Startup News & Analysis

From online consulting to dog-sitting: LinkedIn reveals the 25 startups Australians want to work for

Stephanie Palmer-Derrien /

Mad Paws co-founder and chief Alexis Soulopoulos (centre) with the leadership team. Source: Supplied.

Mad Paws co-founder and chief Alexis Soulopoulos (centre) with the leadership team. Source: Supplied.

LinkedIn has revealed its LinkedIn Top Startups 2018 list for Australia, naming the 25 startups employees most want to work for.

The list is compiled using LinkedIn data on the amount of interest received from job seekers, employee engagement and the extent to which they attract top talent, as well as the growth of their workforce, to give a snapshot of which companies are most attractive to the tech workforce.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Australian unicorn Canva took the top spot, followed by consulting startup Expert360 in second and digital management consultant Escient in third.

Freelance jobs marketplace Airtasker also featured highly, as well as small business lender Prospa and corporate learning startup GO1.

One of the companies on the list — in 14th place — is Sydney dog-sitting startup Mad Paws, which was founded in 2014 by chief executive Alexis Soulopoulos, before he brought co-founders Jan Pacas, Bjorn Behrendt, Justus Hammer and Rolf Weber on board.

The startup has now raised a total of $6.1 million, and Soulopoulos tells StartupSmart it now has a headcount of 33, about double what it had this time last year.

For startups, 1% of the success comes from the idea, Soulopoulos says. The other 99% comes from the execution.

“The founding team is great, but they can only do so much,” he says.

“In the end, it’s really the employees … who come up with fantastic ideas to continue the growth in a fast way.”

So, how can a startup make sure it gets the right people on board at the right time? And then, how can it hold on to them?

Communicate the vision

Mad Paws has a vision of making Australia a better place for all pets, Soulopoulos says, and any staff member has to be on board with that.

It’s up to founders, however, to communicate their purpose effectively if they’re going to attract the people who are aligned with it.

“We want to work with employees who believe in our purpose, work well with everyone and have a great time doing it,” he says.

“They need to really believe why they are here,” he adds.

Invest in company culture

Early-stage startups have a lot to think about, and culture and values are not necessarily always a priority. But they should be, Soulopoulos says.

When you’re working under pressure in a small team, having even just one person who isn’t aligned with the company culture can “quickly make an environment go toxic”, he says.

Equally, having a strong company culture in place right from the start can be “a tool for you to ensure you’re getting the right people on board”, while also acting as a marketing tool, attracting high-quality employees in the first place.

“People really want to work at a company that does invest into culture,” Soulopoulos says.

You may not have “the biggest dollars to invest in the biggest talent”, but if people buy into the growth vision and see a strong culture, startups can still “attract really high-calibre people”, he adds.

Hire with that culture in mind

A big part of Mad Paws’ culture focuses on its values, including tenets to “be the wow”, “seek to understand” and “embrace the madness”.

However, hiring to these values is “super, super difficult”, Soulopoulos says.

“I wouldn’t say we have a 100% waterproof system.”

Mad Paws has a multiple-step hiring process, and once a shortlist of suitably qualified candidates has been drawn up, “very early on in the hiring process we have our cultural interview”.

This interview involves an open discussion about the company values, where the candidates are asked about how they expressed those values in the past, as well as how they might act in hypothetical scenarios.

For example, applicants are often asked what kind of social event they would organise for the company.

“There is no right answer,” Soulopoulos says, but the idea is to see if candidates can bring a fun attitude and “embrace the madness”.

Celebrate staff values

While Soulopoulos says it’s one thing to have the values written on the wall, it’s quite another to make sure your workforce is “really living the values”.

“If someone doesn’t display the behaviour that is expected, we need to hold them accountable,” he says.

Equally, however, it’s important to “call out, reward and appreciate positive behaviour”.

Mad Paws holds monthly meetings in which they “really put people on the stage for some of the awesome behaviour they have shown”, Soulopoulos says

Throughout the month, employees can write notes to highlight good things their colleagues have done.

Last month, some 400 notes were submitted “of people saying nice things about other people”, he says

Retention through motivation

While employees are at Mad Paws “we want them to get better”, Soulopoulos says, and so the startup tries to invest in professional development in an efficient and budget-friendly way.

“We know that’s very motivational,” he says.

“We realised we have a lot of fantastic expertise within our teams. We make a point to pass on this knowledge.

Mad Paws runs monthly learning sessions in which team members can pass on their skills in anything from ad-word to the art of giving feedback, Soulopoulos says.

There are also cross-functional teams set up to work on delivering business goals outside of their usual remits.

“People work with people outside of their teams and they learn heaps of skills,” he adds.

Getting people to focus on something alternative to their day-to-day can keep them interested and engaged, and can “actually deliver really great business outcomes”, Soulopoulos says.

LinkedIn’s Top Startups 2018 list

  1. Canva
  2. Expert360
  3. Escient
  4. Koala
  5. Airtasker
  6. Prospa
  7. Versent
  8. Youfoodz
  9. Assembly Payments
  10. Bench
  11. Today
  12. GO1
  13. Willow
  14. Mad Paws
  15. Neds
  16. PrimeQ
  17. Tanda
  18. e&e Solutions
  19. LegalVision Australia
  20. Lendi
  21. KBSS Engineering
  22. Sidekicker
  23. Lexvoco
  24. Viridian Advisory
  25. Employment Hero

NOW READ: “People are greater than perks”: Why founders need to make sure their culture evolves as their startup does

NOW READ: Ten steps to hiring the right talent for your startup

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Stephanie Palmer-Derrien

Stephanie Palmer-Derrien is a reporter at StartupSmart.

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