Project Description

Julian Steinbuch

Founder, ictjob.de

After ESCP, he started as a consultant at BCG in Madrid. In 2011, he founded an online job board specialized in IT experts, which he still runs today. Read the full interview here.

  • What program did you follow at ESCP Europe?

Starting in 2005, I did a 3 year Master in Management program in London, Madrid and Paris. Why not Berlin? I already spoke English, Spanish and French before my studies and I thought I could always come back and live in Germany later. Back then I thought it was important to get 3 different degrees in just three years. Today, I don’t think this is so important anymore. But moving between these major European hubs definitely shaped me in a good way.

 

  • What internships did you do?

The first internship I did during my studies at ESCP Europe was influenced by the general vibe on the London campus. In 2006, everyone was pursuing a career in finance and ‘structured financial products’ was not a dirty word. I decided to intern at M&A at Ermgassen & Co, a boutique investment banking firm. The internship was interesting but it was one of those that help you cross out a career possibility. M&A seemed very mechanic to me. You have to do a lot of number crunching, excel sheets and pitching before you get to work on an actual transaction.

So I decided to try something else and did an internship at BCG in my second year in Madrid. I did a controlling project in the energy sector where we implemented a new KPI system. I liked the more hands-on mentality. When BCG offered me a contract at the end, I happily accepted because I liked the work, the people and Madrid.

In my final year in Paris, I did another internship at a small innovation consultancy. I knew the founder, was his first employee and it was exciting to see someone setting up his own business. You learn to improvise and work with limited resources.

“There are two basic ways of starting a company which all comes down to a trade-off between preparation and the stuff you have to give up.”
  • In 2008 you returned to BCG in Madrid. What was that like?

Indeed. For me the time at BCG was meant as preparation before I started something of my own. I set myself a limit of five years and wanted to learn as much as I could. BCG is an inspiring environment full of highly ambitious people. Since the fluctuation is so high you meet them again in all kinds of corporate or entrepreneurial positions.

In the beginning it is important to get your name out there and gain the trust of a partner. There’s nothing worse than being unknown and not getting any projects.

While the partners take you on similar projects again and again once you gained their trust, the staffing department makes sure that you develop your abilities and get to see different industries.

 

  • What projects did you do at BCG?

One of the first projects I did was to forecast the oil demand until 2015. It was challenging to build a model that takes all kinds of factors like new factories or technologies into account and assigns them with an appropriate risk. The oil price back then was at 40 USD.

I stayed with the energy sector for some more projects. At one point I worked on electro mobility. We developed a concept to roll out an infrastructure for charging electric cars. The question was how to enter this market, how quickly and with what intensity.

The relevance of it could be seen at Better Place, a venture-backed company by Ex-SAP manager Shai Agassi that you might remember. They intended to cover all of Israel and Denmark with battery switching stations. The idea was great. But their roll-out plan was too big for their shoes. Eventually they were liquidated in 2013.

At the end of my time at BCG I switched to the telecommunication industry.

“I see myself as someone who clears out roadblocks for the business and the staff members. Wherever there is a problem I come in and we try to solve it together.”
  • How did the change from BCG consultant to entrepreneur happen?

At the end of 2010, after two and a half years at BCG, a colleague of mine introduced me to a team of Belgians that had created a specified job board for IT jobs. They were quite successful in Belgium and the idea was to bring the job board to Germany and Spain.

We had talks in January. In February, I quit my job. In May, we founded the new company and in June, we went online and had already made a considerable amount in revenue before the launch.

So it all went down quite quickly once we were convinced by the idea.

 

  • As CEO of ictjob.de, what is your job like on a day-to-day basis?

I see myself as someone who clears out roadblocks for the business and the staff members. Wherever there is a problem, I come in and we try to solve it together. I don’t like giving instructions but rather try to ask the right questions and suggest a certain approach.

This means that I regularly jump between marketing, back office or financing issues depending on the situation. My main task is to identify the things that have to be done and to work it through with the respective employee.

Currently I also do a lot of product development like writing user stories and exploring product innovations.

 

  • Talking about development, how do you make your company grow?

From the beginning, we were always self-financed and we learned how to grow organically with a proven business model. However, at the end of 2014 I bought out my co-founders and a lot of things have changed since then. Before the buy-out, we didn’t really evolve our business model. Personally, I became a bit tired of my own business at that time.

Now, we’re picking up on new trends in the recruiting business and evolving our products. We’re profitable since last year so we have some room for experimentation.

There are two hypotheses for the development: Saving time is crucial for IT employees when searching for a job (because their time is very valuable nowadays). And a single, outstanding IT guy can do the job of ten mediocre ones. That’s why we want to help companies to find the high potentials easier.

“Choose one project and pursue it at 200% for one year and decide only after the year if it’s worth to carry on or look for alternatives.”
  • What have you learnt in the last few years as a founder?

I think I can name two things that are quite important: timing and focus. When we started Germany together with the Belgians, I underestimated the importance of timing. In 2008, when they started their job board in Belgium, they got a lot of free media coverage. Everyone was talking about it because there was no product like ours.

In 2011, when we went online in Spain and Germany, it wasn’t a big deal anymore. This drastically put pressure on our marketing budget. We learned the hard way that the timing of your market entry can make a big difference.

The second lesson is focus. At one point or the other at ictjob.de I started to lose focus and got involved in many “side-projects”. It’s like when you want to cook ten different meals but none of them gets ever done.

The learning was: Choose one project and pursue it at 200% for one year. Then decide after that year if it’s worth to carry on or to look for alternatives. Don’t get caught up in too many other things before.

 

  • What can you say about working in Berlin?

Before moving here, I was working from Stuttgart. After my time at ESCP, I’m glad to be back in one of Europe’s major hubs. Berlin is very cosmopolitan and has a great entrepreneurial scene but at the same time, life is still rather cheap. There’s so much to do here and you can actually afford it, which gives you a great quality of life. Only the winters could be a bit less harsh.