In her first blog for De Ondernemer, co-founder of startup Equalture, Charlotte Melkert, says that taking risks is synonymous with entrepreneurship as far as she is concerned. How she and her twin sister took the risk of starting a tech start-up without any knowledge of software development. And she took the risk of betting on a multimillion-dollar company that would change the world forever.
I took the risk of going into business with my twin sister, because without doing any work experience within a real company. To start a tech startup without any knowledge of software development. And I took the risk of betting on a multi-million dollar company that would change the world forever.
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I breathe risk. A fun fact : In case you don’t know me, my name is Charlotte, I’m 24 years old and co-founder and CEO at Equalture. Our company develops recruitment software that uses gamification and AI to support companies in basing hiring decisions on objective insights, instead of gut feelings and prejudices. As I already introduced, gamification is part of this; we develop neuroscientific games that can interactively map skills and personality traits – and thus also the tendency to take risks. I scored 93 percent on this game, so very risk-taking.
This is what I see in many startup founders around me and also in our own product. We offer a functionality that allows you, as a company, to first analyze your own teams before using the games for candidates. Founding teams structurally score significantly higher on the propensity to take risks. That is of course not surprising. As a founder of a company, especially in the tech industry, you take huge risks in the early stages. These are often companies that depend on external funding, which face an enormous challenge in getting their product ready for the market. In most cases, the founder team consists of people for whom this is the first startup journey . Like I said, it breathes risk.
Besides taking risks, there is something else that characterizes us as startups
Besides taking risks, there is another trait that is in our founder DNA. That is not our best quality, but it is an explainable one. Company founders are control freaks . Speaking for myself, I can safely say that I was anything but relaxed to work with in the early days of Equalture. I’m still not always that way.
This is why:
I know it sounds incredibly cliché, and yet every word is truth to me. My company feels like my child to me. I love this company and what we want to achieve with this company so much that I want nothing more than to provide it with a bright future.
Building a business is often quite similar to raising a child
To add to this, I think building a business is pretty similar to raising a child in many ways. In the early years, you may still manage to be near your child most of the time. And involved. But this is changing. Just like when a child goes to school and is partly raised by teachers or babysitters, your company is also formed by the team you are building.
I am firmly convinced that every parent struggles with this in the beginning. Just like every founder . However, the danger is that successfully building a business becomes impossible when you cling so tightly to the urge to keep control. The success of a tech startup lies in its scalability. The biggest drag on scalability is, by definition, the founding team.
Letting go without dropping: we do that every day
This is something I realize all too well. Although I’m still a huge control freak, I try to get a little better every day at letting go without dropping it. Even though I find it terrifying when colleagues do this. Enabling my team to take calculated risks without throwing them into too deep water. This is how we (try to) do that internally.
We are an OKR/KPI driven company. We don’t care how many hours or when a team works, as long as it achieves the objectives. This is something we as the founding team determine on an annual basis and on a quarterly basis. I firmly believe that you can enable your team to independently take well-considered risks when they have a clear goal in mind and are given the right tools to achieve this goal. This means that you as a founder are not in the driver’s seat yourself, but in the co-driver’s seat.
Reflecting strategically on the objectives and essentially achieved goals
We have a daily check-in and check-out of 15 minutes with each team. Here, at the beginning of the day, the planning is discussed, so that there is room to either ask for help, or to spot that someone will need help. At the end of the day we discuss whether everything went well. In addition, there are weekly 30 minute catch-ups with each team to reflect on the past week and discuss learnings , this is more tactical than strategic.
Finally, there are monthly evaluations of 45 minutes to reflect more strategically on the objectives and essentially achieved goals. We do this to learn from things that have and have not gone well. At all these meetings, at least one person from our founding team is present, in order to be able to share all the learnings we already have. After all, we have taken thousands of risks. Risks from which many wrong choices have come. In short, more than enough learnings!
Ultimately, as a founder , you are the accelerator of growth. Or just the brakes on growth. I am absolutely committed to being the accelerator, although that still involves making mistakes every day, learning from my team’s feedback and trying to get better every day at letting go without dropping. That’s how it should be.