How to get started with an HR-Tech-Startup

The Startup Team - Fabian, David, David, Hansruedi, Nicola

“Get the feedback of the market. Don’t stay in your room and develop something nobody needs.” – quote from Nicola, co-founder of startup Joineer

Many companies today often hire employees where soft skills are often overlooked. That’s why Nicola and Fabian, co-founders of startup Joineer, have made it their mission to change the hiring process and the future of HR. Joineer’s product aims to help companies with soft skill matching in order to hire the right candidates. In today’s episode we discuss why it matters, why companies should use it, and how it’s important in building company culture.

Listen to the episode

In this episode you’ll learn:

  • Who Nicola and Fabian are and how Joineer was founded

  • Where Nicola got the idea for a product

  • How the process was like in Swiss Startup Factory’s Accelerator Program

  • What Joineer’s tool is about and how it can help HR and other departments in different industries

  • What the scientific basis of Joineer’s product is

  • What the challenges of Joineer as a startup are and its founders’ biggest learnings

  • Their thoughts on the future of HR

How Joineer started

While studying business communications in Zurich, two men named Nicola and Fabian met and eventually founded the startup Joineer. Both had been working in different companies; Nico in advertising and big corporate, while Fabian was doing sales in a small design office.

The idea behind Joineer

The idea for Joineer came about when Nicola found an online shop for natural soaps. At this time Nicola told himself “I have an idea for a product” in which Fabian found it to be impossible, but basically it involved matching soft skills. Nicola thinks soft skills is becoming more important in today’s society where the employee should be at the center. He thoroughly brainstormed about this topic and thought it could be a nice idea to just meet people with the same mindset and work in collaboration with them.

Joining the Accelerator Program

They started with 2 to 3 concepts of what their aim is and presented it to Max Meister who took a keen interest in their product and agreed with them that it is exactly what is missing in a startup environment. This idea was then presented to the Accelerator Program of the Swiss Startup Factory where they then successfully passed and got a place.

Challenges in soft-skill matching

They were met with many challenges when it came to soft skill matching. One of them is that there is a huge lack of talents in the Swiss market, even ending up with no applicant that is a perfect fit. Second, people act differently in different situations so evaluation tests can still be bypassed.

Focusing on the existing workforce

This led them to conclude that companies should start within the organization itself and not focus much on the external onboarding process. To look for soft skills, it is much more valuable to look at one’s existing workforce than to invest resources looking for new people.

Joineer’s process

The common way companies nowadays reach out to their employees is through tedious surveys/questionnaires that only annoy people. For Joineer, this is not good enough in today’s society because of digitalization and globalization all over. This calls for a solution that is closer to the employee, which is what Joineer does through pulse-like employee surveys that take just a fraction of a time to fill out and are fun to do, and in turn, employees can feel like their needs are being heard.

The right questions to ask

Joineer has a psychological advisory board comprised of psychologists and behavioral economists that could provide guidance in coming up with the different kinds of questions. They also work with another agency that challenges their questions.

The scientific approach

Joineer’s approach is feedforward, out of positive psychology and everything is framed to be a positive solution and future-oriented. Their forms are not a complaint box but is more about gaining positive inputs from the employee.

Target companies

Although the early adopters for this product (since it’s an HR topic) were solely HR companies or HR departments, they have reached out to people in innovation sections, management positions, and people involved in the change process, realizing that what matters is the person who is interested to use the tool. They now work with startups as well as big Swiss corporates and banks.

A feedforward tool

For Joineer, the good thing with using feedforward is that you get instant information, and this information can be used immediately by the management to improve their workplace. This is an added value to their product that can help them acquire clients through cold calling, mail, etc., and they can then do a paid long-term test if they are allowed to do so that takes an average of 2 to 3 months.

Figuring out the right price

Currently their pricing model starts at a monthly per-user fee of 5 francs each. Finding the right price is not easy, so Joineer compares it with their competitors. They also do customer interviews to find out how much people are willing to pay and how far they can go.

The biggest challenge

As the Accelerator Program almost came to a close, they would lose their mentor support. Also, this meant productivity would be affected as well. They know that their product is not rocket science nor the latest cancer research that investors would be knocking on their doors, but nevertheless, they needed to have the mindset and belief that the process they already started in their product has to continue in order for it to be successful. They had to find a way to show that their product works. They needed to, and this involved centering their pitch on employee engagement.

Measurement of product success

Approval from their investor and mentor Max Meister that their product was a great idea and they themselves believing in its potential to help companies were enough for them to say their product is a success. Employees (especially ones with huge untapped potential) in many companies feel like they do not have an impact or see value in their work. Joineer’s product offering helps to bring that to light and is a small step in the right direction to bridge that gap in HR.

Challenges with acquiring clients

Not all organizations are quite receptive to Joineer’s tool and these ones that are in very conservative structures and wouldn’t want change. They find these in government organizations, “macho” cultures like in construction/engineering, insurance companies, etc. On the other hand, they find it easier to talk to women; and most people in HR are women, so it might be why it’s easier to approach HR compared to other sectors.

Biggest learning

For Joineer’s founders, the most important thing to do is to allow your customer to use your product and get feedback right from the beginning. Ask people and from there, you can always go back and improve your tool’s features.

Another learning is that from the start, all of Joineer’s co-founders didn’t know how to code and thus had no idea how to get started and build their product in mind. So their second piece of advice would be to find people with the right skillset, know who you work with, and always take care of your team early on.

The future of HR

They are 100% convinced that their product is even going to be more relevant in the next few years. There are talks of jobs being replaced by machines and automation that is going to change the future outlook of HR, so that’s why it’s even more important to look after your people right now.

Listen to the episode


Nowadays, a lot of people are in seemingly dead-end jobs or they feel like they’re not being valued by the company they work in. They are stuck in a company who only see them as an employee in a very conservative culture where they are not heard.

What the modern workplace needs today is to foster employee engagement. It’s time that the hiring process is revolutionized where soft skills are taken into account so that every person’s potential can be tapped into, and in turn, build a company culture where every employee is cared for and their opinions matter.

Links/Weekly recommendation:

  • Zero to One by Peter Thielinspiring how the author talks about his failures and successes. Also talks about creating not just any startup, but one that’s really disruptive.

  • Sapiens and Homo Deus by Yuval Noah Hararieasy to understand and interesting to get a picture of who we are; and how in the future there is going to be superhumans and what we are going to do with it.

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