Change is the constant when you work in a startup, especially if the startup develops cutting-edge technologies
EB: I’ve been a fan of Neufund since two years ago, as I was toying with an editorial blockchain project in Berlin – Occurrency. You recently announced a change of business model/direction, which more or less coincided with the entire Covid context. From your famous and innovative Equity Token Offering project, you pivoted towards product development. Congratulations, by the way. How did people in the company embrace this new change?
Dawid: With lots of questions and ideas. Change is the constant when you work in a startup, especially if the startup develops cutting-edge technologies and aims to improve the existing market. Many people, as well as companies, hate change – but for us it means opportunity: to learn and develop our skills, challenge the market, and do something that nobody believed possible. Our team members know the importance of being dynamic, value the company’s agility, and the general reaction was: When do we start?
EB: These past few months, we ‘ve spoken to many talent managers and HR people about how they managed company culture and how they’ve kept colleagues engaged. Could you share with us three concrete measures Neufund has taken to ensure the company stays true to its values?
Dawid: Initially, we didn’t have to adapt much to the “new reality” of working from home. We were used to working from home on Fridays, so we just switched all our offline meetings to online, created update channels on Slack and permanent video calls, and kept working. To keep the tempo and adapt our processes, at the beginning of the pandemic we organized an online hackathon. Within one week, we created a prototype of a new product and tested all working processes. It was a great experience. Later, some of the ideas were implemented in our projects, while some are still waiting for their turn. This hackathon showed us that the team works effectively no matter how long the pandemic lasts and taught us how best to communicate with each other under these new conditions.
Thanks to new technologies and services, we were able to run the business during the pandemic. However, we think it’s naive to believe that video calls and online chats will replace human interactions or increase productivity. To some extent, yes – but not fully. On the contrary, we see burnouts, lack of communication, and anxiety caused by feelings of detachment and loneliness.
For kindness and empathy, words from a loudspeaker are not enough: sometimes you need a shoulder to lean on, or someone who will laugh with you. The office is our second home and the team our second family, and we’ve really missed them.
As the pandemic restrictions eased and the “corona traffic lights” stayed green, we saw our colleagues coming to the office more and more and decided to reframe our work. We’ve transformed our office into a “members only” coworking space with flexi desks and new meeting areas. Some of our colleagues, who work in the office almost every day, have kept their fixed desks; those who prefer more flexibility may use any free desk in the office or work remotely. We combine optional WFH with in-office time: our teammates decide when they want to work from home and when they come to the office. One day a week we get together for our offline team meeting. Our Flexi-Fridays remain flexi.
Of course, we follow the social distancing rules, and our offices and desks are cleaned regularly. There’s also sanitizer and cleaning products available for all.
EB: We’ve also talked to learning and development managers lately. They’re claiming that, as people work from home, new ways of doing business are being put in place. Especially in the onboarding process, learning seems to have gained new powers, becoming an integral part of the company DNA. How has this unveiled at Neufund?
Dawid: We’ve always had first interviews remotely, via video calls, and personal meetings with successful candidates, so there is not so much difference compared to the beginning of the year. And we’ve saved the “buddies” tradition for the onboarding process, so our new colleagues have the same support as those who joined before the pandemic.
Like the whole world, we had to switch over to online courses and meetings, but in September we also relaunched our offline team events and NeuSchool, and more interesting events are on the way.
EB: Where is Neufund 3 months from now?
Dawid: I’m not sure anyone can foresee what will happen in the next three months. Even the specialists can not say if we are going to have a second wave, whether the borders will open, and how the economy will recover.
Our team is working on several projects at the moment: maintaining our investing and fundraising platform, supporting our current portfolio of products, and creating new solutions to make blockchain-based products accessible and user-friendly to a broader audience, especially non-tech-savvy users.
We have plans to strengthen the team and expand our expertise, and we are hiring: https://neufund.org/careers
Dawid is part of the Neufund Talent Management Team, currently residing in Berlin.