In case you haven’t heard: Boku, a publicly-traded company on the London Stock Exchange, bought Fortumo for up to 40M euros in a deal that was announced at the end of June. The exit is one of the largest in the Estonian start-up history.
A large part of the deal’s press coverage was about how Boku admired Fortumo’s team, which made us extremely curious to talk with the woman in charge of building it every day.
In the interview, we’ll cover among other topics: What are Fortumo’s principles for building an outstanding company culture? What does their hiring process look like and how to be successful in attracting top talent? How has being acquired by a bigger company changed their everyday life? 🤔
It has to be especially satisfying to the Head of HR to hear your CEO Martin Koppel say in multiple interviews that Boku bought Fortumo mainly for the team. I know you joined Fortumo only this year, but well-deserved congratulations!
The deal got you a lot of media attention. Are more people reaching out to you to get a job in the company?
Yes, we have received more attention lately, and it is clear that the candidates are more aware of Fortumo. During the interviews, we get lots of questions about what the plans and goals for the future are.
Fortumo has rigorously built the hiring process and company culture over the years, and it’s something that you are very proud of. Was there a concern during the acquisition talks that things might change under new ownership?
It was exactly the opposite.
Management of both companies knew each other well for some time already. Fortumo team, culture, the way we work, our corporate image, what our customers talk about us, etc. were only some of the things Boku liked about Fortumo.
The main thing they admired was Fortumo’s ability to reinvent itself, adapt to the market, and innovate. This is very deep inside Fortumo culture where we acknowledge that when we keep doing the right thing for too long, we will lose the market. This means we invest ahead of the market based on the trends we see so we could be ready when industries are changing.
When we keep doing the right thing for too long, we will lose the market.
This is not something one can simply create or build, such a mindset has to come deep from company culture. This was the ability Boku admired, what they also wanted and why they did not want Fortumo to become Boku, but to continue independently to drive that culture and innovation for the group.
We are part of Boku´s team – but both companies will continue as a team with their own culture and processes. But if there is something that we can implement in Fortumo and we see it is valuable for us (and vice versa), we take over some new and shiny practices.
You joined Fortumo only in the spring of 2020, so you probably remember the hiring process well. How did Fortumo’s culture seem to you from the outside? How would you describe it now?
It is even better than it looked during the hiring process. Even then, everything seemed super great, but when I started my onboarding process, I discovered every day that Fortumo’s value proposition is multi-layered and exciting – and it still is.
I am referencing Martin Koppel again, who said that in Fortumo employees stay motivated mainly because of the team, culture, and the mission, not because of the salary. However, your team is already 70+ people strong. How do you get the new hires still to buy into Fortumo’s mission and culture?
The fundamental thing when hiring to any company is to have a cultural match. Skills can be developed, but values and culture are mostly not the things people will change. So fundamentally no company should hire people and they get their buy into the culture, they should hire only people who correlate with the culture, otherwise, things will not work out.
Skills can be developed, but values and culture are mostly not the things people will change.
In addition, we are a cool and exciting partner for a candidate – it means that Fortumo offers candidates opportunities to grow with the company. Job is attractive, partners to work with are exciting, and the person has a chance to shape themself a dream role. We do not have a written job description; instead, we have expectations and we let people develop roles and find new tasks internally. So, we constantly change and improve our internal possibilities, and that means people inside the company have the potential to grow and discover new roles.
Employees indeed tend to stay a quite long time in Fortumo, which is not the case in every startup. I think more than half of your employees have been there for over three years. How do you keep the team motivated over long periods?
Indeed, more than half of the team has been at Fortumo for more than three years. Why? We have a bureaucracy-free atmosphere and going the extra mile is encouraged, even if mistakes are made along the line.
There are interesting relationships all over the processes and exciting environments that keep people here. Our management is people-oriented and encourages people to take the extra mile, we all ask questions how-to improve, and all team members push each other to achieve the goals while we all support each other. As we are rather a small team, then everyone’s contribution counts!
What are the main things that you are looking for in the new hires? Is it mainly about technical skill, culture fit or excitement about your mission?
All that you mentioned above but also passion, “can-do” and “work hard, play hard” attitude, and readiness to learn a lot to achieve the goals. So we are looking for people who are on the same page with us – as we are ambitious, curious, and also we contribute as one team, so we care for each other. Again, everyone counts!
Please tell me a bit about your hiring process. I have heard that it consists of three rounds and there’s a scorecard involved somehow.
Our hiring always starts with a scorecard where we write down what skills and what kind of person we need. As it is crucial to understand who we need, the purpose of that role and what we want to achieve, etc.
If the scorecard is ready, we create a recruitment flow – how many stages we need to validate the perfect teammate as we are looking for long term relationships where both parties are happy and continuously growing. Once these stages settled, we decide who will be the members who participate in the recruitment process. In general, they help to find people who fit our team best.
What suggestions do you have for an applicant to be successful in the process?
Be yourself and be brave.
How do you usually find the candidates to hire? We heard from Nikolai Kabatsikov, Head of Talent at Bolt, that only 30% of their hires come from active applicants. It means that they have to invest a lot of time and effort in innovative recruiting techniques. How are things for Fortumo?
We are looking for good employees among friends and enemies 😊 jokes aside, I use LinkedIn Recruiter, MeetFrank, our employee recommendations, different communities, external partners, etc.
And one more question for the end, something which has become quite mandatory these days. Have you revised the hiring plans for 2020 and 2021 in light of the potential economic slowdown?
As Martin has said several times: Fortumo’s team is growing, and we haven’t changed our hiring plans and will continue recruiting.
Thanks for taking the time to chat with us! To end the interview, we’ve got five rapid-fire questions for you.
What’s your favourite question to ask at interviews?
On scale 1 to 10, how weird you are?
What’s the biggest challenge when hiring people to Fortumo?
Finding and hiring the superheroes abroad, as some roles are unique, and seeing these people is a real challenge.
What are your favourite recruitment tools and channels?
LinkedIn, as it is the most common tool for HR, and there are different communities where to search.
If you weren’t a recruiter, what would you do?
Mom definitely, but maybe a producer (I have lots of ideas but cannot achieve them all) or an extremely bad astronaut.
Got any summer vacation plans?
I have 😊
Photography by Mikko Leo Selg