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Conversation
Highlights

 

Welcome to another episode of Category Visionaries — the show that explores GTM stories from tech’s most innovative B2B founders. In today’s episode, we’re speaking with Hanns Aderhold, Founder and CEO of Cobrainer, a people’s first skills AI platform that has raised $21 Million in funding.

Here are the most interesting points from our conversation:

  • Origins and Shifts: Cobrainer started as a university project in 2013, aiming to facilitate project team formations based on skills. The initial vision expanded into the corporate world when companies expressed interest in adopting a similar skills-based approach for internal staffing.
  • Early Challenges and Encouragements: Hanns faced discouragement when sharing his startup idea, with many advising him to gain experience in large companies first. However, this skepticism fueled his determination to proceed with Cobrainer.
  • From Consultancy to SaaS: Cobrainer’s journey began as a consultancy, providing custom skills-based staffing solutions for enterprises. In 2020, the company pivoted to a single-product SaaS model, focusing on internal career transparency and personalized career recommendations for employees based on their unique skill profiles.
  • Navigating COVID-19: The pandemic initially seemed like a setback for Cobrainer, especially after moving away from consultancy. However, the shift towards internal talent management during hiring freezes proved to be an accelerant for the company’s SaaS product.
  • Building Partnerships: Hanns emphasizes the importance of forming strategic partnerships with consultancies and HR tech vendors. These collaborations have been crucial for Cobrainer, allowing them to refine their product and achieve significant growth by leveraging partners’ networks and platforms.
  • Vision for the Future: Looking ahead, Hanns envisions a world where individuals can easily navigate their careers based on their skills, contributing to their personal fulfillment and the development of meaningful work. Cobrainer aims to be the navigation platform that enables this future, helping people to follow their true calling by providing clear, skills-based career pathways.

 

Actionable
Takeaways

Embrace Early Customer Feedback:

Hanns’s pivot from a university project to addressing an enterprise need underscores the importance of listening and adapting to early customer feedback. For tech founders, identifying and acting on these insights can lead to significant opportunities and validate your product in the real world.

Focus on Niche Specialization:

Cobrainer’s success is partly due to its niche focus on internal talent management through skills data. Founders should consider specializing in a specific aspect of their industry to stand out and provide unique value, rather than attempting to cover a broad spectrum of services.

Leverage Strategic Partnerships for Growth:

Hanns attributes much of Cobrainer's growth to partnerships with industry giants like SAP and Workday. Establishing strategic partnerships can help startups tap into established networks, accelerate growth, and gain credibility in their sector.

Adapt and Pivot When Necessary:

Cobrainer’s shift from a consultancy model to a SaaS company, and its ongoing adjustments, highlight the importance of flexibility and the willingness to pivot. Founders should stay open to changing their business model based on market demands, customer feedback, and internal learning.

Invest in Building a Scalable Product from the Start:

The transition from an MVP to a fully scalable product was a turning point for Cobrainer. For founders, investing time and resources in building a scalable and maintainable product from the early stages can prevent future bottlenecks and support sustainable growth.

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