90,000 hours. On average people spend 90,000 hours at work, numbers that are even higher in developing countries and among disadvantaged populations. Therefore, there’s no doubt that one’s job is an important part of their life – with novel tech solutions being a must to increase people’s productivity and satisfaction.
The good news is that with more novel AI solutions entering all spheres of life and a drastic shift in work preferences fueled by the COVID-19 pandemic, HRTech is here to enable tech innovations and support a wide range of HR functions, including talent acquisition, performance management, training, and more – benefiting both employers and employees.
One of the leaders in the field across Central and Eastern Europe is the Romanian company WhereWeWork. Founded in 2011, WhereWeWork is the largest community of employees in Romania, where the platform is known as Undelucram, and is one of the most significant ones in CEE, planning to increase its users from 1.5 to 4 million by the end of next year. Their expansion goals will be supported by the 1M EUR funding round they recently closed, with Bulgaria’s Sofia Angels Ventures being the lead investor. Having a Bulgarian VC is not surprising because the platform is increasing in popularity in Bulgaria, where the name WhereWeWork translates to Kaderabotim.
To explore WhereWeWork’s expansion plans and the evolving HRTech industry, we talk with Costin Tudor, CEO of WhereWeWork, who has embarked on a unique career path from corporate life to entrepreneurship.
The Recursive: Costin, can you take us back to 2011 when you were balancing your corporate role and establishing WhereWeWork? What inspired you to start this platform alongside your job?
Costin Tudor: Looking back, the idea of WhereWeWork originated from my personal experience as an employer actively involved in a wide range of recruitment processes. I noticed a recurring pattern of having to provide the same information repeatedly to candidates. It became apparent that there was a need for more transparent information in the overall hiring process, which inspired the concept behind our platform.
Recognizing this information gap in HR, now our platform aims to empower candidates with essential information – enabling them to make more informed decisions and engage in meaningful conversations during the recruitment process. By addressing this need for more informed candidates, we strive to enhance the overall recruitment experience for both employers and candidates.
– In 2018, you leaped to focus solely on WhereWeWork. What prompted this decision and what were the key challenges and opportunities you encountered in this transition?
The decision to embark on an entrepreneurial journey stemmed from my desire for a different way of living and working. It was a conscious choice to embrace the challenges and opportunities that come with entrepreneurship, rather than conforming to the limitations often found in corporate environments.
For me, the entrepreneurial path aligned with my self-sense and desire to navigate some uncharted territory. It provided an avenue to explore my potential, push boundaries, and create something meaningful and impactful.
By embracing entrepreneurship, I sought a path that allowed greater freedom, creativity, and the ability to carve my path forward. It was a decision deeply rooted in a desire to live a more fulfilling and purpose-driven life.
Given your unique career trajectory, from corporate life to full-time entrepreneurship, how have these experiences shaped your leadership style at WhereWeWork?
Leadership issues can have both universal relevance and context-specific implications, particularly in dynamic environments. However, certain leadership principles remain consistently valid: there is always a need for adaptability and flexibility to address the unique challenges of today’s changing landscape.
One of the key aspects of effective leadership is the ability to adapt to different situations and contexts. This entails understanding the specific needs and dynamics of the environment you’re in and adjusting leadership approaches accordingly. It also involves actively listening to the concerns and ideas of team members and fostering a culture of open communication and collaboration.
Trust plays a fundamental role in leadership. Leaders need to trust their team members and provide them with autonomy and support to excel in their roles. Equally important is the need to earn the trust of team members through transparent communication, consistent actions, and a demonstrated commitment to their well-being and growth.
By being adaptable, attentive, and able to build trust, leaders can navigate both the universal and unique challenges they encounter – promoting a positive and productive work environment.
Recently, WhereWeWork announced the closing of a 1M EUR seed funding round. Could you share what this means for WhereWeWork in practical terms?
That’s right! We are excited to share that we have successfully closed a 1M EUR funding round. These funds will be vital in supporting our mission to build productive work environments and strengthen our presence and impact in the CEE and MENA countries.
A significant portion of the investment will be allocated towards advancing our machine learning and AI algorithms, as well as developing new functionalities.
So, WhereWeWork would work on developing ML and AI algorithms? As the topic of AI is highly relevant, can you share more about this with us?
Of course. Given the vast amount of information available within our platforms, our algorithms leverage a diverse range of data on both candidates and employers. This includes user interests, salary data, current and past positions, reviews, and more. By combining this rich dataset, our self-adapting algorithm delivers high-quality results tailored to individual user interests.
The WhereWeWork group is committed to continuously enhancing our engine to better understand users, their behaviors on the platform, and even their overall experiences. This ongoing development ensures that we consistently deliver improved outcomes and personalized recommendations to our users.
And back to your expansion plans; in the press release, you mention international expansion in CEE, Asia, and Africa. Why did you choose these regions? What potential for WhereWeWork do you see there?
International expansion is one of our competitive advantages as a network of review platforms. Here we should note that we operate across 14 countries: Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary, Greece, Ukraine, Moldova, the Czech Republic, Poland, and the MENA area (Algeria, Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates), with plans to further expand into Asia.
Though launching in the MENA region was a challenge, we have successfully overcome it, thanks to strong growth pillars based on our educational content that has reached big audiences and our belief in these regions’ potential.
It’s interesting to note that in all different regions, the platform’s name is translated into the local language: Undelucram in Romania, Kaderabotim in Bulgaria, Poudouleveis in Greece, etc. Why is that?
Yes, indeed. We have a different approach compared with the big sharks in the industry and we’d like to be as local as possible in order to understand each market with its specifics and needs. Via each local platform, we help people search for jobs and employers in their specific country, compare local firms and average salaries based on the city they are living in, upload their documents and prepare for an interview, and much more.
With each platform being translated into the country’s mother tongue, we give an extra layer of accessibility that can support candidates and create a transparent environment between employers and applicants. That’s why, we believe that a local brand that explores local work specifics helps us to be more attached to the CEE and MENA markets and deliver actual value.
You’re also well aware that employee preferences beyond borders have evolved significantly over the years, particularly in light of recent global events like the pandemic. Could you share your insights on these changes and how WhereWeWork is addressing these shifting preferences in its offerings and strategies?
In our perspective, addressing such changing preferences is very much about offering updated and personalized solutions to employees. Additionally, we are supporting our communities with in-depth information from our cohort of HR professionals who are constantly trying to find the best ways to predict trends and find solutions to any concerns.
With these shifts in the industry, many new tools and tech solutions have emerged to solve different challenges. So what’s the status quo of the HRTech vertical in 2023?
The year 2023 is full of significant transformations for the HRTech vertical. We can say that in the future, the status quo of the HRTech industry will be marked by AI-powered solutions across aspects, such as repetitive HR operations, Data and People Analytics with their valuable workforce insights, employee experience platforms as integrated solutions to enhance the overall employee experience, remote work and collaboration tools, and more.
And what’s to come in the future for HRTech? Which factors will shape the industry?
AI and ML will continue to revolutionize HRTech. Some of the main factors to shape the industry might be the increasing availability of HR data, advancements in analytics tools, personalized experiences for employees, better context to adopt remote work and enable seamless collaboration, and more.
In the end, we can’t wait to see what the future holds for HRTech – with WhereWeWork being an essential player in the region.