January 24, 2024

Mikko Honkanen

Learnings from scaling Vainu to +100 employees

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Podcast Summary: Episode of #TalentBuzz with Guest Mikko Honkanen from Vainu


  • Host: Discusses talent acquisition in SaaS companies.
  • Guest: Mikko Honkanen, Founder of Vainu.
  • Topic: The episode delves into Vainu's growth from its founding team to 130 employees, highlighting key learnings and strategies in hiring.

Early Recruitment Success:

  • Mikko recalls Vainu's first job opening in late 2014, which surprisingly attracted over 100 applications without a well-known brand or extensive promotion.

Recruitment Challenges:

  • The most significant challenge is finding individuals with specific skill sets in sales, customer success, marketing, and product development.
  • These roles are highly competitive, as candidates often have numerous opportunities.

Hiring Strategy:

  • Initially, Vainu focused on hiring individuals early in their careers, particularly in sales, due to the lack of brand recognition and financial resources.
  • Successful early hires motivated the strategy to develop junior employees into senior roles.
  • Later, Vainu began hiring more experienced professionals, especially in enterprise sales.

Onboarding Process:

  • Vainu has a structured onboarding process, utilizing sales playbooks since 2014.
  • New hires undergo systematic training, including company history, product knowledge, and department-specific education.

Role of Founder Brand in Hiring:

  • Mikko's existing network and professional brand played a crucial role in early hiring, especially when Vainu lacked a corporate brand.
  • Personal connections and familiarity with candidates facilitated successful early recruitment.

Data-Driven Recruitment:

  • Vainu uses a mix of data and intuition in hiring.
  • They emphasize building a strong candidate pipeline and use objective assessments and tests to evaluate candidates.
  • The company also considers candidates they didn't hire, analyzing their career progression to assess and improve their hiring decisions.

Evolution of Hiring Roles:

  • Initially, Mikko was heavily involved in the hiring process.
  • Over time, his role shifted to supporting the recruitment team, providing company insights, and ensuring cultural fit.
  • Vainu's hiring process has become more inclusive, with various team members involved in interviews.

Expanding Internationally:

  • When establishing offices in new countries, Vainu sends existing employees to ensure the transfer of company culture and methodology.
  • The focus is on covering time zones and languages rather than specific countries.

Advice for Scaling Startups:

  • Mikko advises startups to stay focused and choose battles wisely.
  • It's essential to identify areas where the company can excel and make deliberate decisions to invest resources accordingly.

Closing Remarks:

  • Host's Conclusion: Encourages sharing the episode to spread insights on talent acquisition in SaaS companies.
  • Sign-off: Reminds listeners about the importance of strategic hiring in the growth of SaaS companies.

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