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One Year at Hopin, the Fastest Growing Startup in Europe | by Franz Schrepf | May, 2021

year ago, I just shut down my own company, broke and burnt out. Never could I have imagined that the small startup I was about to join would become one of the fastest-growing Saas companies in history.

I joined Hopin because Carlos at Seedcamp, who invested in both Hopin and my previous startup, introduced me to the CEO Johnny to “help out a bit”.

Back then I was still skeptical of remote work and virtual events, so I prepared some questions I wanted to ask Johnny during our first meeting. No questions were asked.

Instead, I met Johnny in a coffee shop at Kings Cross where he was demoing the platform to a client (!) across the table while also interviewing and onboarding me at the same time. Talk about speed of execution!

Listening to Johnny pitch Hopin, it was clear this guy was onto something. Only when I joined Hopin’s Slack a day later, I realized we were only 16 people and the platform was still in beta.

In Johnny’s mind, Hopin was already the fastest-growing company in the world.

A few days later, COVID lockdowns hit Europe in full force and we started to receive hundreds of inbound customer requests per day.

Even then, I only realized the true potential of virtual events two weeks later when Charlotte and I hosted our virtual engagement party on Hopin!

No pictures from our engagement party (for good reason) 😉

At the peak of the global lockdown in April 2020, we hosted a virtual party with 100 friends from around the world, including a pub quiz and our own Berlin DJ.

In a moment of global anxiety, we were able to share a wonderful moment with friends and family that would have never met in-person.

Twelve months, three funding rounds, and thousands of events later, Hopin has grown from a small scrappy startup to one of the most iconic tech scaleups of this decade.

Working at Hopin is like being part of a startup in time-lapse. I got to wear plenty of hats over the last year (sometimes literally!) and had the privilege of working with many of our brilliant teams, from sales to agency success to strategic partnerships today. Here six lessons that I learned in my first year:

In March 2020, everybody who wasn’t coding was selling.

It didn’t matter what you were hired for, if 10,000 organizers are knocking on our door you better answer. Everybody wore all the hats, from sales to onboarding to event support, until we tapped out. Then we started to split up into sales, customer success, and support.

Once our customers and product were taken care of, other roles like marketing, finance, operations followed. Until today though Hopin’s team is still product-centric with +50% of the team being engineers.

We focus on our customers and product first because good word spreads. Every successful event hosted on our platform leads to new organizers reaching out to our sales team. A solid product also reduces the need for support and is a lot easier to sell.

When drafting your next hiring plan, keep in mind how far we’ve got with just product and sales.

There are plenty of books written about “Blitzscaling” a company from the founder’s perspective, yet I found almost no content on how to navigate this journey as an early team member.

This blog post by Molly Graham describes best what it feels like to be an early employee on a rocketship:

“Everything about scaling rapidly is counterintuitive. Be prepared to give away your legos. Adding more people doesn’t mean there is less to do for the people who are already there. It means the whole company can do more.”

With 30 brilliant, well-rested people joining every other week, early employees will often feel insecure about their role within the company.

The worst thing you can do is give in to your intuition and hold on to your legos. You need to embrace giving away responsibility. If you don’t, you’ll become a bottleneck or worse, collapse under the growing workload.

The key to scaling with the company is to hand off your job every few months. If you’re still chasing up every client invoice yourself after 6 months, you won’t be able to work on the more exciting stuff.

A rare picture of the London team pre-Covid lockdown.

A year ago, Hopin only had one company value: No egos.

While we have five company values today, ask anybody in the team and they will confirm that this mantra is the foundation of our success.

Moving so quickly, we often need to kill projects we’ve worked on for weeks or months if the situation changes. And it always does. There is no time to dread, we just dust ourselves off and charge ahead.

Or as an early team member, you might feel tempted to assume that just because you’re the first person on a team, you deserve to run it.

Our sales team grew from 1 to 40 people within six months. Can you really learn in six months how to manage a team of 40 people and scale it to 300?

One of the most brilliant moves I only appreciated once we hired +100 more people (aka five months after joining) was the importance of having a flat hierarchy as a startup.

Until we were a team of 30, we only had our CEO Johnny as the top and everybody else below. Then we introduced “heads”, followed by “VPs”, and only now at 500 people are we really bringing on world-class “chiefs” like Anthony Kennada, our new CMO.

Can you imagine what this process would have been like if all early team members would have been “Chiefs”?

Tim Davey, one of my former advisors, once shared some brilliant advice:

“When people optimize for the organism as a whole, the whole organism will grow. If people start optimizing for themselves, you develop organizational cancer.”

The Hopin success story is a success story about remote work. We could only grow from 8 to +500 world-class employees in a year by hiring talent from anywhere in the world, not just London or San Francisco.

Onboarding remotely is also a lot more efficient. New Hopineers don’t need to relocate and we don’t have to carry 30 new desks into the office every other week.

Moving at this speed, internal communications are crucial to keeping tight feedback loops across all teams.

Fortunately, hosting remote events is kinda our thing. We’ve been leveraging our own platform from day one to host ConnectFests for the team to meet (shout out to Jamie in People Ops!), a one-week-long Hopin Academy to onboard new joiners, and monthly kickoffs.

The cornerstone of our internal comms is our Friday mandatory company all-hands. The meeting is basically a well-run TV show hosted by the wonderful Dana and Brian showcasing the highlights of the week. It’s an opportunity for us to share company stats, celebrate this week’s wins, and re-align all teams to our values and OKRs.

At Hopin, we err on the side of transparency. In a fully distributed team running at 300 mph, it’s better to trust your team and overshare rather than withhold critical information.

At my previous company, we were pre-product-market-fit (PMF) and our biggest concern was that our company would starve. We struggled to get customers in the door.

However, once you found PMF you might not starve but you sure can drown! We’re so primed to only think about issues of scarcity, that it’s easy to miss that abundance has the same issues.

When faced with enormous amounts of inbound, your intuition might be to let everybody in. The Hopin team is incredibly disciplined at prioritizing though, so we intentionally held off from “opening the floodgates” too early.

Unless you have the systems in place to support your existing customers, letting in more will only lead to a poor user experience for everybody and harm your reputation.

Customer love should always be your priority.

Our first piece of office furniture, a gift from Paxable, an event agency in New Zealand.

I know a bunch of people who wanted to join Hopin back when we were only 50 people, but they “didn’t find any senior roles”. Eight months later, we’re +500 people and filled many senior roles internally.

That’s how flat hierarchies work. There aren’t a lot of leadership roles at the beginning, but there is plenty of room to grow once you’re part of the team.

“If you’re offered a seat on a rocketship, you don’t ask what seat. Just get on.” — Eric Schmidt, former Google CEO

Over the past year, Hopin raised a new funding round every four months. When dealing with exponential growth, hesitating just a month or two can cost you dearly in terms of opportunity, options, and experiences.

The good news is that we’re hiring for +80 roles right now, and we’re still just getting started!

We’re only 500 employees at Hopin right now and we’re on track to becoming the fastest-growing Saas company in the world. Google has 135,000 employees today, so if you were employee #500 at Google you’re surely considered “early team”.

It’s only been a year with Hopin, but it’s been jam-packed with new friendships and experiences. I can’t wait to see where our rocket ship will take us next.

LFG! 🚀

If you’re interested in joining the Hopin team, check out our careers page and feel free to hit me up on Linkedin or Twitter!

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