Personio is one of the fastest-growing B2B SaaS companies in Europe. With their innovative product, an HR management software for small and medium-sized businesses, Personio can digitalize all HR processes within a company, from employee management to payroll accounting. With a motivated team of more than 400 employees, Personio aims at building the leading HR platform in Europe. Find out more about the founding and the development of the company in our exclusive interview with Hanno Renner, CEO of Personio.
INTERVIEW WITH HANNO RENNER, CO-FOUNDER AND CEO OF PERSONIO
With which 3 hashtags would you characterize yourself and why?
I don’t like to characterize myself and so I asked Philipp, my Chief of Staff to do so. He would describe me with the following hashtags:
- #seektoimprove – indispensable to keep up with the demands of this role and it is one of the Operating Principles of Personio
- #sportsman – because of his passion for sports, but also because of the sense for fairness, ethics & respect
- #crazyunudriver – every permanent Personio employee gets an Unu Scooter. Hanno is definitely one of those who come to work with their Unu regardless of the weather
How did you get the idea to develop an HR management software?
While I was a student, a friend of mine drew my attention to a problem at his former employer, a medium-sized company. Their HR processes have not been digitized yet and therefore included many administrative tasks. We had the feeling that there was a real problem that had not been solved yet, and so my co-founders and I developed the first prototype.
Hanno Renner, CEO of Personio
How did Personio develop from a small team to a successful company with over 400 employees?
In the beginning, it was only us, four founders. Each of us did basically everything. That also didn’t change when we hired our first employees, but gradually the focus of our work crystallized. For example, I was responsible for sales and distribution and drove from company to company in Berlin to present our prototype to them. With the first seed-funding, we were able to start hiring even more people after about a year and have grown to 50 employees. In the meantime, after 4.5 years, more than 420 people are already working at Personio. Most of them in Munich; but for some time now also at our other locations in Madrid, London & Dublin. The strong growth is an exciting development, but of course, it also brings certain challenges. For example, we have to transfer the corporate culture from the Munich office to our other locations.
Did everything run smoothly at the beginning, or did you sometimes doubt the success of the company?
I wouldn’t say that everything has always gone smoothly. Since none of us had ever really worked before, building up a company was a continuous learning process. But we always believed in our success, because we quickly realized that our software was solving a real problem of many companies and that the demand for our product was high.
How does your solution differ from those already on the market?
With our solution, we focus on small and medium-sized companies with 10 to 2,000 employees. For them, there are mainly isolated applications, e.g. software only for recruiting or only for payroll. But we offer a holistic solution that covers the entire employee life cycle: From recruiting to employee management such as on-boarding, time recording, and feedback, to payroll accounting, Personio can digitize all HR processes that exist in any company.
When did you decide to bring Personio across the borders of Germany and what were the most important steps in this process?
European expansion was part of our strategy from the very beginning. In 2019, we have started to analyze the market. We defined the first countries to which we wanted to expand and started to build up the teams. In order to acquire the first customers abroad, our investor network was certainly crucial, which provided us with good contacts. Now we are starting to build a strong brand abroad with events and content marketing and are transferring the learnings of the last years, which we gained in the DACH region, to the other markets. We are currently one of the fastest-growing start-ups in Europe.
Where do you see Personio in the next 5 years?
Our goal is to support as many companies as possible with our solution and thus become the leading HR platform for SMEs in Europe. Over the next years, we want to further expand our business in Germany on the one hand, and to continue to drive forward our European expansion on the other hand. It is possible that we will open additional offices in other markets in order to provide even better support for local customers and also to attract additional talent. We also have a lot of plans: Our German customers can already book Payroll, i.e. process payroll accounting via Personio. The plan here, however, is that we will be able to offer the product to even more customers in the future, also abroad.
What insights that you have gained through the foundation and growth of Personio would you pass on to our students?
For students who want to start their own business, my main message is that you can’t prepare for what’s coming. You have to be able to deal with uncertainty and constant change, and very importantly: with 40 hours a week, it is seldom done. In return, I have one of the most exciting jobs I can personally think of and that doesn’t feel like work either.
We would like to thank Hanno and the Personio team for the interesting insight into the development of the company! We wish you a lot of success in the future!
Source Pictures: Personio