Startups, Social Entrepreneurship & Hiring

Pablo Santaeufemia and Olisa Okonkwo of Bridge for Billions

Pablo Santaeufemia and Olisa Okonkwo of Bridge for Billions

Startups have a very particular atmosphere and working at one is entirely unlike working anywhere else. Because of what we do, we come into contact with a lot of exciting, fresh companies. To give job seekers a better insight, we thought we’d showcase some of our favourites and show what it’s like to work at a startup.

I recently spoke to Julie Murat about her experience of getting a job by using StartupCVs, and she kindly put me in touch with her new boss, Pablo Sanchez Santaeufemia. Pablo is the CEO and founder of Bridge for Billions, and I jumped at the chance to chat to him about startups, social entrepreneurship and hiring.

What does Bridge for Billions do?

(L-R) Jils George, Jonathan DiClemente, Pablo Santaeufemia, Jay Liu, Jessica Kou, Olisa Okonkwo

(L-R) Jils George, Jonathan DiClemente, Pablo Santaeufemia, Jay Liu, Jessica Kou, Olisa Okonkwo

Simply put, Pablo tells me, Bridge for Billions is “a virtual incubator for entrepreneurs all around the world that don’t have access to support networks.”

That is, the company provides resources and support to budding entrepreneurs to help them build a business plan. “They know how to operate their companies. They just need a little push,” says Pablo. “Some people think you need an MBA to be a good entrepreneur. You don’t.”

“Some people think you need an MBA to be a good entrepreneur. You don’t.”

Pablo himself has a very international background. He hasn’t lived in his native Spain since the age of 16 and since then has spent time in a variety of continents, including studying in the US and China, volunteering in India and working in Thailand.

It was while studying at Carnegie Mellon University that Pablo started to notice the things that led him to set up Bridge for Billions. He tells me that he noticed that in the social sector there are “all these latent resources that are not used in the right way.”

He is eloquent about the philanthropic relationship between the developed and developing world, describing how the recipients of aid are “captive to this donor community”, which creates dependency. He also tells me that 80% of volunteering jobs in developing countries could actually be fulfilled by local people.

“We feel so angry about a problem that we cannot just wait for it to be solved.”

These problems, and more, annoyed Pablo to the point where he decided to take action. “We [social entrepreneurs] feel so angry about a problem that we cannot just wait for it to be solved,” he says. “We are the people that want to stand up and say this is not ok.”

“Right now, these two worlds don’t talk to each other. Bridge for Billions is trying to simplify resources for these two worlds to connect.”

What makes Bridge for Billions a unique place to work and why should candidates apply to you?

That’s an easy question for Pablo. It’s a very rewarding place to work, he says, telling me that “Knowing that the work, the hours you put in, are worth more than just immediate compensation, knowing that you are helping someone. It’s very gratifying.”

“The hours you put in are worth more than just immediate compensation”

He also tells me that the Bridge for Billions team is very tight-knit, held together by their shared belief in the company’s mission.

“We do what we love,” he says. “Being such a small team, we need that common core to stay together. We are all making sacrifices. Knowing that is very important.”

“We do what we love.”

“We are also friends,” he adds, and tells me that Bridge for Billions also has a great home in the Impact Hub (a co-working space they have been using). “The startups [in the Impact Hub] are mostly social enterprises. It makes a very nice community. Very professional but not uptight at all.”

Impact Hub Madrid

Impact Hub Madrid

 

How do you think recruiting for a startup is different to recruiting for other companies?

Pablo believes that each individual hire has a much greater importance in a startup than in a traditional company. “For any startup, staff are an extremely valuable asset. They should be for any company but especially for startups,” he says.

He also believes that hiring for a startup is more difficult and that culture fit is more crucial, as startup cultures and working styles tend to vary a lot. “Getting to know the employee is so important,” he tells me. “It’s hard to understand working styles when everyone is trying to show their best [in an interview situation].”

He compares the process to dating, believing that the startup needs to woo the applicant just as much as vice versa. He says, “You need to question yourself. Am I [as an employer] going to be appealing for that person?”

“What you are offering them is so much more valuable than a corporate.”

Pablo also believes it is important to hire people with potential; the chance to learn and develop skills quickly can entice them to work at a startup. “At startups, a very valuable asset is people that have not developed their potential yet. What you are offering them is so much more valuable than a corporate. [In a corporate company] the learning process is slow. The curve is flat.”


How has StartupCVs helped you with recruiting for Bridge for Billions?

“When you are looking for people for your startup, it’s really challenging and potentially risky to search for candidates through the typical channels that large companies use,” says Pablo.

“Using StartupCVs was extremely easy and fast.”

“As a startup, I wanted to find candidates that are excited to work in a startup and already know what it takes. Using StartupCVs was extremely easy and fast. Within a few weeks, I had found a very good candidate. StartupCVs allows candidates to list their preferences and this helps you to understand their aspirations.”

What’s the one characteristic you think is the most vital to have when working in a startup environment?

“Initiative,” is Pablo’s firm response. “You need to be your own boss. If you are relying on someone else on the team you become a burden.”

While initiative and the ability to work as a self-starter is vital, Pablo stresses that you also need to know when to ask for help.

Why is Madrid the place to be (both on a personal level and for Bridge for Billions)?

Pablo Santaeufemia and Jessica Kou of Bridge for Billions

Pablo Santaeufemia and Jessica Kou of Bridge for Billions

While Bridge for Billions is registered in the US, Pablo and a few team members temporarily work from Madrid. For Pablo, it is a homecoming.

“For me, it’s my hometown and, after all these years being abroad, it’s a good time for me to reconnect,” he says. Then he goes on to say, “Of course, the food and the environment is so much better” with a laugh that tacitly admits his bias. He becomes more serious, though, when he adds, “People are much more appreciative of good community and good values because we know how bad it can be.”

“People are more willing to try something that could be good for their career.”

He is referring, of course, to Spain’s economic problems and high unemployment (including 46% of young people) over the last several years. He also believes that situation offers certain benefits to the Spanish startup scene.

“People are more willing to try something that could be good for their career,” he says.

Despite this, he believes startup culture doesn’t fit quite as well with that Spanish temperament as with that of other countries. “We [Spanish people] have a stronger fear of failure than in other countries,” he says, although that is starting to change.

“The startup ecosystem in Madrid is really growing.”

“The startup ecosystem in Madrid is really growing. Before there were not so many spaces or resources and now there are a lot. Lots of organisations supporting entrepreneurs.”

All in all, he says, “the environment is very welcoming and very appreciative.”

If you liked this peek inside Bridge for Billions, watch out for other articles in our We Know Startups series.

If you are a startup and are interested in being featured in our We Know Startups series, drop us a line on marketing@startupcvs.com. We’d love to hear from you.

This post originally appeared on the StartupCVs blog, where you can find more tips and advice on startup jobs and recruiting.

Originally published at blog.startupcvs.com on February 11, 2016.


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