#36: Karl Siebrecht CoFounder & CEO FLEXE

Karl Siebrecht CEO FLEXE

Karl Siebrecht CEO of FLEXE

Flexe offers on-demand warehousing through an AirBnB-like network. They currently have more than 1000 warehouses connected by a single software platform. Unlike traditional solutions, FLEXE makes warehousing available on-demand and uses software to streamline the entire process. They has raised more than 20 million dollars, have consistently tripled in size every year in past 3 years, and were awarded 18th overall on Deloitte’s Technology Fast 500 companies.

Karl Siebrecht is the co founder and CEO, and is a seasoned technology executive, with leadership experience in both startups and large, global corporations. Prior to co-founding FLEXE, Karl was CEO of AdReady, a Seattle-based advertising technology company. He is also a founding Board member of EnergySavvy, a SaaS-based solution for energy efficiency management. Previously, Karl was President of Atlas at aQuantive, before its $6B acquisition by Microsoft, and earlier in his career he was a Manager at Bain & Company in Boston and a Diving Officer in the U.S. Navy.

Connect with the Guest:

Karl Siebrecht: LinkedIn | Twitter Company Website

Some of the highlights from the podcast:

  • From a diving officer to the CEO of a technology company
  • What are some of the large scale clients that you work with? Walmart, WholeGreens, Casper.
  • On demand warehousing vs traditional warehousing ANALOGY to cloud computing vs data centers
  • Accountability for the goods in the warehouse – is it on Flexe or the operators?
  • We work as an extension of the client’s operations team
  • How flexible is your model? What are the limits?
  • Move FAST and DON’T BREAK things!
  • Surround yourself with great people!

Episode #36: Karl Siebrecht CoFounder & CEO FLEXE

Show notes:

  • [01:34] From a diving officer to the CEO of a technology company. How did that happen?
  • [07:44] What are some of the large scale clients that you work with? And what is the model you work on?
  • [10:15] What is the distribution between on-demand warehousing and long term leases?
  • [17:08] Who is accountable for meeting the Service Level Agreements (SLAs) dwell time, loading windows, etc.? Who is liable for handling and the storage of the goods?
  • [21:08] How does Flexe audit the physical conditions of the warehouses?
  • [24:24] How truly flexible is your model? Are there minimum commitments to time/quantity, movements?
  • [29:10] What are your challenges in terms of growing and scaling your business?
  • [34:10] When are you coming to Asia?
  • [37:05] What is the most challenging part about finding and attracting the right talent?
  • [41:01] What is the best piece of advice that you have received throughout your professional journey?

Related Episodes:

Episode #04: Roxane Desmicht Head of Supply Chain at Infineon Technologies

Episode #14: Erik Cheong Co-Founder & CMO of Park N Parcel

Episode #18: Ed Clarke Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer Yojee

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The single most important thing in START-ups: Hiring!

The single most important thing in START-ups: Hiring!

What is the biggest challenge for start ups?

You would think it’s raising money, closing deals, doing sales or finding partners.

Wrong! It’s hiring people. I bet if you polled a bunch of startup founders the data would be very conclusive.

Below we want to share some of the discussions we had with start-up founders and CEOs around recruitment on our Leaders in Supply Chain Podcast.

In talking with Paul Srivorakul Co-Founder & Group CEO of aCommerce he said: “The most important thing in a startup, before pitching investors, is to be able to convince the top talent to join your business. Because your business model is interesting, it address a real need and has huge potential. They have the autonomy of working on existing products today, but they can also build new products and services of tomorrow with your company. That excites them.”

Recruiting is important at any firm.

In a startup it is vital.

When you have thousands of employees, you can still get by even when you hire a few people who don’t belong. At a startup you are lean. So every hire must count. One single bad hire can do huge damage.

Large firms have a product and employer brand that can attract applicants. Most startups have to work hard to get noticed. The branding, the story is not out there. External recruiters are sometimes reluctant in working with startups. On top of this, recruitment is more difficult because startups are targeting engineers and IT staff. Which are the second- and third-most difficult-to-fill jobs.

How to create a strong leadership culture: Ed Clarke Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Yojee was sharing with us on one of our podcasts: “We have taken a top down approach in building teams. So the question is: How do you take this business to 10x growth? Then we start with a technology manager and few inexperienced members in the team. This at the beginning. But then we need people who can scale the business fast. Who can build strong teams underneath them, and then break those team and ask them to lead their own teams. Top down approach and working with experienced people that can build the teams they lead. So this creates a cycle of leadership that leads the company to 10x growth. “

Create and develop your story!

Don’t rely only on job posts. You want to attract ‘fresh blood’? Get your story out there! Share it with the local media and on blogs. After finding a job offer, 64% of candidates said they research a company online and 37% said they will move on to another job offer if they can’t find information on the company. (Careerbuilder 2016)

You need a story inventory. Stories about your product, the way you manage it. Stories about the CEO and founders, about the people working there. About their success and failures. Start by identifying the factors that journalists and bloggers like to write about. Identify the common factors that writers and editors like to publish. Be open, be honest and authentic. People love this!

Social media, USE IT!

Take advantage of the contacts and networks of your employees. Spread your employer brand, recruiting, and job opening messages to thousands at a minimal cost. Focus on LinkedIn. It is the most powerful social media recruiting channel. It is a great channel to share your story!

Get your CEO to do recruitment

Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook are an excellent example. A startup firm using its CEO as their chief recruiter. Let’s face it. When people hear “CEO” they pay more attention.

Getting the CEO to speak and attend events will improve your recruiting contacts. It will boost your press coverage as well. You also have to train them on what to say and how to say it. It is mandatory that the CEO encompasses the energy and vision of the company. That’s how you attract great talent. Direct calls from your CEO or CTO can also be a powerful recruiting and closing tool. “You should never hire someone to work for you unless you would work for them”

Zuckerberg has shared this recruiting philosophy a couple of times. He told LinkedIn Co-founder Reid Hoffman on Masters of Scale: “If you’re building a big organization, it works many layers down,” he said. “If each person is only hiring people to work directly for them, that they would want to work for – then you’re probably going to get a pretty strong organization.”

Taking in consideration that 80–90% of talent say a positive or negative interview experience can change their mind about a role or company. (LinkedIn, 2015 Talent Trends), it’s clear that interviewing is a vital process in the race to get the best talent.

GrabTaxi’s CEO, Anthony Tan reflects on the lessons learned: “We need top talent and to not spend money on advertising,” says Tan. “Hire people who are smarter than you and faster than you, while at the same time are humble and can take feedback.” Tan says if there’s one mistake he made building his company, it’s spending too much time with the investors and not enough with the employees. He says: “I, then, learned that our employees need the one-on-one time. They joined you – they deserve your time, and you need to spend time to align vision.” [from Techinasia]

What are you looking for when recruiting as a CEO/founder?

This is what Matthew Tillman CEO of Haven Inc told us when looking for his leadership team: “If I am recruiting a leader in the company, I want them to hire people better than they are. I want them to attract talent that’s better than they are. And have the ego to be able to help that person succeed. We hire that have a natural curiosity and take accountability seriously. The first 25 people that you have, set the tone for the whole company forever. “

Paul Srivorakul Co-Founder & Group CEO aCommerce: “For us is the matter of the passion and eagerness to learn. We tackle a lot of areas: marketing, retail, logistics. We attract talent because of the complexity of the model. When logistics people with supply chain background join our business they actually want to learn more – about distribution, about B2C retailing, B2B retailing all the way up to marketing. And the marketing guys also want to learn about logistics as well.”

Erik Cheong Co-Founder & CMO of Park N Parcel: “We need hungry and driven individuals to be on our team. We don’t have the luxury of big budgets for senior executives. For example my customer service team they do marketing as well. If they are unsure we will allocate budget for them to do self learning. In our start-up we have multiple roles. Startup is different from corporate. Corporate you apply your expertise but in a startup you must do a lot of different things.”

“The best performers are 4X as productive as average performers.” (HBR, Making Star Teams Out of Star Players). If Harvard Business Review is right, then you must be all in as a leader when selecting your team.

Chang Wen Lai CEO at Ninja Van: “It is a lot about self- awareness. This is fantastic for people who want to learn because they know that they don’t know. The worst people are those who think they know everything. The second worst people are those who do not know that they don’t know everything. The people who we like to hire are the people who know that they have big gaps in their knowledge. These are the people who keep poking, keep learning, keep trying to improve themselves.”

Another interesting study: “80% of a business’s profits are generated by 20% of its workers.” (HBR, How to Keep A Players Productive). It is all about finding the stars and making sure they are driven to work hard for the company’s vision.

Talking about what CEOs look at when recruiting, let’s take a look at Brian Chesky’s (CEO of Airbnb) favorite interview questions: “If you had 10 years left to live, would you take this job?” Chesky explained that this interview questions can reveal how committed a candidate is. “Whatever you want to do in those last 10 years you should just do. I really want you to think about that, that was enough time for you to do something you really cared about and the answer doesn’t have to be this company,” added Chesky.

Final Thoughts

Imagine a startup like a sports team. Recruiting top talent the only way win. The competition is huge. The stakes are high. You need to keep your eye on the ball. A startup cannot grow without recruiting. And if it grows with mediocre people. You might as well throw in the towel.

Hiring great people means you spend less time on training and development. You focus more on creating value. Hire innovators. The value that they bring is priceless compared to the cost and time involved in recruiting.

You want to win the recruiting war? Then every employee of the startup from the CEO on down needs to adopt the role of a 24/7 continuous talent scout!

Want to stay updated with latest developments in our industry? Our Podcast is out! Stay tuned here – Leaders in Supply Chain and Logistics:

Some of my other articles (would appreciate your feedback):

About me:

I have been working in consulting and executive search roles for the last decade. My focus: helping clients get better results. And building strong teams in the process.

A fervent believer that people are the key in any business, I enjoy challenging assignments most. The ones that involve using a multitude of channels and tools to find the right senior executive to take our clients business to the next level.

I have lived and worked in several countries across the world. Being exposed to different countries and business realities has helped me mature into a rounded international business manager. And luckily over the years I have had the chance to work with and build great teams.

My focus is on end to end Supply Chain Executive Search: C-level, Vice President, General Management, Supply Chain leadership, Logistics leadership, Procurement leadership, Operations, Regional/Global Project Management appointments.

Always happy to connect on Linkedin for future interactions!