects. Why? Then? Later, I think we'll we'll get there why I eventually founded a company in the Salforce panner basically, but going back then, in two thous eleven I was in Spain working in in, as I said, the unity consulting and for already back then, for a couple of years I I had failed this in here, let's say, urged to understand startups and to basically to go work for a startup to understand what are these companies that are growing so fast these days? Back then, two dozen tend to eleven. The startup scenes Spain was non existent. They were like literally two companies that were relatively famous of very small ecosystem, and I started looking for for a job, to to join a fast growing startup. Always thought I would end up in London, but then I got a call from a crazy guy. His name is Julian Tike. We, I think we, maybe I can tell every more about him data, because he's the CEO from we folks things should take. The was also Unicorn and one of my he's one of my angels and investors and but he was one of the founders of that company. Time deal in study gave me a call and eleven days later I landed in study and I started working for them. I landed in the right place at the right time. Company was growing super quick cly and I wanted to also understand the business part of the side of things. I already you know, I have been working in tech for for a few years, but I wanted to understand from a business perspective everything as much as they could operations, and that's how a transistion internally in the company Um to to an operation role. Basically, in the beginning was helping says guys and to sell more, sell more efficiently. And then eventually I need up living entire entire operations. And just to give you an idea, Um, so you have a um you can let's paint a picture of the of the badness that was going inside inside the company in the time. We went from around eight million in revenue to a hundred million in three and a half years. So it was. It was total madness, chaos and I loved it. So that's what you know. Even even though I think I never worked I've never worked as hard, to be honest, but it was a great challenge. It was a great opportunity to to growth and Um even though I...

...was not I was not a founder. For me that's the start of my entrepreneur journey. Mm Hmmm, I think we have a quote to promote this interview. Danty lucky. It was total care, as it would total madness and I loved it, but at one point it looks like Um, looks like end of Twenty fifteen. You jump chip at dyne deal, aggy and basically co founded a company in Berlin. I would pronounce empoor and you pronounced empower, empower. Okay, can you tell us a little bit what you're doing there, because my understanding is you're still a CO founder, you still own equity, but you're not operationally involved in it anymore. Right. Correct, that's right. Yes, so I will tell you us a little bit of the story. How we how I got there and and in in two fifteen the dyne deal was acquired by by the media group from from Fitzerland, collineer, and the founder's transition left the company. And I also thought what's next for myself? Where do I what do I want to do? What? What? What? What do I want to do for the next stage of my of my life and my career? And then I asked myself, what do I know? What can I do? Well, and two things came to mind. One of them was my self. Wash background and I had been working with the technology to help scale other companies and in particular time deal, and and I knew how to run the operations of a fast, fast growing business. Then that was why. That's why. I then, together with Julian Tyker, the seal from Wi Fox, is also my my my partner and a CO founder at and power as well, and and other people, we came to Germany, to Berlin and said, okay, we're going to build the first deal Ben Salforce partner for BC back startups, because, well, we know how to do well is scale companies and UM and saaleforce technology, and we know sales force can help startups grow very well, very fast. It's very from a technology perspective, something very agile that you can you know, just very quickly as the company grows. And so we put these two things together and build basically co founded and power in two thousand and fifteen mm HM. And you're there. Your only salesforce for startups partner. Right, yes, correct. Can you tell us, like the people, for me, and a few thousand people will listen to this interview and most of them will have a clue what saleforce is, but can you tell uh, do a little men's planning for guys like me, what salesforce actually is and what you did, because I personally don't have a clue. Yes, absolutely, because Salforce, I would say, it used to be a...

...crm, customer relationship managed management system to manage the relationships with your customers. In the beginning, very very, very much focused on sales and and then over time it has grown to become a full customer, let's a customer experience platform where you can market and generate demand for your business or market your your product and your services, then organize sales and now also customer service and support. Only one platform and in my opinion, for the enterprise it has the the most powerful underlying technology, that it gives companies the identity that they need to change processes and to adapt at they as they scale. M Hm, I see. But at one point you then decided to really go out for yourself and Co founded another company, and that is the Inter Chech Ken Jo Dot I. Oh, we'll be talking about today, right. Yes, exactly. And so what happened was, and since there's another let's it isn't the story that intern twines Um where the with my my my whole personal story, and in at some point in Switzerland, in fourteen, son Teen Fourteen, I became a manager for the first time and I realized how much I actually liked the whole topic of people management, helping people be their best at work and creating opportunities at work where they could play to their strengths, making people work better, work better together, from from soft skills, but also hard skills, and that was my kind of first, let's say, first connection with HR and then Um, I put all of that into in practice when I found it empower when I found in my my first company. Just to give you an idea, we implemented holocracy. All to see, is like a new, radical way to manage companies without bosses, with full transparency, very niche. Not a lot of people know about this system, but it was. It was for us. It wasn't our attempt to try out new things around people management and because we were passionate about it, because we liked it and we wanted to find out how we could create the most engaging workplace possible. So it was. It was also for me a time to experiment with people management and at the same time I was doing a lot of recruitment growing my company performance management, ad mean staff as well, and eventually realized that there was an opportunity from a from an impact perspective and from a, let's say, financial perspective, a market for a company like Ken you and can you. It's a it's an only one HR platform that helps companies do now three things, mainly core we call core hr, so it's a...

...the system of record for all the Employe data where you can store all emplode information and have your workflows automated, processes like on boarding, holiday planning, et Cetera, recruitment, so hire new people, organized the recruitment process, and performance management as well. These three things. We put this into one into one platform for small and medium companies across Europe and now also we we are active in Latin America as well. and Um, yeah, I think that's uh so that's how you know, things connect. How I came to the conclusion that Changeo made sense because, on one side, yeah, it's a it gives us an opportunity to have an impact on companies, health, companies be managed their people better, and but at the same time we know that most of these N B s across Europe and actually worldwide don't live h yet HR technology. So that's a that's a good opportunity for you for a business that makes sense from a financial perspective. H vividly remember from all the companies I've been to, I've been an employee of all I work for in one capacity or another. H R is usually a silian different systems, and actually, at some of the companies are we're working for, I always had to search in the Internet in old emails what is to come too, we're using for this and that or for this and that, because it's like spread all over and then you realize, Oh Dang it, that that was the old system. I'm supposed to do that in the new system. And plus you always had this very informal stuff. So basically a team in the project, that's it's vacation planning. Maybe they're not even members of your team, and then you have to go into the system of your company and officially gout a vacation stuff and all of this. That is quite hiring. And basically what you do is do this for one company. But my understanding is you're not necessarily targeting the marks to BMW, the merchades Um, like the really big companies. What what is your target size here in terms of employees of this company? Yes, and we do get a small, medium companies and up to maximum one employees, but really the let's say the sweet spot is up to Um in this in this range. That's where a platform like like can you makes more sense. That already sounds like there is a lot of potential customers out here in Germany. With the globally, there should be like millions of companies like this out there. Um. Before we get a little bit into that, I was curious because I have also seen shift planning in there in the past, always in the paramedic ambulance, and it was always...

...troublesome how this was how the how this planning was done back, that that was like before two thousands, and that the person charged did it with an excel sheet stored on a fluffy disc. And can you do this now automatically, like press the button, you have all the people in there and all the holidays, everything is in there. Can you do that? That's exactly it. Yes, corect so that's what you can do. Yes. So she planning is a tool for for shift managers, operations managers, and one of the one of the functionalities is that once you have your people their data availability with one click. It Creates Smart Smart wrought us for for people, and then it also sends out to be a mobile confirmations people can basically choose or accept shifts, upcoming shifts. So it really is is the pain of coordinating lots of people. That what we've typically seen here is excellent files on one side and for the operations manager, and then a lot of what'Sapp so basically asking people what's up, hey, can you do this shift? The can you do this now? It's much easier and so if you if you're an operations manager, shift manager, it's going to give you some some hours of your life. Back from my personal experience, will will also be cool if people could start exchanging shifts, if that all works within the frame given by the company or legal frame. Um, that would be awesome. Can they also do this and do they need what'Sapp for it? Exactly what we're working on. This actually shifts swapping, we call it, and it's a it's giving people the opportunity to exchange shifts specifically. So you say, Oh, I would like to take off Friday afternoon to do whatever. If someone want to take my shift now, will do another one. Yeah, okay, one more thing about the shift planing, because just personally curious about that. And then we go on. You've been you've been saying like on a mobile app you can take shifts. So it's also for companies who have like a lot of part time employees, Um, just showing up for ten, fifteen hours a week or something like this, and basically you can send out messages to all those people on their cell phone and they can accept shifts and basically then you you only have to take care of everything that is not accepted yet. Is that true? That's correct, that's yeah, exactly. Yeah, that's one of the main use cases when you have a lot of part time people, part time police, in the in the in the company, and then you can send through the up requests for them and, yeah, then they connect, say every jail or send send comments back to the to the person's manager. So you got that absolutely right, even without what you know, without WHATSAPP. That's the idea. That sounds pretty good. and Um, what type of industries are you targeting? Because my understanding is if... have industries with shift like in production, like in medicine, uh and and a lot of other areas that actually need more than one shift, that should be sweet spot because apparently it will take a lot of work from those operational managers. Correct. Correct, and one of the or some of the the industries where our product has, uh, let's say, creates more and more and more, has more impact, UH industries like retail manufacturing, etcetera, that they are very intensive when it comes to time management and chief chief management as well. But I have to say there are other industries like, for example, business services. They might not have as complex equipments, but they also, a word, sometimes in chieft because they maybe have an I d supporting perhaps to stay up at night and they have to turn like they basically uh shifts to to be twenty four severne duty. So it's not only exclusively to say tailor to retail manufacturing on one specific industry, but it's it's more about the companies that need managing shifts. Is there like industries you completely target or you basically say it mostly with a little bit customizing, with a little bit adjustment. It works for like all industries. We are very we're quite agnostic when it comes to industries. So we have customers from from all industries and but it's two that there are five or six industries where we see our product is usually the best choice for customers in these are these industries that I mentioned before, industries like retail, manufacturing, also healthcare and education. They're very that's where we see um some of the things because of what you mentioned, that the fact that we shift planning. It's an important part of the tool. It's something that we do very well and the company is typically have strong needs or demands, plains when it comes to time management. So those industries that for which I work quite well. We also came to mind when you've been talking about this would be restaurants, but then I'm not sure if they're big enough. The requirements are big enough for most restaurants. What APP group will do correct correct and if they go beyond a certain first hold in terms of number of the police, then yes, and we have one of our customers is dominoes in Germany. Their their German branch, and for a company like Dominos makes sense because they, you know, they have people that who work in different in different functions. Yeah, exactly, and in pieces shops at the same time. They also some of the some of their restaurants are quite big. Actually, the way the employee a significant amount of people. Um, so for them work quite it works quite well. If you're a company like a small restaurant with only six people, you probably can... with that. What's up? What's up group? Um, we've been talking about more the blue color jobs, but actually I've seen you also say that you can be faster with h r Um, meaning onboarding of people, getting new hires done. How, how does your software support there? Because, like most of the listeners right now, Um, in as of last week, ninety four countries across the world would be more interested in how you guys could help there, what you could do there, because I would say I do believe if you're faster in HR and getting out offers and getting on people onboarded faster, you have a competitive advantage. Right, got it. Absolutely absolutely. What we do is, on on one side, we help companies with their building a career page that resembles their values, their company values, so they also attract the right people. If you think about it, a career side is is very, actually very similar to to your website for clients, for your customers, but for people and at the same time it's kind of the same. It's kind of the same. You're selling your company to people to, you know, to to work for you, basically Um. And so we help them build career sides that U that help helps companies attract the right people for them, and that's something you can do in can you? And then this career side, then, we think, can you. You can create job offers and post them in multiple job boards, paid and free, both so you can maximize your rich two let's say, you know, Hunt like a very wide net of of candidates and and then we also help them these ties and orchestrate the hiring process internally. So, for example, people apply into through the through the career side, and then you can communicate internally with the hiring manager, with other people that are involved in the hiring process. You can communicate through the through through Kenin, with the candidate, send automatic emails reminders and then also sign the work contract or job offer electronically as well from Kenjo. So eventually, use speed up, speed up significantly your recruiting process and in today's market that is very competitive when it comes to hiring the best talent, it's a it's definitely an advantage to to towards, you know, other companies that m might use more let's say ulimentary tools. That is also something I was US thinking. This could be help you win challenge. Um Canada also help you a little bit keep talent.

But I have to add one caveat, because you can post the job all over, but it does not recruit you the development talent you need right now. That's something you still have to do yourself. Right. Yes, yes, absolutely, there are certain certain positions that take. Is One of them where you have to actually go out and for this can you can so help, by the way, because and we have a browser extension, so when you are in chrome, looking on Linkedin, for example, looking for people, you can capture their profiles and put them into into Kenju and then send them personalized messages out of Kenjo. So you can also build what we call talent pools. Even even when you're not looking actively, you can still build talent pools to engage with candidates over time so that they are so they know your company and there you know they have your top of mind for when you open a position and then you can start them with other positions. Are Right now pretty much to de band. We've been talking about development talent. I would assume sales. Sales should be also pretty much in demand. What else? Yes, product as well, and I can say here that it's very is a bit country by country. So we we we operate across Europe and Germany, but also Spain, Switzerland, Austria and other countries, and we we see some differences. But generally speaking, I would say developers take people. Super Difficult in all countries. Product managers. Germany quite difficult to find product managers, and especially if you're looking for German speaking product managers. I think that's that's that's it's it's it's easier to see a startup unicorn than a German, German speaking product manager. Want to be difficult, so I we should start calling these people so UNICHORNS. I think it's more difficult to find. I didn't want to speaking in Germany. And then sales. Yes, sales, especially for specialized roles like, for example, if you're looking in our case, we look for for account executives and SDRs worth the experience in B two B s sales very difficult, very, very difficult. I see everybody would like to learn more about your tools. They can go down here in the show notes. As always, your linked in profile is linked but the company profile is linked. Um, that was, of course, not the end. Let's talk a little bit about the startup itself because, as you already said, dominos is one of the customers you have on your website. Also found Jaguar, like the car producer, and Landrova, but I do believe they belong together. and Um, yes, I've also seen that investors are the CO founders of Unicorn, tax fix and Inter tech, Wee Fox. Um, I think we already know the story. The we fox...

...founder has been a boss of years, which is not necessarily the worst, the worst thing that can happen when you say a look, he found it a Unicorn. He was my boss, but he's still invested. Yeah, I think that's a pretty good sign, right. I think so too. I want to believe it's it's a pretty good sign. Yeah, and tax fix, how did this connection come? Yes, our seat round was led by Red Alpine. It's a venture capital fan out of Switzerland and Red Alpine had releviusly invested in taxis at the city stage. So actually, when when taxix was was was the project. It was not yet a unicorn inside, and that's how the connection came. They made an intro. I over time developed a good relationship with Matthis Mattis Book. He and the founder C in, former CEO from tax fix and, Um, he's also one of our board member, by the way, and I reguis over time. Like first of all, we clicked on our on a personal level. UH, and he has experienced when it comes to a position in product that I don't have, and I thought it would be very valuable to have him on board. So eventually that's how it's I think it just grew very, very natural and and that's how we became an investor in board member. And I've seen you raised in total more than seven million year as doors, including seed and the business angel round, as she said. Um investors include the Delta and Red Alpine from Switzerland. Um, the usual question. You guys would be open to talk to an investor right. Absolutely. Yes, yes, we actually. Are you currently in fundraising mode? Like I mean, no, not currently in fundraising mode. I mean we were always founders. Are always in fundraising. More and whoever, whoever tells you otherwise, they don't the line line or they haven't realized yet. But we're always in fundraising. Let me we phrase this. You're not in extreme fund raising mode exactly. We're not actively the biggy world is active. We're not actively fundraising at the moment. and Um, but it's a but I think we we are now at the point with Kenjo where we last year we grow. We grew revenues by more than thirty percent. Actually this year, even though we took it, let's say, we took it a bit cautious because of the situation in the in the economy, we're still going to more than double our revenue again this year. And well, let's say we're hitting. We're hitting the right the right metrics to be to be able to fund ray successfully. So seriously, AH, yeah, you usually the magic thresholders or one building year as dollars, but when you guys are growing so fast, I was wondering you guys are...

...hiring as well? Right? Yeah, pretty much across across the board. Marketing and say is product as always. Well, link down here in the show notes your company H R career side and when. Of the last questions I would like to ask, because we said you're the number one competitor here domestically of Personio. How is it like a very early stage startup in seed stage, competing with an already official uniquorn. I think. I think that's pretty much like sisophers trying to roll up this this rock to the to the mountaintop. That does it feel like this sometimes? Um, no, no, I wouldn't say so. No, and I want to do why? Like, first of all, when we look at the if we look at the market them it's a starting this. From a micro perspective, the market is huge, Um, in Europe, only in Europe. There are one point seven million smbs. You mentioned before. There must be a couple of million companies around the world smbs. It's only Europe it's one points a million smbs. That's our taking market, very very big market. If you look at how many customers person it has, it's it's less than one percent market share. So that means this is still the very, very, very early days of the market and the market is now developing and maturing and and then and there are different things that you can do as a younger startup that the more established player can do anymore. Like, for example, and you can you can build a different distribution strategy in in our case we do a lot of we call cell service low touch sales. That means company go go to Kenjo, they open a free trial, they they create an account and then they buy the product online themselves without us really getting involved. This is much more difficult for a company like person that has a much more diet, sales, let's say, more or approach, and when you're younger startup, it's it's easier to test, to take more, you know, take more more risks. So I just mentioned one of the ways in which we compete in the in the market. But it's also the focus on a specific segment of the market that we were talking about before, where there's some industries where we're very powerful and for for for example, for the company like person and that is that big and serves certainly a very wide range of industries, is much more difficult to be focused and on a specific segment of the market. So yeah, that's a I would I would say those are there's a couple of examples on how you can you can put up a fight against a more established player. I was actually very much smiling when you've been when you've been talking. Well, the customers go on your website, used the tool and then buy it. It sounded pretty much like um all your all you, says, employees are just chilling in the office drinking and ice cbourbon like you know.

See. Yeah, no, they have to work hard, hard at worlds and and, but it helps out. This this this model helps a lot because oftentimes when we got a request for them or someone wants to have looked at the product, they in they have already bought, you know, in their in their heads, because they went through the product with the free trial. They clicked everything, every button and they saw themselves generating value for the companies with our product. So they say. They say is it's easier and it's it's not so much about pushing, but rather pulling and helping the customer on board themselves into the platform basically started realizing value as soon as possible. So bottom line, I would say you guys have more standardized, more easily explained, more easily implemented tool than, for example, Plasonia, and it's that's as one of the things as well. Yes, you all sorts of templates and pre let's say, set up or configured workflows that you can activate easy for your company. So the the onboarding time is also very, very fast. Yes, to give me a yeah, we've had companies of almost a hundred people, hundred employees, onboarded and up running with a platform in eight working days. Um. Finally, and last question. Um, you're also open to work with remote only employees? Right, yeah, we have some. We have some great generally speaking, our our policies like hybrid, although very flexible when it comes to the office. But yeah, we we have some remote talent as well in the company. Damn it, it would a pleasure talking to you. We're now recording for a little bit over thirty five minutes, so I assume our interview is ten minutes longer than an average. So thank you very much for your time. It was just a pleasure and when you progress, I'm sure in some time we will have you back here in the podcast. Thanks a lot of it was a pleasure to be here with you and maybe next time, when we become a Unicorn, we can repeat we doing exclusive, an exclusive promise. I have to talk to my do I comes guy. He's one. It's it's almost a promise more than listeners are awesome, great. Thank you very much. Thanks Allo. Bye. Thank you, bye bye. That's all. The folks find more news streams events at interviews at www dot's startup thread, dot iio. Remember sharing is caring.

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