Few things can be more frustrating than job-hunting - sending out endless generic CVs and repetitive cover letters to eventually find a job we may not even enjoy. Luckily, Justin McMurray, founder of Somewhere, has decided to do something about this.
Founded in late 2011, Somewhere aims to provide an alternative way for companies and talent to find each other, based on factors that are not commonly considered in the standard job search, while aiming to increase satisfaction and “work joy” on both sides.
Companies have been using the same process of recruitment for years. What made you feel the need to develop an alternative to this standard process?
The standard recruitment process – CVs, interviews, and so on – is several decades old, and no longer that effective or relevant, particularly when you see how many people today are dissatisfied with their current jobs. The main reason for this is the lack of cultural fit between companies and their employees. In today’s economy, an increasing number of jobs rely on creativity and other human characteristics, rather than specific skills alone. A CV can list a set of skills, yet it cannot really show whether or not the employee would have a good cultural fit with the company.
You mention a specific need to consider ‘cultural fit’ when seeking out talent. What exactly does this term mean?
That’s a good question. We don’t think it can necessarily be defined, but we see it as a collection of intangible factors related to how an employee interacts with his or her workplace – for example, the company philosophy, the team, the work style, or the attitude, to name a few. Cultural fit refers to these kinds of factors which can’t really be quantified, yet are still important to both companies and employees.
Do you believe the cultural fit of an employee is equally important as his or her skills directly related to the job?
I think it depends a lot on the company and the industry. For professions that rely on a very specific skill set, such as medicine, cultural fit is obviously not that important. However, we are seeing an increasing number of creative companies where the skills required are diverse, and constantly changing. In these companies, employees can no longer be evaluated purely on their skills, but rather on their attitude, and on the chemistry they have with the company. Cultural fit, in that case, would be very important.
Exclusive screenshot of Somewhere. The product is due to launch next month.
How does Somewhere help place cultural fit at the forefront of the recruitment process?
We’re just about to launch our first product which will mainly be targeted towards the creative industry; so towards creative startups, studios, or design agencies, and to create a rich showcase of what both these companies and prospective talent have to offer. We find that companies rarely provide information that is interesting or even relevant to talent, focusing instead on the interests of customers or investors. For example, employees often want to know about things like the working environment, the company philosophy, or even things like what kind of music they play during office hours or if there are any good cafés or bars nearby – things that will affect their satisfaction with the job in the long term.
Likewise, many companies wish to see something completely different from what they normally encounter when searching for talent. Instead of generic CVs that list a person’s skills and educational qualifications, what they really wish to see is their character – what makes them tick, or how resilient they would be when faced with a challenge – things that CVs cannot really show. Different companies look for different personality traits – smaller creative firms, for instance, may look for someone highly autonomous, while larger firms may look for someone who is sensitive to others and works well in a team.
As a new startup, what are some of the challenges you’ve faced in developing and promoting your idea, particularly as an alternative to such a well-established process? What kind of advice would you give to others who are just starting their own companies?
My main advice would be simply to start. Starting something does not rely on having a fantastic idea, but rather on the desire to solve a problem. Even if you do not immediately know how to solve it, you can simply learn more as you develop as a startup. There are, of course, many challenges that come with that, such as planning and coordinating each task, or time management. The biggest challenge, however, is working effectively with limited resources. We managed to bootstrap our discovery of the problem, the solution and our customer base, and we’ve developed our first product which will soon launch in five cities – London, Berlin, San Francisco, New York and Sydney. However, after that, we will need some outside support, either in the form of angel funding or seed investments, so that we can truly reach out to these five cities.
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January was the month we settled in our new ‘haus at Rudi-Dutschke-Straße. Just like moving into a new apartment, it was cold at the start. It felt a little new and different, but the moment the Club Lounge started filling and members were getting lunch together at the betahaus | Cafe, a new magic started to happen. The magic we call the betahaus community. It takes time to build, but the connections that blossom inside the ‘haus stay forever.
In February betahausX released The Accessible Transportation Challenge - a partnership with Toyota Mobility Foundation for the BETAPITCH challenge in Berlin. Devoted to making Berlin a more accessible city, this edition of BETAPITCH gathered many startups working on great new transportation solutions.
In March, we announced a soon-to-be-open second location in Berlin in our favourite neighbourhood in the city. We took over the iconic Geyer Werke building in Neukölln and with the help of our architects from Kim Wang we turned the place into a four-floor coworking space. We shared with you some fun facts about the space before it’s opening and made a virtual map with our favourite businesses around the ‘haus.
In April, we celebrated a decade of coworking with our biggest party in the last few years - ''10 Years in beta''. For this one we transformed the coworking area in betahaus | Neukölln into a party venue. An art exhibition took over The Basement underneath and The Garden was filled with activities like acro yoga, mandala painting, and a collage workshop.
‘’One of my many favourite betahaus moments this year was when Christoph, Max and I stood nervously in the Garden to give a speech in front of all our friends and members at our 10th birthday party. We talked about our values, our future goals after this whirlwind of a change and our intention to make tech more human. There was just so much love and appreciation around us.’’ - Madeleine (Co-Founder, betahaus)
"My favourite betahaus moment of the year is the woman who was gently putting beef and minced meat around our 10 years party installation. Until this day, no one knows exactly who she was and if this was a part of the installation, but out of all the things we saw on the 10 years in beta, she stays my highlight.’’ - Maria (Graphic Designer, betahaus)
The 10 Years in beta party was also the official opening of betahaus | Neukölln. Spring was the perfect time for our new project to start growing. The Club Lounge started filling, amazing new teams joined the community such as LAUDO, Obst Digital, Wonderwerk, Trybe and The Zeitsprung Project. Our Gil became the Lord of the house, giving hugs to everybody, fixing all kinds of problems in the ‘haus and keeping it run smoothly with the rest of the Front Desk team. This was also the month when we launched our beloved weekly yoga classes guided by our dear Cynthia from Arrive Yoga.
" People matter! Community was always what we were all about. ‘’
In June we launched #PeopleInbeta - our monthly blog post series in which our Content Manager - Vihra interviewed teams and freelancers from the betahaus community to present the variety of creatives we have in ‘haus, to understand their missions and get some useful advice for our audience. We talked on topics such as sustainability (with PlanA) , decentralized digital identity (with JOLOCOM), curated music experiences (with Bespoke Sounds), freelance photography (with Sara Herrlander), full-stack development (with Obst Digital), design (with LAUDO) and much more.
In the summer, we launched a couple of new events in Neukölln like Freelancers, Unite!, The Backyard Sessions and My friend’s BBQ.
Freelancers, Unite! developed as our productive coworking session with freelancers from in and outside the ‘haus. Once a month, we picked an important freelance topic (such as taxes, time-management, etc) and invited experts to give us insights on the topic. We saw so many new faces and had the chance to come back closer to where we started from - the freelance, grassroots culture.
Another event, which started in July (and turned out to be our favourite events) were The Backyard Sessions. Organised by our queen of Neukölln - Robbin – the Backyard Sessions are our creative evenings with live music jams, movie screenings and cocktails.
This last event was hilarious because for quite some time, nobody knew exactly who organised it or invited them. The friend was throwing a BBQ for the community in the garden and this led to all our members joining and staying after for a beer or two with us.
‘’My favourite moment this year was the second friends bbq which was actually cancelled because of the rain forecast. But despite the bad weather, people show up and it turned into a super nice intimate evening with Elizaveta and Paul giving a garden concert.’’ - Robbin (Community Manager, betahaus)
''In July, it was great how the casual after-work BBQ turned into an impromptu acoustic blues jam session with Elizavetta Barsegova and Paul, who have the voice of an angel. Actually, all of the My Friend's BBQ's and Backyard Sessions were AWESOME.’’ - Paige (Head of Marketing, betahaus)
This year we released a new event format in Kreuzberg called ‘’The betaSalon’’. It's an open panel discussion which aims to give stage to important topics and give free speech on them. The fist one we did on the EU elections, last month we talked about changemakers, but our favourite one for this season stays ‘’Mother + Founder’’ where we partnered with FemGems podcast and recorded a live podcast episode for them having Madeleine Gummer von Mohl (betahaus co-founder), Kristine Zeller (co-creater of ooshi period underwear) and Luisa Hoffman on the stage.
Every September, our co-founders take part in the Techfestival. in Copenhagen, spending a few days disconnecting from the daily life and focusing on creating a better, more human-centered tech future. This year the think tank which included our co-founders Madeleine and Max came up with the TechPledge. The Tech Pledge was made to emphasize the need for a new direction in tech. Similar to the Hippocratic oath for doctors, the Tech Pledge is a promise to make tech a force for good and ensure responsible and sustainable tech leadership. It’s a commitment to driving a new direction in technology.
One of the most exciting projects for betahausX this year (which is also continuing in 2020) is their new startup challenge called The Werder Lab - a global startup competition that aims to reimagine the way clubs like Werder work with athletes, fans and partners.
This year couldn’t end without us having our favourite events - the end-of-the-year holiday party and the BETAPITCH Global Finals. On the 6th of December we saw the 9 finalists of the regional BETAPITCH competitions pitching in front of our jury. Congrats to Troy from Hamburg for winning the big prize.
We finished the year at our Holiday Party celebrating anything and everything at betahaus | Neukölln together with our members, friends of friends and our favourite artists from Passiflora LIVE, Tapete and Kotoe.
Thank you for being with us in 2019. It's been a crazy big year for us and it wouldn't been possible without your support, trust and the hard work of our amazing team. Have an amazing holiday time and we'll see you again in 2020.