As we launched the global call for applications to RG Challenge19, we’re running a series of blogs to showcase some of our successful alumni startups and to hear their progress since participating in a RG programme. We’re thrilled to feature Katerina Santikou, Founder of Workathlon and winner of the RG Challenge17 Judges Award, in the first in this new series of blogs.
Katerina is the passionate entrepreneur who founded Workathlon, a Greek start-up which, with the aid of technology, offers solutions oriented in the management of recruitment and the proper personnel allocation for hotels and resorts. Katerina joined RG Challenge17 through Reload Greece’s collaboration with the National Bank of Greece’s Business Seeds programme. As we caught up this week, she walked me through her entrepreneurial journey, we talked about the startup’s growth since completing and winning RG Challenge17, and she shared exciting news about the projects her team are working on right now.
It all started when Katerina was working in the HR department of her family business, a group of hotels. “I was looking for a more efficient way to screen CVs. I couldn’t find a solution that matched my needs and therefore decided to test whether my need was the same as other hospitality professionals”, she told me. That was the initial problem she wanted to solve, which triggered her inspiration to create Workathlon.
Read the interview below to see how Katerina managed to solve this problem and take Workathlon to the next level.
Could you briefly explain your start-up journey so far?
I started with an idea and decided to create a very small MVP by renting a job portal and marketing it in a way that was focused only on hotels. Immediately we got 60 hotels interested, and that’s where I realised that there was potential. I decided to reinvest and create a platform that was closer to the needs of my customers. After a year and a half, I launched the platform and we raised our seed round and won competitions. With the new platform our first stop was the MIT Enterprise Forum where we were finalists. Then we participated in the NBG Business Seeds competition from where we also got part of our seed round. During the summer of 2017, we took part in the Reload Greece RG Challenge17 programme, through which we secured the bigger part of our funding. Since then we are reinvesting in a new platform having learned from the needs of our users, our team has grown significantly to 9 full time employees and we are experiencing over 1000% growth per year.”
What kind of growth has your startup seen since you won RG Challenge’17 and how did participating in RG Challenge support that growth?
“Our funding came after participating and won Reload Greece Challenge and our team grow from 1 person to 9. We are 4 developers, 2 recruiters, 2 marketeers and me. We also have more than 400% revenue growth year on year and booming social media. Our traffic has reached 24k users monthly and we have already expanded to new markets.”
How would you sum up your RG Challenge experience?
“I learned a lot through the courses and really became pitch ready, met some incredible people – both founders and mentors – and got connected to a great pool of mentors and investors who help me till today.”
What project/projects are you working on right now? Could you tell us about the 2nd Hotels Career Day you organised and what impact does this have in your industry?
“We learned a lot about how the industry works, especially in the past year. We had a growing customer base and recognition, however we needed to serve customers with a platform that we knew didn’t cover 100% their needs. The software will be ready to launch in a month and it has taken us 7 months to get it ready. In the meantime however, you need to make sure that, even though you know your weaknesses, you have to make up for it with offline methods. That’s why we started the Career Days. We are an intelligent hospitality recruiting platform. We know how to attract candidates and find the right ones and our customers were eager to meet talents. So, we decided to take it offline – use our online tools and methods to source them, add the positions on the portal but the matching would happen in real time in person since our AI platform was not ready yet. The result was incredible. We got more than 20 known hotels and chains to participate, and over 1500 candidates to arrive at the Career Day.“
What’s the talent pool like in Greece?
“We are feeling a talent shortage as much as anywhere in Europe. Greece is no different – the economic crisis brought a lot of candidates to the hospitality sector; however, Greece has one of the lowest birth rates across Europe. The positive side is that employers are now investing in training their employees which increases slowly the quality of the candidates.”
Could you explain how Workathlon has a positive impact on Greece?
“Innovation spurs more innovation. We have already seen new startups being created in the field, which is really exciting for us to see what they are doing as well. Moreover, removing bias from the recruiting process creates better results, therefore better teams and better operating hotels. We train a lot our customers in managing their employer brand, ensuring a smooth candidate experience and training them post hire. This creates a positive effect all over the hospitality sector in Greece, by upgrading the quality of services and experiences the sector provides.”
Where do you want to be in 2 – 5 years time? Any thoughts on expanding internationally?
“Expansion is definitely on our plans! We never created Workathlon just to be a Greek portal and we have proved that from the very first months of starting. We have clients in the UK, Switzerland, UAE and Saudi Arabia and continue to grow. We want to become a global hospitality recruiting platform that utilizes AI to recommend the top candidates for companies based on skills, culture and values.”
How did your lifestyle change since you became an entrepreneur?
“The working hours have definitely increased as well as the stress, but I’ve developed a clearer way of seeing what’s important in my day and what’s not. When you don’t have a lot of time out of the office you make sure that you spend it well. But you also make sure that work is a fun place to be at, that the environment is positive, and you ultimately respect your colleagues. It’s a rollercoaster emotionally, because you experience both good and bad days, and you need to really work on yourself as a person, as a manager, as a friend in order to ameliorate the ups and downs. Overall, being an entrepreneur is undoubtedly a growing and learning process.”
It’s so exciting to see how RG Challenge17 alumni start-up Workathlon continues to grow after completing the programme! Workathlon won a £5,000 cash prize from award partners Charge Ventures, legal advice/mentoring with Keystone Law, a booster pack from Qapitol QA, a strategy session and £10k cloud credits with IBM and hands on support to get a Seedrs campaign up and running. Katerina Santikou said: ‘To me, Reload Greece is an opportunity to grow, connect and expand.’ Hearing about their projects, plans for expansion and the impact they have on Greece, is what inspires and motivates us in continuing to support early stage ventures. It’s great to hear how Workathlon have accelerated their business, gained investment and continue togive back to the community! We wish Workathlon all the best for their plans and look forward to hearing incredible news from them again in the future.
If you are an early stage start-up looking to fast track your business, connect with UK investors and raise your first round of investment, apply today for RG Challenge19. We look forward to receiving your application! If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us at email@example.com