You might have heard about the product called NordVPN, but do you know the company behind it, Nord Security? The company started its journey in 2012 inside the Tesonet accelerator, and it has rapidly grown ever since. Today, Nord Security is one of the largest tech-companies in Lithuania in its own right, with nearly 700 employees and 15 million users worldwide.
Only recently they stepped outside of Tesonet to separately start building their company culture and employer brand. We talked with Karina Dirvonskienė, Head of HR at Nord Security, about why they are doing this, how it is going and why should the talent care?
First of all, congratulations on starting your employer journey. Could you tell us a bit about how it came to life? Why did you choose to do it now, and what challenges did it bring?
Thanks! Starting Nord Security’s employer journey is indeed a big step for us.
It’s no secret that the story of our company began with the inception of NordVPN, which at the moment is one of the most popular VPN service providers worldwide. It was the 35th project developed inside the ecosystem of the Tesonet accelerator, and over time it grew beyond our expectations. Today we are a team of nearly 700 employees and have expanded our product family by adding four new cybersecurity tools (NordPass, NordLocker, NordVPN Teams, and NordWL). And it’s definitely not the end – we are still growing exponentially.
As it often happens, the new beginning brought us some challenges. In the past, we could rely on the Tesonet brand to fulfil our needs as an employer, but now we have to build our own employer brand from scratch. However, we’re optimistic about it since we’ve already made some progress.
Could you introduce your products to people not too familiar with the cybersecurity market? How are they received in the market so far?
At the moment, Nord Security has more than 15 million users worldwide that trust our products to ensure their privacy online. Basically, our goal is to provide true online privacy and security to as many people as we can. That also means building awareness around cybersecurity issues and their importance in the connected world.
As I’ve already mentioned, our story began with NordVPN – currently the fastest VPN on the planet, built to protect our users’ online presence from cybersecurity threats. To put it simply, you can secure your internet data and safely access personal information while browsing with NordVPN.
We also built the same solution for businesses to ensure their employee privacy online while working – NordVPNTeams. Then, there’s NordPass – an easy-to-use password manager used for storing and creating credentials. NordLocker helps to store and share confidential files securely. Finally, NordWL – a collection of tools, know-how, and infrastructure for building your own VPN products.
These five products form the Nord Security productfamily and have gained global recognition with high praise from major tech outlets and cybersec experts alike. However, we’re always looking for new opportunities to grow, so the product line-up is definitely not final.
In your first month as a separate entity, Nord Security already became the 4th most popular company on MeetFrank in Lithuania. Clearly, there’s a lot of interest from the jobseekers at the moment. What’s special about working for Nord Security? Why should people join your organization?
Where do I even begin 🙂 Well, first of all, we’re a fast-growing company with a very dynamic environment set up for professional growth. The essential thing is that every person joining our team gets to build global solutions that solve relevant problems. You can be sure that you’ll be working with top experts from all over the world and gain valuable experience.
Knowledge sharing is vastly promoted in our company and is, in fact, one of our key values – we have various initiatives, internal and external events, and even separate programs designed for personal and professional growth. Nord Security is also a very diverse company that gives people the freedom to act – you will find plenty of opportunities to express yourself and show initiative.
Could you list some of the perks that your employees enjoy?
Our colleagues enjoy numerous benefits focused on increasing their well-being, like private health insurance, mental health programs, bonus vacation days, in-house physiotherapists, flexible work hours, and more. Also, we’re famous for our workations and various celebrations.
However, in our opinion, all these perks are simply an addition to our main benefits – a great team, ambitious goals and exciting projects to work on.
What about employee dynamics – do you hire more local or global specialists, and does this put additional strain on your HR team?
As our company was founded in Lithuania, we currently have more local team members. However, we’re actively growing our international ranks and have colleagues working in Belarus, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, United Kingdom, The Netherlands, Romania, Turkey, South Korea, Japan, and Brazil.
Hiring worldwide and expanding our reach is certainly more demanding than hiring locally. It’s a challenge to extend a feeling of belonging to team members working remotely. However, the current pandemic situation benefited us in this regard: It accelerated our remote work practices, and now we feel that we’ve become stronger as a global employer.
How many vacancies do you have at the moment? Which departments of the company are you expanding the most rapidly?
At the moment, we have more than 80 vacancies waiting to be filled, and mostly we’re looking for professionals to join our teams of Frontend, Backend, Mobile, and Marketing. However, we’re actively expanding other teams as well – take a look at our Career page – I’m sure you’ll find several options, including challenging leadership roles.
What are the most important qualities when hiring new people to the Nord Security team? Do you have any tips for the applicants to be successful in your hiring process?
We look for people who are passionate about tech and eager to learn new things quickly. The cybersecurity and IT markets are constantly changing. Breakthroughs are coming every day. As a team, we have to be ready for the shifting environment and the challenges it brings.
We place a high value on people, who challenge the status quo, look for better ways to do things, and do not agonize over decision making. There’s also a lot of focus on teamwork – we believe that magic happens in teams, so there are no individual agents here.
Katana, modern manufacturing & inventory software provider, has just recently raised $11M in funding. This together with the e-commerce boom will significantly fuel the Estonian SaaS startup business growth in 2021.
This left us wondering how the everyday work and life at Katana looks like these days?
We talked withPriit Kaasik, the co-founder and CTO at Katana, and asked him tonnes of questions. The conversation went deep into their technological backbone (full stack or function based delivery? in-house development or external services?). Also, the open discussion revealed a product mistake and how heavily underused their office PS5 is.
Take a look at the interview below 👇 and get a glimpse of Katana’s mindset. Or as Priit puts it “Why become a unicorn when you could be a unicorn 140 times over?”
There is no good way to hide that I am a process guy first and technology guy second. I aim to be the facilitator of technological advancement to best serve and innovate Katana’s manufacturing platform as a service.
Being a hybrid describes me well – excelling at combining various aspects, never in a singular discipline like coding. My strength lies in defining and driving towards the technological impact that needs to be achieved (I hope others would confirm this).
That said, my favourite pass-time is assembly and tinkering with small-factor but powerful gaming PC-s. I assemble about 2 per month for friends (for their kids) and for people who know this hobby of mine. Some may consider me a gamer, but I‘m really hanging in there because of the technology…
How would you characterize the fundamental values of Katana’s development team?
We emphasize the importance of putting on theend user’s hat and understand the business better – using full stack development and User Stories. Other main pillars would include:
💡 product delivery in increments and iteration,
💡 never reinventing a wheel,
💡 the meaning of “minimal viable”,
💡 writing cloud-native software that is robust and scales with the business.
Mainly, the development team is on a quest for a smart solution.
Let’s talk about Katana’s technological backbone. What stack do you use?
We are currently focusing on adopting Kafka more widely (lessening the importance of internal API to serve dependencies) to scale the service better horizontally.
Micro frontends are something we concentrate on – to improve parallel delivery and deployment from different product teams. And as a product, Katana has set our eyes to solutions that help us to become a manufacturing platform with a popular app store.
Click on the picture to find more info about Katana’s tech stack
Katana uses Heroku, which limits people who enjoy deployment pipeline building. What kind of developers would be a perfect match with Katana?
The limitation is similar to any other choice of technology. It’s just a combination of Bitbucket Pipelines and Heroku Pipelines – a Katana flavor of it. It would greatly benefit if you:
✅ Like pattern-based engineering, building Lego blocks for yourself, your team and teams.
✅ Appreciate full stack development and the need to understand a customer.
✅ Enjoy working in an Agile team.
✅ Being a self-sufficient engineer, without the need to be actively managed and supported, is a treat we value a lot. Because we really prefer to manage people as little as possible.
A person, who enjoys tinkering and overpolishing solutions, will have a hard time at Katana. We look for engineers who understand that their value lies in their ability to dish out the “right stuff at the right time”. Not in the code worthy of a monument now and 10 years later (we value good code but not overdoing it).
What aspects are not developed in-house, but bought as an external service?
Let’s say that the scope of what Katana is doing, is roughly described here. And in order to deliver it, we use following services in Katana:
It is also important to note that Katana doesn’t have any technical operations nor DevOps people on-board. We consume data (Postgres, Redis, Elasticsearch, Kafka, Bull etc.) also as a service.
The cat or dog person question. Full stack, or front end & back end separately?
Full stack. Regarding customer features and end-to-end transactions, it’s far superior compared to function based delivery.
I have observed and participated in such designs in various top notch software development companies. In the case of web-based SaaS, I would always choose full stack to win it at the market.
It’s a focus thingie – eventually a product team has to be full stack and cross-functional, you have to work with the engineers you are able to hire.
In which case would you consider hiring front end and back end specialists instead of full stack?
To compensate for a weakness, bolster skills that are lacking or not represented enough in the company, but are important.
Looking back, what were the technical mistakes that you wish that could have been avoided when building the product? How did you fix it?
Just one thing pops to mind right away. We decided to upgrade our backend node.js framework LoopBack3 onto version 4. It has turned out to be a very expensive work with very little benefits (other than LB3 is no longer supported).
Should have assembled our own modification from a more lightweight backend framework a la NEST.
What direction are you scaling (horizontal/vertical etc)?
In all directions, of course!
But seriously, in the engineering team we emphasize the importance of horizontal scaling and the code supporting it.
Vertical scaling is for the emergencies, when the performance need is miscalculated and a performance issue quickly needs addressing. That is another reason why we chose Heroku, it really excels at this type of performance management and scaling.
Let’s imagine, I’m a newly hired engineer. How will my first days at Katana look like?
Once we agree and assemble the work gear and software set with the engineer – wintel, mac and/or Linux – you will be ready to go. You choose between onboarding in the office or remotely (your gear will be delivered at home). We use Slack and Whereby to communicate and run meetings etc. Also, this setup works really well with onboarding.
We also have a compensation system to expense the cost of home office setup and including headphones with active noise cancelling (must-have product these days).
When you’re comms-capable, the first weeks are for meeting fellow katanauts – learning the heartbeat and key information sources. In software engineering our current gold standard benchmark for the first day is to get the development environment up and running by noon, join our food club, have team lunch, fix a bug and get the fix to live by the end of the first day.
Fully remote or office?
Nobody is working fully in the office nowadays. That said, we are eagerly waiting for situation improvements, so we could restore the office experience to its former glory.
Even during the pandemic (when approached with precaution), our office has its perks (heavily underused PS5, barista-grade coffee etc). And our lunch club is still functioning! About 15% of people use the office at the moment, wear masks, and have spread out. Our office is new, roomy and really well ventilated.
Actually our new office will be ready by summer. It will be located in the newly renovated building next door to Põhjala Taproom at Noblessner. Even with new ways of working, we decided that having a joint workplace and meetings in person will remain an important part of our culture.
Double up the size of the engineering team each year!
The aim is to build a team to become a world’s leading manufacturing platform able to challenge SAP and such. You cannot really catch them otherwise – why become a unicorn when you could be a unicorn 140 times over?
But (there is always a but), business also has to grow accordingly, and so far we have mostly been hampered by lack of features to fully tackle SMB/SME manufacturing space.
Sounds like your cup of tea? Check out Katana’s current openings and apply!
Together with early stage investments, 70V offers an acceleration program to help founders to build and scale their businesses. Useful connections, diverse knowhow and licence to show brilliant ideas – an attractive career path for people that love to see the birth, growth, and success of a company.
In the light of their recent 1st startup exit, we talked with the 70V’s associateAivaras Rastenis, who honestly admitted that he didn’t expect the first exit to arrive this soon.
Despite that research shows that90% of all global startups fail, 70V is a safety net for talents. In the worst case scenario, good performers (the growth journey lovers) will have a secure place in another startup as soon as possible. 💪
How do they do it? Without further ado, let’s jump and find out! 👇
We gave a little introduction to 70V, but you, as an insider, could you please open up more. What is 70V all about?
Imagine having a business idea that helps other businesses to reach their goals. And you want to go global, but lack of money and knowledge sets its limitations. What to do?
No need to be alone in this – fundraise and find partners with experience! This is where accelerator funds, like us, come into the picture.
70V invests in ambitious B2B entrepreneurs globally. We help them to build and scale predictable sales machines with talent from Lithuania. Our predictable revenue playbook has been already used with more than 70 companies.
70V partner Jean-Baptiste Daguené has said “I eat SaaS for breakfast, B2B sales for lunch and data for dinner”. Is there still something new to offer to the table?
Oh yes, there’s still plenty of room on the table!
The B2B tech startup ecosystem is an exciting space to work in. It’s a very fast paced environment with tonnes of possibilities for stellar growth. All the top Lead Research Specialists (LRS) and Sales Development Representatives (SDR) in our portfolio have been promoted within 8-12 months.
Higher risk comes with higher reward. Seeing the birth, growth and success of the company is something extremely special. Do 70V portfolio companies share their achievement stories with each other, or you keep them strictly apart?
This is a very good question!
Working in a startup and B2B sales is challenging. That’s why building a B2B community is a top priority for us. We can’t wait to get back to normal but we are very proud that we moved our community online.
Every month we connect talents in our portfolio to share their triumphs and their mistakes. Also, 70V rewards accomplishments highly through our portfolio leaderboard where SDRs (Sales Development Representatives) compete for monthly cash prizes.
Could you share with us, what is the next big thing?
We search for the next big thing in the Nordics and Baltics. Each month we make two to three investments in various B2B companies. Fintech, adtech/marktech, legaltech, accounting solutions – just to name a few.
Our portfolio companies might go after the same customer but with different value propositions.
As we speak, we have already invested in 35+ companies and all of them compete for the best talent!
Want to see the full portfolio? Click on the picture and find our out more.
70V together with its portfolio companies provide unique career opportunities. However, we cannot avoid the elephant in the room –the startup 90% failure rate. How does 70V provide job stability/security?
In short, 70V is like a safety net for talents. Once you pass our application process and prove that you can deliver, we will hold your back no matter what.
As investors we also think how we can minimise the investment risk and maximise the returns. We focus on identifying the top founders who are 100% committed to their business venture. It takes at least 7 qualification steps and only a small fraction of founders we meet get an investment.
In the worst case scenario, If you are a good performer and enjoy the startup journey, we will definitely secure you a place in another startup as soon as possible. When you join one of our portfolio companies, you join the 70V community as well.
Mad respect that you’re not trying to claim that the 70V portfolio always falls on the successful 10% side. The startup life can be tough and not suitable for everyone. Who are the people you are looking for to join the team?
We look for people who enjoy working with customers and are born competitors.
If you are a go-getter, speed is your religion and discomfort attracts you, then we’d be a perfect fit. However, if life is happening to you and you’re full of excuses, then it’s a no go.
The top performers earn 7000 EUR+ monthly and all of them share the values written in our B2B Sales Manifesto.
How do you usually find the candidates to hire? What % of hired candidates have been sourced and headhunted?
It is really the top talent that we’re looking for. The top 10% of the ideal candidates.
We combine both passive and active sourcing. I wouldn’t be surprised if someone who’s reading this article was already approached by us. 🙂
Sometimes the best talent comes to us through referrals or platforms like MeetFrank. I’m extremely happy that talents who already work in 70V startups keep recommending their friends to join.
70V has only one religion – the TARGET. What is the key to motivate team members to make smart decisions and take responsibility for the consequences?
It’s about the mindset. When you have a sense of ownership then all of that comes naturally. We look for people who care about delivery.
The main motivation comes from the dynamic environment, speed of decision-making and clearly seeing the impact of our actions.
In the end of the day, 70V is the best B2B sales school in town. We cultivate a training-intensive environment that inspires to learn, grow and lead by example. Each new talent goes through a 2 weeks onboarding program with clear steps and training. People keep saying that after the 1st month here they feel like 3 or 4 months have passed already.
You have probably sacrificed some of your weekends and holidays to work. Be honest, has the startup hustle killed your social life?
Haha. True that. However, I don’t label that as a sacrifice. I really enjoy what I do here and understand the scale of my impact to our startups and new hires. On the contrary, I have improved my social life by focusing on building meaningful relationships and giving my undivided attention to the people who are the most important to me.
And of course, the industry I am in is plenty of networking opportunities. Almost every day I meet new people and reconnect with people I know.
Sounds like your cup of tea? Check out the 70V openings and apply!
70V is recruiting for Lead Researchers, Sales Development Representatives and Account Executives. Recently they have opened a new vacancy called Sales Operations Specialist. Read more about career possibilities on 70V’s website or check out the MeetFrank app:
💡 Besides investments from pre-seed to series A, 70V offers an acceleration program. They strongly believe that the success depends on the success of their startups.
💡 The company has invested in various B2B sectors: fintech, adtech/marktech, legaltech, accounting solutions. Their portfolio companies might go after the same customer but with different value propositions.
💡 B2B sales is the key element of success. According to 70V, the best solution is to start having meaningful customer conversations even before building a product.
💡 70V is a safety net for talents. When you join 70V portfolio companies, you join the 70V community as well – stellar performers are always secured a job.
💡 Working at a startup is a risk with a huge upside. The top performers at 70V earn €7000+ monthly and have been promoted within 8-12 months.
Having raised over $100M, Glia is poised to join the ranks of Estonia’s greats and do for businesses what Skype did for personal communication.
2020 tested everyone and everything in ways we didn’t think anyone needed to be tested. Among those acing all the tests has been Glia, a digital-first customer service technology provider with offices in Tallinn, Tartu, and NYC.
Glia’s award-winning, patented technology empowers businesses to communicate with their customers seamlessly. Frictionless customer service is a must-have even in the most uneventful times. But in a pandemic? When no one wants to stroll down to the bank or send another email that starts with “hope this finds you well”? Essential.
Enabling pandemic-proof customer service experiences catapulted Glia’s revenues up by 150% in 2020. It also led to an influx of $78M in funding in early 2021, making Glia lucky number 7 among Estonia’s best-funded startups.
But it’s not luck that got Glia where it is today. The company has been perfecting digital communication for customer-business interactions since 2012, with 9 of Finovate’s Best of Showtrophies under its belt already. The pandemic just proved to be an accelerator on their trajectory to tech superstardom.
Like fellow tech giant and trailblazer Skype, Glia is following the time-honored Estonian tradition of using technology to reinvent communication. Their easy-to-integrate technology allows their clients (mostly banks, credit unions, and insurers) to communicate with customers through various channels — from website to chat to video to CoBrowsing — while making it feel like one uninterrupted interaction.
Hassle-free interactions that don’t have you on hold with the bank for hours, desperately pressing 1 to make the nightmare end? It’s not hard to see the appeal.
And indeed — growing fast to meet the demand and loaded with fresh funding, Glia is ready to give new meaning to the word scale. (As in, on a scale of 1-10 they’re hiring at a 10, from all over the globe.)
The game-changing people behind the game-changing tech
Glia’s ahead-of-the-curve approach to Digital Customer Service is rooted in the very basic human need to simplify interactions between organizations and people. People, unsurprisingly, are also at the core of the company’s success.
As Nate Meeks, VP of Strategic Initiatives, points out: “Great technology means little without great people to support it.”
Those would be the unstoppable Glianeers. Glia comes from the Greek word for glue and is, in a vast oversimplification of the underlying neuroscience, the glue that holds the nervous system together. Glianeers, quite fittingly, are the glue that holds Glia together.
Nate puts it in more simple terms: “Glianeers are exceptional.”
And while any company might make that claim about their people, Nate brings the receipts. “Many companies are more concerned with hiring at speed than helping candidates find the best place to build their careers. At Glia, we focus on each candidate. Sometimes that means turning down qualified candidates that just aren’t a fit for our culture.”
Beyond this two-way-street approach to hiring, actionable core values, open communication, and fierce collaboration make Glia a great place to work. 97% of Glianeers say so themselves, which is particularly impressive when you compare it to a 59% average at other companies.
Glia’s big-picture view of what makes a team WOW-worthy continues well past the hiring process. Engineering Manager Patricia Goh and Software Engineer Gabriel Kuslap both point out that every Glianeer can clearly see the value they create for the company. “Engineers start and end their day knowing exactly why they are doing their assigned tickets and how that fits into the bigger picture, quarterly and annually,” Patricia says. “It is apparent to us how we have a direct impact on a product that is used by millions, from our daily code deployments.”
Gabriel agrees. “When working on a feature, knowing the reasoning behind it is essential,” he says. “Finding the answers to questions like ‘Why is this needed now?’ and ‘What are the alternatives to the proposed solution?’ helps both the engineer and the quality of the product. Engineers should invest their time in solutions that have a positive impact on the business and the users of the product. At Glia, a considerable amount of time is spent on planning and reasoning about work that needs to be done. This, in turn, results in a higher-quality, more maintainable code base.”
Glia’s 2021 to-do list: hire you
Speaking of a maintainable base, Nate doesn’t beat around the bush when it comes to Glia’s 2021 plans. “One of our biggest priorities is growing our team while maintaining our amazing culture,” he says.
Already working with massive players like Deutsche Bank and BNP Paribas, Glia is well on its way to becoming the next household name in digital-first customer service. To that end, expanding the engineering teams in Tartu and Tallinn is one major focus for 2021. Much like the rest of the team, Gabriel is ready to welcome new co-workers into the mix. “New people bring a lot of cool new energy and ideas to the company,” he says.
Glia rocked 2020 and is set to do it again in 2021. If you’re looking for the perfect place to channel your energy and ideas, become a Glianeer to reinvent how companies communicate with people in the digital world.
Cavai, founded in 2018, builds conversational advertising tools with a focus on protecting consumers’ privacy. Their approach seems to be gaining traction, at least judging by their client list, which includes global heavyweights like McDonald’s, Mercedes-Benz, and HBO. Last year they announced new hires to key senior positions and significant growth plans, accompanied by a funding round.
Cavai’s Chief Technology Officer is Mikko Kotila, a self-described “mad scientist”, who offered us a captivating look into the philosophy behind Cavai’s company culture. Find out what challenges can working in the ad-tech offer to developers, why the best thing a manager can do is to get out of the way of great talent, and what they are looking for in new hires.
Although some of the world’s most valuable brands use your product for advertising campaigns, regular people seldom hear about Cavai itself. How would you describe Cavai’s product to a non-marketing audience?
Cavai has created the first mainstream advertising technology platform that is built “people first.” Unlike thousands of other ad platforms, we never collect or do anything with people’s data. At Cavai, we build everything following strict privacy-by-design principles. I think that is something many people will be able to relate to. We have an undying commitment to making advertising better, and it starts with the fact that it can’t be dependent on exploiting people’s data.
On MeetFrank, you advertise Cavai’s positions with an ambitious tagline “The most wanted job in ad-tech”. Cavai’s excellent net promoter score 79 seems to confirm this. What makes your company culture unique?
Business is about people and only people. The company and its shareholder value is simply a collection of people and their activities and the results of those activities. I think it is easy to accept that love is a better experience than fear. We actively seek out fear placed approaches, which are rampant in modern corporate culture, and replace them with love based ones.
Everyone in Cavai has the exact same job description – “Do your best work”.
And everyone who works in leadership follows the same management principle – “Get out people’s way and make sure they have what they need and want.”
Although Cavai has many offices across Europe with HQ in Oslo, you also offer an option to work 100% remotely. Does Cavai have any rules at all concerning the working place and time? What about vacation time?
Our R&D HQ is in Helsinki. We are really thankful for having a strong employer brand in the area surrounding Helsinki. There is tremendous culture for advanced engineering work in that area.
We have 100% flexibility in terms of where and when you want to work. We are also experimenting with flexible holidays and other less conventional approaches.
Cavai’s stated management philosophy is that the team leaders should communicate the vision and then basically get out of the way of great talent. How did you arrive at this philosophy at Cavai? Have there been any particular experiences in the past that have shaped it?
I think great engineers are looking for mastery in their craft. As much as it is useful to have a relationship with someone looking after you and helping you make small corrections along the way, mastery is very much a personal experience. You will use an incredible amount of time by yourself working on something. It is useful to have guides, but it is there only because then you know you have that kind of support available when you need it and want it.
What can work in the ad-tech sector offer to software engineers that other sectors can’t? Maybe you can introduce a few key issues that Cavai’s development team is tackling right now?
The daily online advertising ecosystem footprint is roughly one trillion connections. Some of the most exciting computational advancements are taking place in advertising technology. There are a lot of technical challenges like concurrency that almost no other industry has.
Because Cavai focuses on creative technology, there is an opportunity for us to make advertising better. Because right now, advertising online is mostly awful and is completely disconnected from people. I prefer that the world is free from ads, but I think it is more realistic to make ads better. Let’s make ads more about people and less about whatever it is about now.
Last year, Cavai announced significant growth plans, and with that comes the need for additional team members. What qualities are you looking for when making a new hire?
Great cultural fit
Active contributor to the open-source community
Aspires to attain mastery.
I want to thank everyone who has applied for a job with Cavai or even thought about it. I’m grateful for the opportunity to work with such amazing people. Thank you.
kevin. is a fast-growing mobile payments fin-tech from Lithuania, founded in 2018 by CEO Tadas Tamošiūnas, a serial entrepreneur with over ten years of experience in the banking sector, and COO Pavel Sokolovas, whose background is in business development and consulting.
kevin.’s product, which enables merchants to accept payments directly from bank accounts via an API for services like parking, deliveries, and insurance, is the first time PSD2 has been used to compete with card networks for this type of payment. Currently operating in the Baltics, Poland, the Netherlands and Portugal, the company closed a €1.5 million seed round at the end of 2020 to scale into 15 new European markets this year, bringing its total funding raised to €3.4 million.
Developing an alternative payments network to credit cards offers unique challenges but also a chance to work in a versatile environment with lots of freedom to organise your time. Agnė Meškaitė, Chief People Officer at kevin., offered us a glimpse into their working culture.
Some people might be unfamiliar with kevin., as you focus on B2B customers. Please tell us service does kevin. provide exactly? Who are your customers?
kevin. is a payments fintech that provides a secure and developer-friendly payments infrastructure accessible via an API. In layman’s terms, we enable businesses to accept payments directly from banks, cutting out the card networks and making the payments process cheaper, faster, smoother and more convenient.
We are a team of 42 (and growing) passionate people driven by our expertise, ambition, trust and a sense of ownership. Last year, kevin. was named the best fintech in the Baltics at the prestigious Mastercard Lighthouse program, and one of the most promising startups of 2021 by EU-Startups.com.
2020 was a challenging and transformative year for any business. What did you learn as a company during the year?
For us, it happened to be the first year of growth and scaling as we have hired nearly 40 employees since March 2020. Remarkably, nearly all hiring processes were conducted online. The first challenge we faced was onboarding and integrating our newcomers. We developed a detailed onboarding plan, which included people who were responsible for clarifying our business goals, setting values and mindset for our new employees.
At the end of last year, we also welcomed a Community Manager to kevin., who takes care of our internal and external employer branding and communication. This step was crucial because many of our colleagues had never met each other in person during their time in kevin., so the roles and team structure had become unclear. Remote work challenges all HR professionals to be creative and support line managers in engaging their teams and sharing a sense of purpose and value.
kevin. has a somewhat unique working culture with minimal rules concerning working time. Could you tell us about your approach?
Our founders have been very clear from the start that the company’s focus should be on the results, not on hours spent working. We believe that if you hire promising talented people, give them the freedom to think and operate, they deliver the best results on time and find smart ways to overcome the obstacles along the way.
The key to this new way of managing working time is a state called “flow”. We believe that tasks that require a high level of intelligence and creative thinking can only be achieved if the employees are rested, engaged and focused. This is why we do not track hours or have set-in-stone rules regarding working hours. Everyone is free to complete their tasks on their own schedule, as long as deadlines are respected.
Our company is home to creative and bold achievers who want to build a sustainable payments infrastructure. To do so, they need to feel trusted by the founders, but even more importantly, by their peers as well.
“The company’s focus should be on the results, not on hours spent working.”
What reasons led you to make the shift? Was there scientific research behind it?
This mindset mainly came from the previous experience of our C-level team. With support from the founders, we develop company culture based on trust, efficiency and result-orientedness.
The team is everything for our company, so we do our best to help our people do great and feel proud of their work. In an industry like ours, strict working hours do more damage than create value. Thus, we communicate clear expectations and give freedom for everyone to find their own work-life balance.
From the employee’s standpoint, more free time certainly sounds nice. However, there might be concerns: removing organizational norms requires excellent time-management skills from employees, people working at different hours might make the team-work more difficult, etc. How did employees react to the change?
I would not describe this approach as giving more free time to employees, but rather as a benefit of managing your day according to your flow and individual peak productivity hours.
We analyze and evaluate every new hire, position and additional team resources. Based on a robust forecast, we create a plan to efficiently accomplish our goals and meet business targets. We also set clear expectations for each employee and measure their key performance indicators regularly.
Since we are an IT company, scrum and sprints guide us through the process. For example, our meetings focus on solving issues instead of updating and chatting. This is why the enrollment process is critical and boosts different teams to cooperate and contribute to each other’s success. In short, we empower employees to use our work environment to get the most for their professional growth and satisfaction at work.
Although it might be too early for definitive results, could you tell us how the change has worked out so far? Are the employees indeed happier?
Last summer, we asked our employees what they appreciated the most about working at kevin. The answers obviously varied, but the most common notion was a flexible work schedule and the freedom to create and express their opinion. The sense of ownership and the colleagues’ trust boost our employees to execute the boldest ideas and therefore exceed the expectations set by our clients and investors.
More and more companies experiment with remote work, flexible work hours, unlimited vacation time, etc. What would you recommend to companies which are looking to replicate kevin.’s approach?
I would recommend carefully assessing the value of a free working schedule for the company. Everything we do for our people and business aims to increase efficiency, simplify processes, and improve employee engagement. Not all companies, and certainly not all teams can work under such flexible conditions. And there are always certain activities that should be scheduled in advance.
With a mindset toward the ownership of individual tasks should come a certain level of maturity from the team members. Finally, a free working schedule requires explicit internal rules and interpersonal cooperation setup. So, before initiating and implementing this approach, I would think of the purpose and probabilities to make things work better.
On a different subject: what channels/methods does kevin. use to find candidates to hire?
Our best friend is MeetFrank, by all means :). We also use LinkedIn, various local and international job portals and… headhunting.
As kevin. operates in the finance and payment processing industry, you are often competing with established international corporations for employees. What are your secrets for attracting talent from corporates?
The market is oversaturated with great employers and competitive job packages. To the best of my belief, there is no secret ingredient that would work every time.
The common mistake I notice is employers trying to mimic ideas from other successful employers, hoping to get the same results. At kevin., we are very consistent in revealing our unique selling points and thus do not try to fill someone’s shoes. This helps us select the best people that fit our culture and mindset. So it doesn’t necessarily have to be a battle between big old corporations and small restless startups for the same candidates. We know what we can offer our talents, and if it is a match, no unnecessary promises have to be made to attract smart people.
“There is no secret ingredient that would work every time.”
What kind of mindset are you looking for when recruiting new people to kevin.?
That’s a great question! I prefer the right mindset over skills and years of experience. In short, everyone, who prioritizes logical reasoning, possesses grit and excels in their area of expertise, has a great chance to thrive at kevin.
What advice would you give to people looking to get hired in a fast-growing tech company like kevin.?
I would recommend assessing your level of resilience for uncertainty and willingness to work in an agile environment. Also, if you seek to work in a tech company, it is crucial that you are genuinely interested in the product or service the company is developing.