Why four Unicorn founders invested in this Berlin HR startup

The shortage of skilled workers remains a problem for many IT companies even during the Corona crisis. There is often no alternative to searching abroad. An HR startup promises quick help.

The founding team behind Workmotion: Felix Steffens, Karim Zaghlou and Carsten Lebtig (from left)

The founding team behind Workmotion: Felix Steffens, Karim Zaghlou and Carsten Lebtig (from left)

PR / workmotion

Anyone looking for new employees as a young tech company has a hard time in this country. Last year, 70 percent of the companies stated in a representative survey by the industry association Bitkom that they could not find enough IT professionals. As a result, 86,000 positions remained vacant. Those who found what they were looking for waited an average of six months.

A situation that, from Carsten Lebtig’s point of view, will not change anytime soon. “The bottom line is that the influx of workers from abroad will not be enough to fill all vacancies,” says the founder of the Berlin HR startup Workmotion. Companies are therefore forced to look abroad themselves. But according to Lebtig, this brings further problems. “Opening a branch in Russia or India is expensive and time-consuming and those who rely on freelancers are quickly suspected of promoting bogus self-employment,” says Lebtig.

Help with recruiting abroad

This is where his company comes in. Workmotion wants to make it easier for companies to employ skilled workers directly abroad. Lebtig promises that nothing more than the software of his startup is necessary for this. For example, if a HR manager has found a developer in Spain, he can use Workmotion to draw up an employment contract that complies with the laws of the country, organize payroll accounting and deal with tax matters.

Customers do not need their own company headquarters in the respective target country. From a legal point of view, the employees are employed by the Berlin startup, which in turn cooperates with recruitment agencies on site. “Companies can hire employees in more than 140 countries with just a few clicks,” explains Lebtig. So far, the software has mainly been used by tech startups. The approximately 50 corporate customers of Workmotion include the accommodation broker Holidu and the Berlin-based cook box mail order company Marley Spoon. The companies pay a fee of “a few hundred” euros to the startup per employee and month.

Delivery Hero, Flixbus and Personio founders give money

The business model has already convinced several well-known investors a few months after it was launched. A total of 2.2 million euros were recently raised in a seed round for the startup. In addition to DHDL lion Carsten Maschmeyer, the donors include Unicorn founders Niklas Östberg from Delivery Hero, Jochen Engert from Flixbus, Klarna founder Victor Jacobsson and Hanno Renner, whose HR startup Personio is also valued at more than one billion dollars. Alexander Samwer’s fund also took an early stake in Workmotion with Picus Capital. “The contacts to the new angel investors were also established via the Picus network,” says Lebtig, who sees the financing as merely an intermediate step. A larger round is to follow this year – “then in the double-digit million range”.

The founder also hopes for a boost for business from the trend towards more home offices. Due to the corona, many companies would have recognized that work no longer necessarily had to take place in the office. In addition, companies such as Facebook or Google showed that it is also possible to operate with employees who mainly live remotely abroad on a long-term basis. Lebtig: “This path is ultimately the solution for the shortage of skilled workers that we have here in Germany and in Europe.”

Workmotion is also likely to be in demand among investors because software solutions for human resources promise high sales. For comparison: The Munich HR startup Personio had sales of around 9.3 million euros in 2019 – more than twice as much as in the previous year. For 2020, the company forecast a further increase of up to 150 percent. Anyone who has decided to use HR software as a company will usually not change it as quickly. This guarantees reliably recurring sales. Workmotion founder Lebtig also wants to benefit from this and now wants to integrate his software into the existing HR systems of many companies. This also includes Personio.


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